June 17, 2019 | 78° F

Rutgers Speak Out creates space for artistic expression and open discussions on campus

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Rutgers Speak Out allows students to share ideas through art and outreach. The group hosts workshops for members to attend.

Rutgers Speak Out gives students a non-judgmental platform to discuss controversial topics and to express their artistic ideas on campus.

The organization is unique to Rutgers and is one of the only groups to combine art with social justice outreach. The goal is to create a collective platform that empowers and mobilizes students, according to the group's mission statement,

Speak Out also holds workshops and events where students create art based on their individual social ideologies.

“We focus on just creating a space based around inclusivity and hearing different points of view, and then create something based on all those different viewpoints,” said Luca Giovannetti, the social media and communications manager of Speak Out.

The School of Arts and Sciences junior said the organization held an art workshop in October where students designed art for Instagram. Participants created pieces that were centered around a topic of their choice and posted the finished product on social media.

“Each workshop has a topic,” Giovannetti said. “We did one on oppression, education and globalization, we have done them on online dating … Pretty much anything.”

Speak Out’s meetings are held every Thursday at the Center for Social Justice and LGBT Communities, he said.

The organization collaborated with a New York-based group called the "Theater of the Oppressed," last Friday where students used theater as an outlet for "progressive social action." 

“Speak Out provides a good amount of people with the ability, the space and the time to dive into topics they have been wanting to dive into and fully express and examine their views on it,” Giovannetti said. “It is really about expanding your own viewpoint on something and learning more about something. It is peer-to-peer education.”

He said Speak Out is an example of Rutgers’ diversity and individuality. 

“There is nothing else like it … It is building a unique community who would not have normally been brought together, but have been brought together based on wanting to learn more about each other,” Giovannetti said.

As social media manager, Giovannetti said he hopes to improve the group’s online platform in the future.

“It is important to care about other people,” he said. “Empathy is something that we definitely promote, and really act on. I think Rutgers students should be able to see that and understand that.”

Fullamusu Bangura said she was one of the founding members of Rutgers Speak Out when it was established in 2012. 

She said the group originally started as a way for women to band together and express themselves creatively.

“It was my baby on campus,” Bangura said. “I saw a lot of really great things grow out of it. We made a lot of really awesome connections to other people on campus that felt they did not have a space to voice themselves.”

The group soon expanded to include other marginalized groups on campus. At meetings, members would discuss controversial topics and current events.Those discussions then morphed into artistic expression, Bangura said. 

“People were actively being challenged to grow and to think outside of the box of what they considered to be normal,” she said.

Speak Out is successful not just because of the diversity of opinions and people involved in the group, but also for its educational aspects, Bangura said. It is rare because it blends educational learning with artistic expression, she said. 

Speak Out reinforces Rutgers’ extensive diversity in all aspects, Bangura said.

“Rutgers is a school that prides itself on diversity … Speak Out pushes against the idea of diversity just being in numbers and showcases it in a way that other (clubs) at Rutgers do not.”

Prosie Palad, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and secretary of Speak Out, said the organization is special because it allows students to talk about ideas comfortably, without repressing any side of an argument.

“I think it is a good combination because it is art and activism,” she said. “The two compliment each other and it is a way for me to really unwind and express these things through art.”

She said a strength of the organization is that the members of the group are very close and value community.

But Palad said Speak Out needs to improve their outreach and visibility more effectively.

“There are not too many groups like us. I do not see too many clubs doing the same things we are doing and I would like to see more,” Palad said.

Stephen Weiss is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. He is a correspondent with The Daily Targum.

Stephen Weiss

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