By Sophia Kirschenman
Students and city members united last Thursday to Take Back the Night, and their lives, from gendered violence.
Take Back the Night is an international event designed to educate and raise awareness about acts of gendered violence like rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
This year, campus organizers joined with participants from Santa Cruz in a march from the base of campus into downtown, where participants shared personal testimonies.
Initially the UC Santa Cruz group gathered at the base of campus to organize, design signs, and prepare for the march.
People in purple and grey Take Back the Night T-shirts decorated the scene.
The back of the shirts quoted Virginia Wolfe: “As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”
Mariella Saba, UCSC student and one of the coordinators of the event, believes that violence, especially gendered violence, plagues society.
“I feel like I experience violence daily,” Saba said. “I think [violence] is invisible many times and just being a woman and especially a woman of color, the intersecting identities come with a load of experiences.”
The organizers have been planning for Take Back The Night since fall quarter.
This is the first year both the campus and city have collaborated for Take Back the Night.
More planning than ever was necessary, as organizers on campus had to build networks with off-campus organizations.
“We decided this year to march off campus because 56 percent of students do live off campus,” Saba said. “We’re all part of the entire community, and our theme this year is solidarityâ€¦ If I had all the strength, I would walk everywhere, because [gendered violence is] not just in Santa Cruz.”
Edith Yang, UCSC student, was among the people attending and made signs at the beginning of the event.
Yang sees gendered violence as an issue that affects people on every end of the gender spectrum.
“I feel like this is really important, not just for women, but for everyone,” Yang said, while she was working on a sign that said “Stop in the Name of Love.”
As she continued working on the sign, the song with the same title began playing on the loud speakers.
Later, several event coordinators and members of the community went on to introduce the event.
Saba was among those speaking. In her speech she described how she constantly experienced sexual harassment when walking near her house on the beach flat. Saba said she has shortened her walks by five minutes to avoid being harassed for so long.
Several people shared personal experiences at the event introduction including Jennifer Gigantino, who is part of Kinetic Poetics.
“I was in the beach flats. It was day time. Not that it matters, but I was wearing a sweater and pants. A man comes up beside me and goes ‘business?’
“No,” Gigantino said. “No business. It’s interesting that a woman walking alone in the beach flats is a prostitute.”
Not only did people speak to enlighten the people present and to prepare them for the march, but some even recited poetry.
One member of the UCSC Slam Team, Christine Hatch, recited her poem titled “Jack Daniels.”
The poem was about alcohol and loss of self-respect.
“You don’t know who you are, only who they want you to be,” Hatch said in part of the poem, “because you’ve learned how to say yes when you meant I guess so.”
After the introduction, the students marched and united with community members downtown.
Colorful signs flowed through the streets with statements like “Women Unite,” “No Means No,” and “Stop the Silence.”
The majority of the Take Back the Night participants were women, with men sprinkled throughout.
Among the men who were present was Jamie Thompson, a march monitor. Thompson recognized that this is an issue that affects everyone.
“I’ve grown up with intense gender pressures to act a certain way, which I’ve never fit into. I’ve always been sort of seen as a feminine guy, which is awkward for me because I don’t feel feminine,” Thompson said. “I just don’t feel that masculine. If you’re not what’s traditional, if you’re not what is the majority, then you’re automatically demonized.”
Coordinator Saba expressed her feeling of empowerment and awareness when she said, “Today even Mother Earth feels like she wants the night back.”