March 8 is International Women’s Day, and in order to commemorate this, the Women’s Centre will be hosting various events throughout the week. The events aim to celebrate the empowerment and progress of women in society through activities such as bust casting and open circle conversations. To start off the string of events, last night the Women’s Centre hosted their Feminist Poetry Slam at the Bombshelter Pub. The event that aims to create a space that is safe and inclusive for all individuals to share their stories, regardless of sexuality or gender.
Four UWaterloo students, Amanda, Mallika, Midori and Akshaya, who all work as volunteers at the Women’s Centre, put on the event. They have been working hard all term to coordinate the performers and to ensure that the night moved along fluidly. The wellbeing of their audience was also very important to the volunteers. As part of the event, they took every precaution for the safety and comfort of their audience, identifying trigger warnings and working hand in hand with volunteers from UWMates to ensure that there were qualified individuals present in case someone needed to talk.
When asked why she felt events like this where so important in our community Mallika eloquently stated that:
The Feminist Poetry Slam is always an amazing way to showcase the immense talent in the region. We are always excited when given the opportunity to showcase the diverse talent that our community has to offer and feel it is important to give artists a platform to share their work.
The women were also able to bring in Samantha Marie Estoesta to headline the event. A former UWaterloo Arts grad, Samantha is an accomplished poet who has had her work published in various art journals around the world. Samantha specializes in a type of poetry entitled “found poems”.
Essentially, in order to create a “found poem”, Samantha interviews hundreds of individuals and by sifting through these transcripts she constructs poetry out of the words and thoughts of others. Focusing the bulk of her poetry on her experience as a bi-racial individual, Samantha had the ability to gracefully yet effectivley talk about sensitive issues such as race and politics. By the end of her set, the audience was at the edge of their seats hungry for more.
The night was raw and full of emotion. While the fantastic performers were delivering empowering poetry on stage there was a vulnerability that was universally felt throughout the venue and amazing connections formed between performer and audience. As part of the audience, I was captivated by the strength these individuals demonstrated by choosing to share their stories with us. Topics ranged everywhere from love to sexual assault to the infamous Donald Trump, and it felt as if we were all on one roller coaster together reliving the ups and downs of every traumatic experience, but also of every triumph, that the performers shared.
Before leaving the venue strangers hugged one another and poets were congratulated for being brave enough not only to share their work but also for talking about issues that for so long have been stigmatized by our society. Overall, the evening was extremely powerful and left the audience feeling inspired and united. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of such an inclusive community event and am excited to see what else the women’s center has in store for this week.
Happy International Women’s Week to ALL!