Art slam provides healing space, creative outlet for SEU community


Karolina Bonilla / Hilltop Views

Community members gather at Jo’s coffee shop to watch student performances.

There are times when sharing difficult stories is easier to do in front of a group of strangers who will give you their undivided attention and full support. This was the intention at It’s On Us’s annual Art Night on Feb. 26. Jo’s Coffee Shop was full of attentive students, St. Edward’s alumni, and experienced slam poets from Spider House Cafe who were willing to share their experiences of  healing and empowerment.

Leading host, Lilli Hime and the It’s On Us team emphasized the idea of a safe space and issued a “trigger warning” for attendees to be aware of throughout the night. It was noted that anyone was free to step out during any point due to the heavy topics that were discussed.

Performers owned the mic with renditions of their favorite songs, including Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Hozier’s “Cherry Wine,” and artists portrayed emotionally-wrung experiences of sexual assault and the aftermath through slam poetry and excerpt readings.

The room went quiet during these moments as the audience focused on the messages of the individuals, usually beginning  indirectly and ending loud and clear. Focusing on issues of consent, sex-education in public schools, and the frustration of the legal justice system,  survivors left the audience with much to learn from.

“It was like I went through that experience with her and I could feel what she was feeling,” one student said after slam poet and social worker, Shannon, performed her untitled poem about working as a flight attendant. The piece detailed her time in a department where she had no permanent location to call home and its relation to the feeling of going through a place of restoration in a survivor’s life.

It’s On Us aimed to create an event to honor the process of healing and encourage the audience to look at issues of sexual assault as something that can be overcome as a collective. By witnessing  how the artists and performers depicted their timeline of realization or self-love through their experience, the event brought together a community that is vulnerable yet often so subtle in its existence.

“This is about creating a safe space for survivors that isn’t heavy, where everyone can enjoy and not feel pressured,” Hime said.

The event ended with a raffle for the audience. Everyone who attended was given two tickets at the door for a chance to win Jo’s Coffee Shop vouchers, a Jo’s mug, an It’s On Us team shirt, a GroupX pass, and a basket of art supplies.

Though there are many safe spaces that bring together individuals willing to share, this event gave the community the chance to do so through creativity and art. With old and new faces coming to share and support, Hime noted that since the first Art Slam was hosted three years ago,  turnout has been expected to be positively overwhelming. The event can be expected to be hosted for years to come.