As individuals ceaselessly grapple with how to address the pervasive problem of domestic violence, Geneseo’s Women’s Action Coalition put on “Open Mic: It’s Your Right” on Saturday Oct. 17 at the Knight Spot. Held as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the event’s purpose was to serve as a social commentary on the plethora of societal pressures the abused face—all of which typically result in their silence. This discussion took an interesting—but nevertheless imperative—spin on the topic with WAC deciding to use art as a symbolic way to raise awareness for domestic violence.
“A big problem with domestic violence in this country and around the world is that it is underreported,” WAC president junior Maya Lucyshyn said. “Victims are silenced. People are afraid to speak up about what is happening to them, so we thought an open mic would be a way to subtly address that … [Participants] could have spoken about personal experiences [with domestic violence] if they wanted to.”
Though no students directly raised the topic of domestic violence in their songs or poetry, there were heavy topics. Sophomore Allison Altschiller opened the event on her guitar with her song “Harmony.” With lines such as, “Why won’t you look me in the eyes/Admit you’re feeding me with lies” and “Nothing makes sense in my brain/’Cause you pushed me away,” the songs certainly fit in with the overarching theme.
“I wanted to choose songs that would fit the mood of the venue. I felt that this event for domestic violence awareness was serious but also casual, so I chose two upbeat songs and two that were softer,” Altschiller said. “I chose to play my song “When We Can Dance” specifically for this event because it has a message that I hope resonates with the cause.”
There were also guitar duos from bands like Fried Lobsters and Bong Pong. Fried Lobsters indubitably kept with the atmosphere by playing their cover of Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.”
“I was really impressed with all the vocal performances,” Student Association representative junior Terese Caiazza said. “I thought some of the subject matter of the [pieces] were heavier, but I don’t think it was too intense. I feel like it fit with the environment.”
To offset the performances, tables were placed strategically around the performers so that the audience could listen while simultaneously working on their “zines.” The zines—short for “magazines”—allowed the audience to symbolically place artistic pieces such as drawings or cutouts from newspapers on a blank page. All WAC asked was that the zines’ themes comment on domestic violence awareness or support for victims.
“The zines can act as an outlet—people are silenced a lot, like women and victims of domestic violence,” Lucyshyn said. “The zines then become an artistic outlet for people to talk about how they feel and to send messages of support to people.”
Poets also performed at this event. Junior Liz Kuzman-McRae read her poetry with great body movements, utilizing powerful kinesics as she said lines, “I need to be high to feel no anger, feel no anger, feel no anger” and “And then one day they stop and tell you to find you, and no you can’t. Sorry, goodbye.”
Kuzman-McRae would move around, staring at the floor when her lines would take a melancholy turn, until eventually she started to stomp her foot and hold her hands up, as if to say, “Why?” to the world we live in.
“[WAC] is so grateful for the people who took the time of their day to come down and do this,” Lucyshyn said. “It’s a college campus, you know how a lot of people are going to spend their Saturdays—doing homework, sleeping in bed, drinking … [Instead] they came out to support a club on their campus and a local shelter, to be a part of this and to contribute their voices and their art to this cause.”