On April 24, prominent spoken-word poet Staceyann Chin visited Western for the annual Associated Students Women’s Center event Take Back the Night. In an event supercharged with emotions ranging from pain, rage, inspiration and happiness, Staceyann’s words did not fall short. Hailing from Jamaica, Staceyann identifies as Jamaican, Asian and lesbian and has a personal history in sexual abuse, rape and discrimination. We sat down with Staceyann Chin to talk to her about her experiences and the importance of Take Back the Night.
Q: How did you become involved in being a spoken-word poet for marginalized-identities’ rights? How did you become involved in events like Take Back the Night?
I was sexually assaulted myself and I had so many things happen to me that this is a way of fighting back. It is giving a voice to these very crazy issues that gave me my power back. Now it’s just a joy to watch other women come into the same power, to share space with women who are already finding and speaking that power. I can’t imagine anything else.
Q: Why did you want to come to an event like this?
I do Take Back the Nights all the time because I believe in the power of it, I believe it is necessary. I work with women’s centers all the time because it is important, it is urgent, it is necessary, it is now.
Q: Why do you think events like these are important on college campuses?
Because assault happens here so much on campuses across the nation, across the world. It’s where boys start beginning to become men, it’s where you are out from under your parent’s care. It’s almost like the first time where they have their own space unmanned by parents or the high school policing that often exists. I think that because of this a lot of people are testing the boundaries of their power, some exploitation happens, and I think events like these are really, really important because out in the world you won’t have these types of policing. This is where so many young people learn the values that they will take with them for the rest of their lives and it is so important for them to have this conversation now, instead of ten years from now.
Q: What do you hope that people will take away from “Take Back the Night”?
I hope that people will become empowered, that people will become loud. I hope that they will get rid of the shame associated with assault that they carry when they have been assaulted. I hope that they will see assault as an issue that we have to deal with now, that we have to change now. It’s a global issue, it’s a non-gender specific issue. Most of the assaults happen to women and are perpetrated by men, but you also have many assaults that happen to men and women are the perpetrators. It’s not just one or the other, I think that we should change the context of the conversation.