Por Claudia Cisneros Méndez
Speak Up was chosen “Best of Athens” by community members in Athens, Ohio. Every year The Athens News opens up elections for citizens in the Athens community to vote for their choice of best restaurant in town, best politician, best activist, best athlete, etc. In the category for best student organization at Ohio University, #SpeakUp was recognized with the majority of votes from the community, becoming the most popular and acknowledged student organization in town.
“I think one of the reasons we were chosen,” explains Claudia Cisneros, #SpeakUp founder and president, “is because we have fostered events for the students that were purposely open to the community as well.”
#SpeakUp was founded in Fall 2018 and since has promoted several Open Mic Poetry events were students and community members could speak up about sexual-based violence, rap culture and violence against women.
“We chose poetry because it is a medium that offers special flexibility to tell stories or share painful experiences; and because it makes people invest themselves in a creative process that is cathartic and liberating.”
So far there have been four SpeakUp poetry events, all of them very concurred at Jackie O’s Brewery Pub:
-Fall 2018 – Featuring Appalachian women/men and Athens City Mayor, Steve Patterson
-Spring 2019 -International guests from Peru, Mexico and Ecuador
-Fall 2020 -Appalachian Women – Featuring Special Guest, Kari Gunter-Seymour, Athens Poet Laureate
-Spring 2020- #SpeakUp & BLM – A homage to Audre Lorde
#SpeakUp has also organized poetry workshops lead by Athens Poet Laureate, Kari Gunter-Seymour; as well as self defense classes of Krav Maga. All of the events have been open and free to the public.
“We thank all of our partners and allies because with their contribution we are bale to maintain this service open and free to anyone. The Multicultural Center at OU, ORSA Office, Student Senate SAC, J.Scripps School of Diversity and Jackie O’s.”
SpeakUp had two more events programmed before the pandemic kicked in. They are planning to adapt it to the new online COVID-19 mode of things. One is a poetry workshop lead by Ohio Poet Laureate, Kari Gunther Seymour, and the other one is call “Body Maps” and it is a workshop to draw real size maps of bodies, pains and injuries, as well as their healing processes and potential. “Body Maps” will be lead by Dr. Risa Whitson, a feminist and Social Geographer at OU, also #SpeakUp’s advisor.
“Things have changed now. As humans we adapt to survive, so we are challenged to come up with creative ways of continuing doing things,” highlights Cisneros, “and we will not let COVID-19 stop us. Pain and suffering is out there and we are committed to still give support to everyone who needs it, and to open possibilities of fostering community. This is why we will shortly announce our next Fall 2020 #Open Mic Poetry Event.”
She claims it has become a tradition already in Athens and they won’t disappoint those who are counting on this vehicle of expression and community.