The perspective shared in this blog post is that of the author and not of R2 as an organization. This editorial is covering an event and its meaning and is not meant to further a political platform.
About nine months ago, I purchased what I thought was a rather ironic t-shirt from an online vendor. It was the first political tshirt I’d ever bought, and for the record, it was not very political, and its irony only appears now. I don’t take a stance; all I could take was the opposite of one. IDK NOT TRUMP THO 2016, was the only political slogan I could bear to plaster onto my chest. It was the primaries at the time. Things obviously changed. Still, at the time, I got my absentee ballot and spent a long time in my dorm room with a pen not knowing what to fill out. What I filled out in the end was essentially worthless: it was a little streak of rebellion, a little streak of ink that went on to become 1% - maybe less - of the primary vote in my state. A stance of nothingness.
Today, the English Undergraduate Association at Rice hosted a "Resistance Read-In," an event where any member of the community could read a piece of writing - poetry or prose, original or not - that they thought represented or had come from a people that had not been heard, or a group that were not being listened to. Political stance of the event aside, the key here was being listened to. And it was about something hard: saying no when people either want you to say yes, or don't want you to say anything at all. “Our goal is to fill today with sounds of acceptance and solidarity,” read the signs on all side of Willy’s Statue.
As people walked through the Academic Quad today, passing between their classes as they normally would, there was a surprising amount of silence. Most of the people going about there day were forced to listen to the single voice – cutting and demanding attention, asking to be heard. There’s something about listening that’s hard on this campus. Maybe it’s just the fact that there’s a helicopter landing on a building nearby, churning through the clouds to suck all the words out of the air. Or maybe it’s just the fact that we just don’t try very hard.
The read-in asked for people to say no and for people to listen, but it’s not as those two things always go hand-in-hand. I’ve heard far too many voices saying no so loudly they won’t listen to people saying yes, either. In writing, we can say much, but only some of our voices carry. Some of them are closed in poetry books or wrapped up on the sites we never read. I would argue that some people in this country have gotten used to being invisible and never should have needed to – and if you feel silenced, shout. There’s no need to tear the helicopters out of the sky and smash their pieces on the ground, because if we say listen instead of no, if we make the space and say we're listening, voices will shine out - over the helicopters and over the passerby.
Today, there were a lot of incredible pieces read and a lot of incredible lessons learned. We heard all sorts of voices, some sad, some absolutely elated, and all of those voices are valid. It can be difficult for us to realize that sometimes. Today's read-in was important to a lot of people and an excellent event, because it reminded us of the incredible voices that are out there and the incredible power of the written word - that which makes the air around it still and the people around it listen. I ask you to consider a thought by Jose Marti, read clearly and confidently this morning: that "Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone."
Written by Erika S.
I share my body with an angel / of light who sunbursts / on my horizons at dusk
- Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton