In remembering, we rise

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13th Annual Artists Against Rape in Oakland gathered artists from across the countryOakland, CA – On Friday, November 5th, the 13th Artists Against Rape, organized by the San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, filled the First Congregational Church in Oakland with art, food and artists from across the country to speak out against sexual assault.

“We survive and more than that we thrive, ” noted Ericka Huggins, a poet, organizer, and professor of Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay, who served as the event’s emcee.  As a space for healing and transformation, the night began with an invocation and ancestral remembrance by Lisa Thomas-Adyemo and Niralli D’Costa where the audience named survivors and victims of sexual violence.  “In remembering, we rise” rings true when identifying individuals and communities whose stories have been silenced/ignored/disregarded.  The evening called to transform the silence into a powerful, collective voice comprised of unique histories that not only survive but thrive.

Through visual art, poetry, music, and dance, the evening showcased the experiences of various communities including women of color as well as queer-identified individuals in prison thanks to an amazing collective known as Black and Pink.  The raw performances were at times unsettling for their vivid descriptions of the horrific violence endured. And yet, the poignant performances were filled with resounding hope.

The night ended with representatives of SFWAR and the California Coalition For Women Prisoners sharing with the audience the great work they do year round and how people can participate, which ultimately echoed Ericka’s suggestion to, “listen with your heart and focus on what you can do” to end violence.  Because aren’t compassion and action at the very core of social change?

Livia Rojas, MSSW, is the Training and Resource Coordinator in the Campus Program at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where she provides training and technical assistance to recipients of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on college and university campuses across the United States and territories. Livia has eleven years of working to advance human rights and student organizing through practice and research.

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