Chants against sexual violence and bigotry filled the night air as about 50 students marched down Commonwealth Avenue Friday as a part of Boston University’s Take Back the Night.
After first being hosted in March 2012, the Feminist Collective hosted the rally for the second time Friday night. One of the rally’s organizers, FemCo activist and College of Arts and Sciences junior Yayra Sumah, said Take Back the Night is a nationwide event and has become an annual event at BU.
“Take Back the Night is about reclaiming that space and not having fear of assaulters in the night anymore,” Sumah said. “On a bigger scale, we are pushing for the end of all forms of sexual violence.”
In its second year, the rally expanded to include people that increased its power, such as crisis councilors from BU’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center, student speakers and, for the first time, a male speaker, Sumah said. They also included groups for people with different gender identities.
Leah Robson, a School of Management sophomore, said it was her first time participating in Take Back the Night.
“It seems like a really empowering message,” said Robson. “I wanted to be a part of it for my friends who have been affected [by sexual violence].”
The night began with poster making and socializing as music played. After an introduction to the program and a message from Antonio Arrendel, SARP health and prevention educator, three students spoke.
“I decided it [speaking] would be important for my healing process,” said Simone Leonard, a CAS sophomore, FemCo Activist and the second student to tell her story. “It could be a way I could empower other people as I was last year.”
The final student to speak, CAS junior Danielle Galloway was introduced as a survivor, student and inspirational speaker.
“I think the most important thing is allowing students to feel like they have a place to go and be heard,” she said. “And for victims, it is important they have a place to be heard and to know we stand in numbers behind you.”
Swanson Ninan, a Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism member, said “taking back the night” means feeling safe from harassment and assault on the streets.
He said he was glad to see the inclusion of male-identified students and to see the positive energy of all participants.
“It’s a really good sign — I think there’s a lot of misconception that this is just a women’s issue and it’s not,” Ninan, a CAS sophomore, said. “I’m happy there is more awareness of this issue being a man’s issue too.”
Chordially Yours, an all-female-identified a cappella group, performed alongside the speeches. Aural Fixation, another a cappella group, performed after the march.
Sumah said in coming years, she hopes to see greater participation from certain parts of the BU community.
“I’d like to see more participation from Greek life, from faculty and from especially male-identified people in the community,” she said. “And more support from the bureaucratic structure of BU in general for facilitating women’s rights activism on campus. It was difficult putting this event on and it shouldn’t be that way.”
Sumah said Take Back the Night will continue to happen annually, until safety is no longer an issue.
“Until we can live in a society where our lives are not policed by harassers and assaulters at night, and when we can live in a world where we are in a safe space from behaviors and ideas that excuse or encourage sexual assault,” she said.