LGBTQ+ art slam encourages acceptance, artistic expression


Kelly Salinas / Hilltop Views

Student musical duo PEACELOVE performs for the crowd.

“This is not your grandmother’s poetry slam,” said St. Edward’s senior Lilli Hime as she opened Healthy Hilltoppers’s third annual “Catharsis: An LGBTQ+ Art Slam.”

On Nov. 8, Jo’s Coffee Shop, unusually crowded for a Thursday night, was transformed into a space of raw and unapologetic expression. A vibrant pride flag hung at the center of the room— an emblem of inclusion.

Students gathered to share their stories of love, loss, pain and overcoming. Original art, poetry and music created a warm and welcoming environment, no matter how heavy the topics. The crowd, predominantly freshman, was urged to uphold a steady stream of applause, snaps, and cheers throughout the night in support of performers.  

“Artists love positive affirmation,” Hime said, playfully.

Junior Alan Ancira, one of many student performers, played a few original songs. Personal and emotionally charged, he sang of struggles familiar to the average individual.

“A whole new face among the crowd and I feel lost,” he sang. A glimmer of hope was delivered at the song’s bridge: “I will learn to keep my head up and fight until I’m free.”

An array of powerful poems were presented as well. Senior Jeffrey Powell read his poignant “The Fall I See,” followed by the more uplifting “The World on my Mind.” Thoughtful silence overtook the room as he shared a piece of himself with the crowd.

“I kind of just write when I’m feeling a lot of emotions,” he disclosed.

This proved to be a running theme for the artists. Many of the pieces performed, whether of one’s innermost feelings or of lighthearted observations, resonated with the crowd.

“I guess it’s about reassuring people. You never know what someone’s going through and you never know how they’re feeling,” Ancira said.

The art slam has drawn in large crowds throughout the years as it is one of the more popular events put on by the Peer Health Educators. Sophomore Caroline Gray, a PHE herself, had some ideas on why this is.

“A lot of people are just as invested in this issue as we are,” she said. “It’s one of the most important issues to me and to a lot of people on this campus and in society.”

Catharsis is part of an ongoing wellness series put on by the PHE’s. Other events range from residence hall activities, to the “Don’t Cancel Class” initiative for professors who do not wish to cancel class but have other responsibilities to fulfill.

“This [event] is about wellness in the sense of accepting yourself, and it’s all about LGBTQ+, which is a super important issue,” Gray said.

The event brought the community together, allowing everyone, from attendee’s to performers, to share the frequently avoided feeling of vulnerability. As a result, a supportive, safe space was fostered.

While many often feel as if their voices are drowned out, or simply left unheard, events like “Catharsis” fight against the silence, bringing validity to daily struggles, and uplifting both the bold and the quiet.  

“A lot of the poems seemed to be times when they couldn’t speak up. But when they got this platform to speak up in a safe space, they were brave,” Ancira said.