Pegah Maleki co-sponsored the event with the grant she earned in the Social Innovation Scholar's Program at this university. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)
Pegah Maleki co-sponsored the event with Chi Phi Fraternity and the Sex Week Group. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)

Pegah Maleki stepped onto the stage in front of her fellow students.

An advocate for the arts, Maleki implemented musical and literary expression into a topic some would consider taboo.

Students combined various artistic talents to show support for A Night of Hope and Healing Benefit Concert at the Grand Ballroom at the Stamp Student Union yesterday.

The benefit was a feature of Sex Week, a campus-wide education event on sexual health, sexuality and sexual assault prevention. The concert was in collaboration with CARE to Stop Violence at the University Health Center as well as Chi Phi Fraternity.

About 70 students attended the benefit.

The Hip-Hop Orchestra performed a song called “Smooth,” written by Marcus Moody, the group’s creator and a senior sociology major.

“It’s the first song I actually ever wrote for an orchestra,” Moody said. “The song is about overcoming the past but not really looking back at it, just kind of continuing to the future.”

Prior to performing, the group had the audience chant the lyrics to part of the chorus:

“I need you, but I need me more. My heart’s gone purple from banging on that broken door.”

“I think it has a lot to do with the subject at hand,” Moody said. “What we’re here for is about finding your strength and trying not to really dwell on the past, but acknowledge it and not let it break you down.”

Hip Hop Orchestra performs the original song "Smooth." (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)
Hip Hop Orchestra performs the original song “Smooth.” (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)

The artistic approach presented a beneficial form of expression for such a sensitive topic, Moody said.

“I don’t think there’s any better way to do it,” Moody said. “I think art is the ultimate self-expression, and the most creative way possible. So it doesn’t matter if anybody else understands it. I think that’s what makes it so unique. It allows you to express yourself in a way that nobody else can.”

Between performances, students involved in organizing the concert took the microphone to recite facts about sexual assault and violence. These facts stated only one out of ten rapes are reported and the rapist is often someone the victim knows.

PandemoniUM, one of this university's longest-running acapella groups, performs at the Night of Healing and Hope. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)
PandemoniUM, one of this university’s longest-running a capella groups, performs at the Night of Healing and Hope. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)

“As a group of all women, its just very important for us to perform at crowds that protect women,” Darien Ellis, a sophomore communication major, said. Ellis is involved in the Prima Dolls, who performed a dance routine to Sam Smith’s “Make It To Me.”

“I think art is the most peaceful and most universal expression of how to kind of get everyone on the same page. It’s almost like a smile. A smile has no language and neither does art,” Ellis said.

Ashley Douglas discusses her struggle with sexuality and cerebral palsy through an original poem. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)
Ashley Douglas discusses her struggle with sexuality and cerebral palsy through an original poem. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)

The girls were dressed in matching oversized white button-up shirts and barely noticeable shorts.

“Our performance is almost like a love story … it’s almost like we’re in our men’s clothes but we’re broken-hearted … we want our hearts repaired,” Ellis said.

Speakers presented various statistics such as: Fifty-one percent of female survivors were assaulted by current or former partners and 41 percent by an acquaintance. Fourteen percent were assaulted by a stranger. All proceeds from the concert go toward CARE’s Victim’s Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to victims of sexual violence.

“Sex Week supports a campus that is free of sexism and sexual assault,” said Jill Santos, a senior psychology and criminal justice double major. Santos and her peers coordinate Sex Week’s various venues.

Dance group Moksha starts off the show with a powerful interpretive dance about sexual violence. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)
Dance group Moksha starts off the show with a powerful interpretive dance about sexual violence. (Jacob Pargament/Bloc Reporter)

And for survivors of sexual assault, Sex Week offers guidance to those in need.

“We have a lot of resources here and organization tables,” Santos said. “There is a help center. There is CARE. Sex Week supports you. There are a lot of people waiting with open arms to help you.”

Maleki, a Social Innovation Scholar, a member of CARE and a junior English major, organized the event. She plans to become involved in women’s equity and gender equality.

“I want to use what I’ve learned to make a change in the world,” Maleki said. “I want to use my voice to do that.”

“Tonight is our chance to come together over the incredible performances by student musicians, dancers, and poets and to learn more about sexual violence so that we can become a community that aims to supports survivors and decrease violence overall,” Maleki said.

Allene Abrahamian is a graduate student in broadcast journalism and can be reached at alleneabrahamian@gmail.com

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