ELLA KIRBY | NEWS CORRESPONDENT
On Tuesday, April 5, St. Norbert College hosted its third annual Take Back the Knight event, which took place in Dudley Birder Hall at 8 p.m. The event was sponsored by the Office of Diversity Affairs and coordinated by student member Margaret Uselman ’17, who was responsible for arranging the speakers as well as advertisement for the event.
Take Back the Knight not only provided a platform for stories of marginalization and discrimination, but also served as somewhere that students can share their most difficult stories in a place of safety, respect and unity.
“Perhaps as a community we can begin creating action plans to work for justice on our campus,” said Uselman.
A total of seven speakers participated in the event, with one of the students remaining anonymous. As each student took their place on the stage to share their story, the audience was asked to stand in silence rather than clap, as a gesture of solidarity and support.
The content of the speaker’s stories ranged greatly from reflections about living with mental illness, to sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse, sexual orientation and race.
One student shared the challenges they face with being openly gay on campus. Another spoke about how inflictions on mental health, such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and anorexia, can drastically alter one’s day-to-day life, highlighting that “mental illness is not easy to overcome and it is not easy to talk about. It is not a simple change in attitude, a change in lifestyle or a change in scenery.”
Two students shared their stories about how they were sexually assaulted, as one student shared, “Usually, I feel like a shell of myself, broken, no matter what I do it’s not enough. There are parts of me I can’t rebuild,” but went on to say, “I try to fight and cope with it head on. […] I surround myself with people who encourage me to love myself.”
Poetry was read by some of the students, including a piece titled “Who Will Cry for the Little Girl?,” asking who will love, support and “cry” unconditionally when we have “no voice left to speak,” and do not live up to the stereotypes that society expects from us.
Another student’s poem titled “As a Personification of a Butterfly” emphasized that “you have to let the thoughts of doubt go to grow,” and embrace the change that will happen, going on to say “all of these changes I am going through, I know will make me better.”
“There is a real lack of conversation surrounding the issues that are talked about at Take Back the Knight and people are often reluctant to share their stories, especially when they don’t feel safe doing so. Take Back the Knight creates a platform for those experiences to be shared in an empowering way and helps to foster conversation surrounding the issues that are present in our community,” said Uselman.
These stories are not to be taken lightly, as each story emphasized the experiences of what these students faced and continue to face within their lives. Each individual’s story was unique, and although we will never be able to imagine what they went and go through, their voices were heard, and their stories will not be forgotten.