By Taylor Roar

The North Atrium Room in the Stamp Student Union rang with words of both sorrow and encouragement as students shared poems, stories and songs Oct. 12 during a queer open mic.

“We’re here to honor the people here as they speak their truth,” senior English education major and host of the event Clarissa Corey-Bey told the audience. They encouraged them to come up and speak if they had anything at all to get off their chests.

Students of different racial and sexual backgrounds stood at the center of the small space to share their ‘Truth,’ a central theme of the open mic. The phrase “Truth to Power” was repeated multiple times throughout the event.

Alexis Bates, a senior English major, explained what the phrase meant to her. “I think it is really important to voice your story, especially in oppressed communities,” she said. By having events like these “we give ourselves our own power when nobody else will.”

Another common theme throughout the evening was the queer community defying the expectations of others. Some students felt they defied expectations by being transgender while others did so by coming out as gay or lesbian to their families.

Senior English major Liana Gonzalez read a poem about growing up with her family’s expectations of her being a ‘normal’ girl.

We have these “prepackaged gifts” that are determined before we are born, Gonzalez said describing the idea of gender. They “tell us who we’re supposed to be,” but “I am different.”

“I’m being a voice for other people who maybe didn’t have the courage to speak their truth,” said Gonzalez. She hopes people left the event “inspired and empowered” to “go down the path of self-discovery.”

Guest speaker Charles Xavier, an activist and spoken-word poet, made an appearance toward the end of the event. The Georgia native spoke about the qualms of being transgender in a series of poems that pointed out the different ways people have questioned his identity.

He listed the questions people ask him about his pronouns and body parts. “If you ever ask people these, those are micro-aggressions,” said Xavier.

Though the night was focused on the experiences of queer people, the mic was also open to any student who wanted to speak out about an issue. Some students chose to speak about immigration, race and other social issues.

The night was meant to show how minorities like LGBTQ+ and people of color can exist in the face of systems that have more power, said Corey-Bey.

“I was fostered by the community [at this university]” she said. Corey-Bey said she wanted this event to have that same impact on others.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Taylor Roar is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at troar@terpmail.umd.edu.

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