Sharing Stories at Weaving Voices

Photo by Tyahra Angus '16 | Weaving Voices was established five years ago as an opportunity for students of color to share their experiences in a safe environment.

Photo by Tyahra Angus ’16 | Weaving Voices was established five years ago as an opportunity for students of color to share their experiences in a safe environment.

 

Kiki Teshome ’19
Contributing Writer

The second Weaving Voices open mic of this semester took place on Friday, Dec. 4. According to the event’s Facebook page, the event “seeks to share the stories written and told by students of color, to celebrate and honor the labor and struggles that it takes to survive and thrive at Smith.”

While Weaving Voices is open to all members of the Smith community, it was mostly students who filled the seats of the Neilson Library Browsing Room. The space, while not as large as the Carroll Room, where Weaving Voices took place earlier this semester, was well-suited to the intimate nature of the event. Once the room was filled, the organizers detailed the guidelines for the night, asking the performers to “be mindful of the diverse experiences and identities of other people who will be in the space” and “ avoid the use of ableist slurs or language or using disability as a metaphor in [their] work.”

Using a sign-up sheet passed out at the beginning of the night, emcees Ariana Quinones ’16 and Alyssa Mata Flores ’16 introduced the performers, though audience members trickling in still had the opportunity to sign up throughout the evening. One by one, students expressed emotional narratives centered around themes of love, family and identity. Audience members snapped in understanding and agreement while the emcees gave their thanks for each and every student who shared their story, poems, song or reading. Near the end of the event, featured performer Aba Micah Collins-Sibley ’16 sang a medley of songs they had found important in their life, from the musical theater number “Mama Who Bore Me” from “Spring Awakening” to the jazz classic “Summertime.”

Weaving Voices started five years ago, and, as noted by the organizers, “since the fall of 2010, it has acted as a space to bring together different narratives in the hopes of building a critically conscious and understanding community.” The existence of Weaving Voices as a safe space for people of color was reiterated through its advertising as well as through the students’ work – speaking openly about encounters that may not be experienced by the majority of Smith students.

Weaving Voices is not an official organization chartered by Smith’s Student Government Association. Instead, organizers Read Davidson ’16, Cecilia Lim ’17, Yolandi Cruz Guerrero ’16, Monica Gonzalez ’17 and Rachel Lichtman Castaño ’16, receive funding and assistance from student organizations that represent students of color.

Recently, there has been a more open campus dialogue about students’ concerns regarding race and racial inequality, from the In Solidarity Sit-In to show support for black students at the University of Missouri and the Town Hall meeting, organized by President Kathleen McCartney. The Weaving Voices open mic falls at an important time for the students of color at Smith to have their voices heard.

“We do hope that this can be a space for students to talk about what has been happening on campus and across the country. If you want to say something about it, come to Weaving Voices. People will listen, and your voice will be heard,” said Cecilia Lim ’17 before the night began. By the end of the evening’s celebration, it was clear that Weaving Voices succeeded in fostering the open and inclusive environment necessary for students to share their stories.

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