By Janelle Thompson, Women’s Center Writer
Last week Thursday, Gettysburg College was thrilled to host the production of SOARS, Story of a Rape Survivor, in CUB Ballroom. Brought to our school by the A Long Walk Home, Inc. a nonprofit devoted to ending sexual violence through the emotive powers of visual and performing art therapy, this event was a grand success. A Long Walk Home’s main goal is to spread awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault and the support communities available to those who have been affected by it, through various modes of entertainment.
SOARS was started by a young woman named Scheherazade Tillet who decided to document her sister Salamisha’s healing process after sexual assault, through photography. Her photographs gained the attention of her undergraduate peers who soon began to open up about their own personal experiences with sexual assault. Thus the SOARS program was born. Captivating the audience with its powerful message and sincere honesty, this talented cast travels from venue to venue, touching audiences of students and adults from all over. Their story is one of the utmost importance, and the way in which it is expressed is extremely beautiful.
The concept behind SOARS performance is that each of Scheherazade’s pictures come to life and evokes an emotional response for the viewer. During the show as the photo montage played in the background, each image was accompanied by the music of Billy Holiday, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Maxwell.
The cast was composed of three women, Ugochi the lively soul singer who contributed her original songs “Strange Fruit” and “African Buttafl y,” Nia Austin-Edwards whose powerful dancing hypnotized the audience, and lastly Rachel Walker, whose gripping spoken word renditions inspired, and moved all who attended.
The show was extremely interactive for the viewers as well. Audience members got to play the tambourine during certain musical selections, and the entire show culminated in a question and answer session in which the cast members fielded queries from the crowd.
As advice to the students of the Gettysburg College community, Scheherazade Tillet says that awareness is the first step; understanding the many resources we have on campus to help deal with situations of sexual assault, and also finding creative outlets to heal or to help our friends heal.
Small things go a long way like changing a Facebook status to spread the word, or engaging in conversations about gender inequality and more. Self-care is another thing that can greatly impact our lives, though it is often times overlooked. Understanding how sexual assault impacts you, even indirectly is key to being an integral part of fixing the problem. It is important for us to shift the focus of these heinous crimes to the perpetrator rather than the victim who experienced it because only then will we be able to eradicate society of this vile offense.
SOARS was am extremely positive and rewarding experience, and I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about their wonderful work to visit www.alongwalkhome.org.