A night of healing

OPIRG’s Take Back The Mic encourages intimate confessions from students

Yema Quinn performs at OPIRG’s Take Back The Mic on Sept. 19.
Yema Quinn performs at OPIRG’s Take Back The Mic on Sept. 19.

This past Saturday, the Common Ground (CoGro) Coffeehouse stage welcomed students to reveal their personal struggles with depression, racism and transphobia through various art forms.

On Sept. 19, students gathered in CoGro for a night of laughter, tears and unrestrained emotion as they enjoyed the performances of their peers and special guest poet, Kama La Mackerel.

During the two-hour open mic event, anyone from the audience could share their own stories on stage through spoken word, poetry and song.  Students discussed issues of oppression, prejudice and mental health in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

The Ontario Public Interest Research Group - Kingston (OPIRG), a student-funded organization that addresses social justice issues, hosted the open mic night. Take Back The Mic was part of their Alt-Frosh event series, an alternative Frosh Week that celebrates diversity.

“Alt-Frosh is a justice-focused project working to bring people together to share their own personal experiences,” Leigh McGrade said, the coordinator at OPIRG.

The series is comprised of 20 alternative events for students to attend during Orientation Week, including several performances and workshops. The events will run until Sept. 27.

OPIRG organized the Take Back the Mic event with help from other campus clubs, including the Education on Queer Issues Project, Performance Outreach for Students’ Social Engagement and Queen’s Pride. According to the organizers, the event lets students actively engage in issues of queerness, feminism and racialization.

 “Take Back The Mic [provides] a chance for Queen’s students to meet new people and get involved in ways that the traditional Frosh Week may not have offered,” McGrade said.

Kama La Mackerel, a poet, comedian and storyteller, closed the night by sharing personal struggles of being transgender and addressing the anxieties of going away to school for the first time.

 "I was the first in my family to attend university and had a great fear of failing," La Mackerel said.

Through spoken word, La Mackerel recounted the pain of years of bullying and the confusion of trying to identify the complexity and fluidity of gender in a society that is built on a binary system.

“When faced with the question: what pronoun do you prefer? He or she? There is never an easy answer. Just call me Kama,” La Mackerel said during the performance.

Take Back the Mic was a night for open conversation and a chance for students to learn about different perspectives, the poet said.

“The power of storytelling is a tool for healing and change,” La Mackerel said. 

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