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Voices Merging Performance

As a part of the 12th International Women’s Day Celebration at the University, I attended a performance by the campus group “Voices Merging.? Voices Merging is a multi-racial group of students that write and perform their own poetry. The lyrics were original and genuine, and the spoken word performances were energetic and heartfelt. There were four women performing, and the audience was very receptive. Throughout the pieces, people would cheer their approval for certain messages in the lyrics, and at the end, the women received a standing ovation.

Many of the pieces were protesting against being oppressed as women or as African Americans. There was bitterness against “White America? thinking the country belongs to them and resentment about the way America has historically treated Africa. One girl made the analogy of Africa being raped, which I think meant that it was stripped of its valuable assets, its people and natural resources, completely against its will and for the sole purpose of satiating the rapists’ (America’s) lusty greed. It was a strong analogy. This same girl said it takes bravery to face the truth and confront the injustices, but she feels compelled to do so. One piece encouraged other African American women to acknowledge their black history and to dream big, as in going to college. This makes me think of how much I take being at college for granted. I am not a first-generation college student in my family, I did not have to worry about not being able to attend college for financial or academic reasons, and everyone in my high school experience was supportive of this next step. It’s good to be reminded of the privilege of being here. One of the lyrics in this poem was “baby girl, you’re the future.? What an empowering statement! The next performer confronted the stereotypes against her head-on: “you thought I was too small before I was even born.? Because of her gender, her race, and whatever other “non-dominant? factors, society disregards her potential to be “big.? This girl encouraged others not to “let the haters get to you.? I think she was equating the haters with the stereotypers. The implication that she is somehow less than a full-fledged human being is certainly degrading beyond apology. She brought up an interesting point in the end, that someday the haters would realize that “you’re the one who can truly help them.? This was thought-provoking because it reverses the power roles and exposes the ignorance and destructiveness of these hateful mentalities.
Some of the messages were strongly pro-female, and reminded me of passages I’ve read in the Feminist Frontiers textbook. One girl did a modern-day takeoff on Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?,? talking about being the taxpayer in her household and yet not being valued enough by society to take advantage of what she had helped create in the community. She also felt “caged by my differences and I can’t get out;? this phrase tied in perfectly with Marilyn Frye’s model of oppression as a birdcage made up of interlocking forces. Her differences, presumably referring to race and gender among other things, worked together to create a binding situation in which she felt powerless. Another piece entitled “Beautiful Ladies? spoke about “a different brand? of beauty. The author acknowledged beauty as “a gift from God,? but rejected the way that society typically responds to beauty: cat calls to chicks on the street, beautiful women who end up with children from multiple men, etc. This woman spurned this type of beauty and instead spoke about self-respect and being a “strong, respectable female.? What a powerful message for women, to embrace their beauty not as a superficial thing but as an inner strength.
The women in the audience were obviously moved, but the purpose of the performances was to inspire action rather than just to entertain. In one of the poems, the speaker acknowledged that poems themselves cannot bring about social change, but perhaps their listeners can.