“Finding Beauty in Our Differences” encouraged celebration of diversity

 An open-mic night hosted by the Women's Center is held Monday, March 5 from 6-8 pm at the Beanery. (Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

An open-mic night hosted by the Women's Center is held Monday, March 5 from 6-8 pm at the Beanery. (Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

The background music in the Beanery turned off at 6 p.m. on Monday night to allow the Women’s Center event, “Finding Beauty in Our Differences,” to take place. Although the beginning of the event was plagued by technical difficulties, and there wasn’t an abundance of performers, the intention behind the event was to provide a safe space for people of all identities to feel comfortable sharing a piece of themselves, in order to emphasize the beauty found in diversity.

“We just wanted to give people a space where they felt really comfortable,” individualized neuroscience major and co-chair of the Women’s Center programming committee Kiana Akhundzadeh said. “We just wanted people to share a part of themselves that they don’t necessarily feel safe sharing anywhere else.”

Several performers read poems by other poets that they identified with or felt could express their thoughts, several other performers read their own poetry, and one performer, fourth semester women’s studies major Qi Mei Liu, sang a Chinese song, which she explained was about a pair of star-crossed lovers.

“I know that the event was about embracing culture,” Liu said. “I just want to be here to make my contribution.”

Whether your culture comes from your racial, ethnic, gender or some other identity, the open mic night provided an opportunity to share.

“It’s about representation,” eighth semester communications major Stephanie O’Neill said. “Things like this are really needed on campus.”

Corona Zhang, a fourth semester anthropology student, also felt representation was an important part of the evening, especially because it focused on sharing identity through art, whether that was poetry, song, dance or anything else.

“I think it’s a celebration of being confident about who you are,” Zhang said, stressing that sometimes artists are self-conscious about their work. “It brings a more hidden part of you out.”

While there were a number of performers and the programming committee worked before the event to reach out to organizations they felt would be interested, the organizers acknowledged they would have liked a better turnout, particularly with performers.

“I know people on this campus have open ears, we just need to find open mouths as well,” eighth semester physiology and neurobiology major and member of the programming committee Emily Girouard said.

Kathleen Holgerson, Director of the Women’s Center, stopped by to support the event and mentioned how the lack of performers may have been in part because of societal expectations.

“I think this is indicative of how we need to encourage women to use their voice,” Holgerson said. She emphasized how culture often encourages women to stay quiet and not to take up space, whereas events like an open mic encourage them to do the opposite.

Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.