Stories that matter: students share at WGS story slam

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By JESSICA FRASER
Reporter

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Carla Campos initially did not want to tell her story, but her love for the spoken word and a supportive professor eventually changed her mind.

“I wasn’t sure about participating, but then there were a series of events in my life that I was really sad (about), and I was just trying to not be sad, depressed or angry,” Campos said. “I like to write, so I wrote that down and showed it to my professor.”

Campos, a junior international student studying international relations, joined 20 students in sharing stories Nov. 16, at I Wanna B Me 2, the university’s first story slam. The students shared testimonies, poetry and short stories that revealed areas of intersectionality in their everyday lives.

Jobin Davis, graduate teaching assistant for the UCM Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said the story slam was designed to be a forum to talk about the important and difficult issues that impact diversity on campus.

“Last fall (the) WGS program did what we called ‘Transform,’ and we brought in a panel of people from the outside to talk about transgender issues,” Davis said. “This year we wanted to continue with the theme of diversity, but we wanted to open it up big. We wanted it to be much wider. We wanted to hear from students instead of bringing in a group of people from the outside.”

Davis said he wanted to find faculty members who had experience with putting on a story slam. When Melody Niesen, an instructor in the department of English and philosophy, heard about Davis’ project, she said she was more than willing to help.

“Melody had gone to a training about having a story slam on campus and someone told me that…so she and I met and we proposed it to the director, Dr. Bradley,” Davis said.

Niesen said the theme for this year’s story slam was based on Megan Trainor’s hit song, “Me Too.”

“It was kind of piggy-backing on that song by Megan Trainor,” Niesen said. “We were thinking about intersectionality and how all of the different pieces of ourselves come together to make a whole and how we should be celebrating that.”

Campos said she wrote the poem “My Soul Is Bleeding” to deal with the frustration, anger and disappointment she felt because of recent events in the United States.

“I’m studying abroad, so I’m just getting to know people and getting to know how it works in the U.S.,” Campus said. “Sometimes you feel that a lot can be done but then you get disappointed by what you see…but then I was like, ‘No. People (are) good. I will not give up on that.’”

Campos said international students contribute to the diversity that exists within the UCM community.

“I think that since we have a different perspective on life, we can bring that here in this community,” Campos said.

Arthur Clifford, a junior studying education in speech, communication and theater, said his story dealt with the stereotypes that surround men in theater and dance.

“I chose it because theater is my life,” Clifford said. “It’s what I came here to do, and I know that there are a lot of people who feel ashamed for some of the activities that they participate in because of how society will judge them and assume about what they do…you don’t have to be what society tells you that you should be.”

Christina Moore, junior science education major, said her poem explored the misconceptions about the asexual community.

“My story was actually a short poem called ‘Not Broken, Just Me,’” Moore said. “I put in lines I had heard before about my sexuality being abnormal or that it was a sickness – remarks about how I hadn’t found the one yet or that I was just a prude.”

Moore said she participated in the story slam to talk about the positive aspects of her sexuality.

“I participated in this event because the community I am a part of as an asexual is not seen very often and for many years has been invisible,” Moore said. “We don’t get a lot of exposure, but we do get a lot of hate and snide remarks. I want to be seen and heard like everyone else so I felt this was one of the best platforms to do so.”

Another student, who has asked to be called ELD, said her story was about the challenges she faced as a plus-sized woman who had an eating disorder. When she heard the other speakers share their stories, ELD said she was glad that she participated.

“I think that all the stories that got told last night really show that you never truly know what someone else is going through,” ELD said. “It’s hard for a lot of people to speak about things that are going on in their life, and they might not have someone else to tell their story to without getting shut down. I felt that it was a really good platform to get things told.”

Niesen said the story slam was designed to allow students to share their stories without the fear of being judged.

“We certainly have a diverse campus culturally, and I think that there are a lot of different stories to be told,” Niesen said. “Even if we look at someone, we may not think that they’re that different from us but we really don’t know their story. You could sit next to someone in class every single day and never really know anything about who they are and where they come from, and I think this is a chance for students and maybe some faculty to share that part of themselves and show how we are all different and we all have amazing stories to share.”

Although many students might be afraid to share those deeply personal parts of themselves, Niesen said they are vital parts of their stories.

“Everybody is important – no matter where you came from, no matter what you do,” Niesen said. “You’re important and your story matters.”