It’s On Us hosts moving art slam to raise awareness for sexual assault

It’s On Us displayed paintings and collages created by students and Woman’s Empowerment.

Cheers, snaps and claps emanated from Jo’s coffee shop as It’s On Us hosted an art slam to campaign against sexual assault. The Oct. 27 event concluded the campaign’s action week. 

The art slam featured poetry performed by students and a few professional poets from Austin Poetry Slam, one of whom was an alumna. Other performances included a rap, monologue, and songs. To accompany the shows, a student-crafted art gallery, including a collage by Women’s Empowerment, was illuminated by candles around Jo’s.

Throughout the night, sophomore Lilli Hime emceed at Jo’s, where she said the poets and performers “spilled poetic blood.”

Bringing awareness to sexual assault on college campuses, artists addressed several issues from differing perspectives.

Sophomore Corey Bates’s poem delivered a message of self-healing after surviving sexual assault.

“I am meant to be strong and smart and even ruthless when need be,” Bates said. “I am meant to love myself as much as I love the people around me.”

Student Cyerra Gage left not one dry eye in the audience as she used her poetry to show the ways mental illness and love play a tremendous but often unrecognized role in sexual assault.

 “Did you know that a young, depressed, mentally unstable girl cannot give consent?” Gage said. “I thought that I was in love and they say that love is blind, so I closed my eyes. I was so quiet. Love must have spoken for me.”

Student Hailey Strader’s poetry showed once more how love creates a cloud of ambiguity, masking the abuse underneath.
 “I know that kissing you felt like being underwater, but I now realize I was drowning,” Strader said. “I thought this was love.”
 In addition to students, six Austin Poetry Slam poets treated the audience with their own experiences and thoughts on sexual assault, abuse and love. The Art Slam featured Miguel Alcorn, Glori B, Ellen, Teresa Johnson, Seanan and Sunni Soper.
Poet Seanan raised awareness to the bystander point of view on sexual assault through her poetry.
 “When they ask me to testify, I know that they will want to know if I am sure that man was not just joking around,” Seanan said. “I’ll tell them he might have been joking around if he’s the kind of man who thinks sexual assault is a joke.”
Poet Teresa Johnson’s used bitter irony and dark humor in her poems to address of rape culture. In her poem ‘The Life Cycle of the Puss Moth,” Johnson drew a parallel between a predator’s attitudes towards its prey and rape culture.

“And it knows now,” Johnson said. “As long as birds gotta eat more than moths gotta live, no amount of acid or cocoon or camouflage will ever convince a bird to keep its beak shut or a forest to care.” 

Alumna Glori B ended the night with resounding applause for her poem that called out those who often get away with sexual assault.
 “I’m talking about you because somebody has to,” Glori B said. “Because out of every 100 offenses only 40 get reported, 10 lead to arrest, eight get prosecuted, four get convicted, only three will spend one day in jail. Damn right, I’m talking about you!”
 After the art slam, It’s On Us President Alma Baker and Vice President McKenzie Blaser discussed future plans and goals for their organization.
 It’s On Us wishes to increase their recognition on campus, because in the past, it was common for students to not know about the organization.
 Baker also stressed the importance of making the university an It’s On Us campus.
 “It’s not just a group but an entire campus who knows the pledge and what an active bystander is,” Baker said. “We could make a lot of change not only within St. Edward’s, but out in the community.”