By Cadence Pentheny '16
A performance by award-winning poet and activist Staceyann Chin and a vigilant march around campus will be the central events in Franklin & Marshall College's revamped observance of "Take Back the Night," which will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, in the Barshinger Center for Musical Arts.
Organized by several student groups in conjunction with the Alice Drum Women's Center and the Philadelphia Alumni Writer’s House, the annual Take Back the Night event is intended to inspire a campus discussion about all forms of violence. Rather than the traditional candlelight vigil and private testimonials, Chin's performance will be followed by a march across campus and a speakout against violence.
"This year, the focus has expanded to question not just taking back the night from gendered violence, but also racial violence and homophobia," said F&M senior Arissa Brown, co-chair of the Women's Center Executive Board. She noted that the shift reflects a change in the women's center as a whole "to thinking about the question of violence not solely from a gender lens, but rather from a multidimensional and intersectional focus."
Widely known as co-writer and original performer in the Tony award-winning "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway," Chin advocates for the rights of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer. The recipient of the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from The Human Rights Campaign, the 2008 Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality, the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, and the 2009 New York State Senate Award, Chin identifies as "Caribbean and black, Asian and lesbian, woman and resident of New York City."
Chin is celebrated for her poetry in the Nuyorican Poets' Café and her one-woman shows off-Broadway: "HANDS AFIRE," "UNSPEAKABLE THINGS," and "BORDER/CLASH," which all opened to rave reviews at the Culture Project in New York City. She has been interviewed by The New York Times, CBS's "60 Minutes," and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where she spoke candidly about growing up in Jamaica and the trying experiences of coming out there.
The restructuring of F&M's Take Back the Night is intended to allow participants to imagine and create a community and world free of the many forms of violence, said Jan Masland, director of both Student Health and Wellness Education and of Sexual Misconduct Services.
"Sexual misconduct, not only assault and rape, is a cultural problem," Masland said. "This Take Back the Night will be about engaging, as gendered people, in a united effort to fix our culture; to make any gender identity safe; to know that any sexual encounter carries with it responsibility."
In advance of the event, various groups from across campus have launched a Facebook campaign, with images of their members holding signs proclaiming the reasons they support Take Back the Night.
The event is co-sponsored by the Alice Drum Women’s Center, Philadelphia Alumni Writer’s house, S.A.V.E., LGBTA, SISTERS, the Dean of the College's Office, the Office of the Provost, the Women's and Gender Studies Program, New College House, Bonchek College House and Weis College House.