Spoken word duo tackles modern day issues

Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood, two spoken word poets and authors who make up the duo Speak Like a Girl, performed Sunday.

The event, hosted by Activities Council of Bradley University (ACBU), was an educational performance aimed at using the performers’ poetry to inform audience members on issues such as feminism, rape culture, sexual assault and body positivity.

“I think that most spoken word [poetry] is political in some way, so the act of speaking out about something, whether it’s personal or political or both, is an act of activism,” Gatwood said. “At our first show, we talked about a really broad range of topics, and our audience really seemed to respond to that.”

Speak Like a Girl began touring in 2015. They mainly perform in front of younger audiences, and according to Falley, the issues Speak Like a Girl tackles are particularly prevalent on college campuses.

“It’s important just knowing the facts and statistics of sexual assaults on college campuses,” Falley said. “We realized before [we started touring] we could use our platform for something even larger.”

ACBU event coordinator Gaby Zavala said her organization found the spoken word duo at the National Association for Campus Activities conference last year.

“We found them and we fell in love,” Zavala, a sophomore accounting major, said. “We booked them right away after we saw them perform.”

Jack Ellis, who also worked on booking this as an ACBU event coordinator, said he hoped college students would be able to relate to the messages presented by the performers.

“Their messages about feminism, diversity, rape culture — they all speak to a wide variety of people,” Ellis, a freshman business management and marketing double major, said. “A lot of these things are very prevalent today, and students can connect to them. Especially after the safety alert we had recently about the sexual assault, and rape culture being such an issue in society, I think this is important to hear.”

When instances like sexual assault occur on a campus, Falley said it’s important for the victim to know they are not alone.

“It sucks that you’re not alone, in the way that it’s happened to as many people as it has, but whenever we remember that we’re not alone, we feel better,” Falley said. “It is possible to find an outlet that feels healthy for you, too. For us it’s been writing, but for others, maybe it’s dancing, or maybe it’s kickboxing or painting. I think having that outlet is really healthy.”

ACBU hosted Speak Like a Girl in collaboration with Common Ground, Bradley’s LGBT+ organization on campus.

“We wanted to be as educational as possible in [planning this event], including for people who don’t necessarily know about these issues Speak Like a Girl tackled,” Alysen Newton, president of Common Ground and senior English education major, said. “It’s important to present these issues to people outside of the LGBT+ circle in an educational and lasting way, while being as friendly as possible.”

Speak Like a Girl performed a variety of poems. Falley and Gatwood took the stage separately at times, while they were together for some poems and invited audience participation for others. Their pieces ranged from “Princess Peach Speaks,” a poem written from video game character Princess Peach’s perspective, to “He, Him, His,” a poem about a transgender individual.

“[They were] real funny, and it was definitely interesting to see a different point of view,” Joseph Power Wayvon, junior accounting major, said. “People face and see [these issues] everyday — sexism, homophobia, racism — and we don’t notice them. This was a chance to see it in a different setting.”

The performance concluded with the duo taking a group selfie with audience members and inviting them to stop by their table to tell Falley and Gatwood their stories.

“We’re responsible largely for the future, whether we’re going into the corporate world or going into medicine or architecture and art,” Gatwood said. “If we can make sure that the people going into the professions that shape this world are also good people, that is going to drastically change the way elections look, and the way workers feel, how they feel, the climate around sexual harassment … I also think that young people are emotional, dynamic beings and need art, activism and community,” Gatwood said.

For more information on Speak Like a Girl, visit their website at www.speaklikeagirl.com.