Java and Justice open mic spreads activism through art


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Photo by Georgette Stillman |

Student performers strayed from the typical open mic last night by merging music, poetry and social activism.

Last Monday evening, students took to Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center to listen in on an open mic night featuring eight performers in the name of social justice.

This happened at the annual "Java and Justice," hosted by the Douglass Residential College Peer Academic Leaders (PAL) as part of the "16 Days Campaign."

The international campaign is a 24-year-old movement run by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, according to their website. The event runs for 16 days, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.

The theme for the campaign this year is, "From Peace in Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All."

"Java and Justice" ran for one hour and 15 minutes, including two five-minute intermissions between performers, where students were asked to tweet the answers to questions concerning the theme using the hashtags, #JavaAndJustice and #16DaysCampaign.

The event involved eight student performers, with performances ranging from spoken word poetry, a guitar-accompanied Coldplay cover and a performance from the Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe.

Malikka Hutchins, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, performed spoken word poetry.

She felt inspired to perform at the event because of her personal experiences of being black, Muslim and a woman.

Hutchins recently took a poetry class here at the University in the past year, and said it felt good to finally give a voice to pressing issues.

“It’s actually been a year since I last performed, and (upon) hearing what ‘Java and Justice’ was about, I felt that I needed to contribute some of my work,” Hutchins said. “I hope (the audience) had the chance to see things from a different perspective … and understand what other people might be going through.”

Hutchins has been writing poetry for 10 years, and performing spoken word poetry for five years, she said.

Tara Dhawan, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, is a PAL and has been actively involved in the coordination of Monday night’s event.

Her responsibilities included coordinating the event along with other PALs and ensuring that the event runs smoothly, she said.

The event was a collaborative effort, with many people coming together to organize it. Along with the PALs, other organizations participated, including the Douglass Residential College (DRC) and the Global Village Learning Center, she said.

The theme for the 16 Days Campaign was chosen because it closely relates to the DRC's theme for the year, Dwahan said.

“We are a part of the DRC, and our college-wide theme this year is poverty and education,” she said. “(The campaign’s theme) fits right into that goal, as socioeconomic status and class play a huge role in the inaccessibility of education (in relation to) young women all over world.”

Since the DRC is a part of the 16 Days Campaign, Dhawan said a foundation of the event is to raise awareness against gender-based violence and gender inequality.

“Looking around, I saw that everyone was engaged, so I would say that (the PALs) were very successful in that, I think this was a passionate, activist-oriented safe space,” she said.

Amber Gourdine, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, attended the event as a member of the DRC.

She appreciated that the performers addressed social issues involving inequality.

“The atmosphere was lively, it was very informative and I enjoyed the environment and being around like-minded individuals,” Gourdine said.

As one of the organizers of the event, Dhawan said that her hope has always been to make sure that it would be a safe space for all parties and that the performers were respected and the audience members were engaged.

She said that she was surprised to see the discussion that the event inspired among the attendees.

“I heard (attendees) who had never actually thought about inaccessibility of education to women, and a lot of people that attended today are apart of the Global Village, so that’s a specialized population,” she said.

Dhawan also heard many conversations among inspired audience-members about moving forward with activism in the future.

“I was very surprised and happy (to see the event) serve as a springboard for more activism that we should be expecting in the future from Douglass women,” she said.


Abigail Lyon

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