Hear Us Speak: A Recap

By Gaby Germanos, HCWC Intern

Warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies – devoured in 20 minutes.

Solange’s voice wafting through the kitchen, down the hall, out the door.

A dozen undergrads nestled into comfy chairs, snapping and laughing together.

This was the scene in the Women’s Center lounge last Wednesday night, when we teamed up with Speak Out Loud – Harvard’s only spoken word group – to host “Hear Us Speak,” a poetry workshop and open mic. In any given week, there’s bound to be at least one open mic somewhere on campus, be it for music, poetry, storytelling, or something else entirely. (Are there open mics for dogs who like to howl along to the radio? I hope so.) We knew that in planning our open mic, it had to be something unique, embodying a feeling, an ideal, an environment that we don’t often encounter at Harvard.

As a safe space on campus, the Women’s Center seemed like the perfect place to host an intimate open mic, replete with string lights, pillows, and delicious snacks (10/10 would recommend Cracker Barrel’s Jalapeño Cheese Slices). Since we’re an office intent on “raising awareness of women’s and gender issues” (#MissionGoals), we decided to orient our event around themes of gender and identity expression. After getting to know everyone in the room, we played YouTube videos of awesome women performing awesome spoken word on topics like race, periods, and belonging.

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HCWC intern and Speak Out Loud co-president Jessica Jin, using her magic baking wisdom to prevent me from burning all the cookies

Then came the core of the event; we took some time to sit in silence and write our own poems. Having a space that actively promotes and creates time dedicated to self-reflection is such a rare thing at Harvard, and it was nice to take a few moments to think creatively and enjoy the company of friends and strangers. Once we had all written something down, we went around the room and shared our poems. There were people who had written thousands of poems in their life, and some who had never written poetry before. Every poem was vastly distinct from the next, in form, topic, and affect, but all were deeply personal. As someone who doesn’t get the opportunity to attend a lot of poetry workshops, I loved being able to sit in a circle and use writing as a way to bond with a bunch of people who, for the most part, I had just met less than an hour before.

I’m a new intern at the Women’s Center, and the power of the space never ceases to amaze me. How many other places on campus can foster such a welcoming and inclusive community in such a short period of time? If you haven’t visited the space in a while, or if you just want a midday pick-me-up, I urge you to stop by the Center sometime. Even when we’re not hosting a poetry workshop, we invite you to come in, take a load off, and engage in some relaxation and introspection. In the bustling, hyperactive world of Harvard, taking time to connect with yourself and others is a much-needed thing.

On the first day she planted the world.

And she saw that it was good.
And she saw that it didn’t have enough so she picked up her heavy body by the roots
and brought herself, swelling
to somewhere before a thing called the Universe existed, dark and unforgiving
Even had to make soil for herself from nothing, just so that she could give birth to more unshapen clay.

(Jessica Jin ’18)

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