Andover’s Take Back the Night march, a demonstration against gender-based violence, took place on April 29. After meeting on the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall, the Blue Key Heads led Andover students on a march together to Abbot Campus, chanting “claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand, take back the night.” The event featured spoken student poetry, music, dance performances, and a candlelight vigil.
Sakina Cotton ’24, a Brace Center board member and an organizer of Take Back the Night, spoke about organizing the event. The board divided the work amongst themselves; tasks included getting in contact with performers, gathering banners and candles, and planning the march route
“The Brace board met and divided ourselves into different work groups for [Take Back the Night]. Emiliano [Caceres Manzano ’22], Aleisha [Roberts ’22], and Avivit [Ashman ’22] were the seniors that got in contact with performers, planned the marching route and [Blue Key Heads], and revised the script. Josie [Banson ’22], Prince [LaPaz ’24] and Palmer [Simpson ’23] were in charge of the materials, Banners and Candles, Donoma [Fredericson ’23] got the AV equipment and helped with gathering performers, Pema [Sherpa ’23] and myself were on publicity, making graphics and memos for the campus community. We also worked with CaMD to deal with all the conflicting events during [Take Back the Night],” said Cotton.
Cotton believes that Take Back the Night helps create space to talk about sexual assualt or gender-based violence. Cotton also believes that the event helps to spread awareness and support for those that might need it.
“I think [Take Back the Night] sets the tone for the Andover community and the events leading up to it. Its message helped create some space for either survivors or supporters. It helps spread love and healing to those who need it, and I wish that everyone was able to create that space for people all the time,” said Cotton.
Sebastian Cynn ’24, a participant at Take Back the Night, felt a variety of emotions throughout the march. Cynn was saddened by the fact that he was not surprised by the statistics on gender-based violence shared at the event.
“Throughout the whole event I felt incredibly horrified, angry, mournful, even a little disheartened, but rarely surprised. I don’t know if it says more about me or about our society that the appalling statistics of gender-based violence are always saddening but never unexpected,” wrote Cynn in an email to The Phillipian.
Cynn highlighted the honesty and vulnerability of the student performances, particularly the speeches and gestures of solidarity from the attendees. The amount of people who were willing to take the time and courage to rethink social norms of silence and mistrust regarding sexual assault and gender based violence impressed him.
“I was struck by the honesty of everyone involved. From the powerful speeches to the smallest gestures of solidarity, I felt a widespread desire to express emotions and experiences plainly…On one hand, especially right afterwards, there was a certain numbness that comes with confronting the worst facets of human experience. Nevertheless, there was something so hopeful and powerful about the display of solidarity at [Take Back the Night],” wrote Cynn.
Cotton felt that Shannon McGinty’s ’22 and Adya Chatterjee’s ’22 poetry was a powerful part of the event. She appreciated their stories and thanked them for having the courage to share.
“Shannon’s speech about her own experiences of sexual assault and Adya’s spoken word about the physical and mental torment and trauma from sexual assault and violence were so raw and powerful. Their fierceness in sharing their story to be seen as fighters, survivors, and shaping a path for other survivors was so clear and vivid. I, and everyone there, thank them so much,” said Cotton.