Marching from the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall to Abbot Circle, members of the Andover community gathered for the eighth annual Take Back the Night march and vigil on May 19. With teal ribbons pinned to their chests, participants held self-made banners and chanted slogans to honor survivors of gender-based violence.
In addition to the march, the event featured a candlelight vigil, a capella and flow arts performances, and spoken-word poetry. Multiple banner-making sessions were also held in the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CaMD) prior to the march. In a school-wide email, Patricia Har, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies and Instructor in English, spoke to the origins and mission of Take Back the Night.
“[Take Back the Night], a global phenomenon dating to the late 1970s, is a public display of solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence. The march uplifts a message of awareness, visibility, empowerment, and healing, and it is open to all [Andover] community members,” wrote Har.
A member of the Brace Center Advisory Board, Prince LaPaz ’24 has been involved in organizing Take Back the Night for the last two years. LaPaz expressed interest in reviving an older banner-making tradition for next year.
“Usually the Brace [Center Advisory Board] members help plan Take Back the Night. But I also just love Take Back the Night because it’s such a fun event, it’s very meaningful… [Next year,] we’ll probably have more performers. And then also, in CaMD, there’s a huge banner from 2017 and we also have one from 2018. So I’m hoping to also do one of those where we get a super large piece of paper, and we have everyone write their names on it,” said LaPaz.
Isa Matloff ’24, who volunteered to help facilitate the event, commented on her motivations for joining the event. Hearing about the march from her friends, Matloff wanted to be more involved with organizing the event.
“I have friends who are super involved in planning [Take Back the Night] and who are on the Brace Board, so [I wanted] to support them, but I also wanted to be in solidarity and in comfort with other people who are also affected or possibly affected by gender-based violence. And just showing the general school community, both [the] administration and other students, that we care about this, this is something that really impacts a lot of us and that people should care about,” said Matloff.
Eliza Francis ’26, who attended the event, voiced her appreciation for the student performances at Take Back the Night. She noted how art can provide comfort and offer healing for survivors of gender-based violence.
“I would say watching how art and its many forms, whether that’s poetry, or singing, or dance as seen in Photon, can be a very healing experience. And I was particularly touched by Kashvi [Ramani ’24]’s recital of the poem, ‘Still I Rise,’ [by Maya Angelou]” said Francis.
Having never heard of Take Back the Night before coming to Andover, Hana Young ’26, another member of the Brace Center Advisory Board, found the event impactful and relevant to the Andover campus. In the future, she hopes to expand student attendance and increase the number of performers at the event.
“This was my first Take Back the Night, so it was really powerful… to see everyone together… I think it’s something that is important to raise awareness about on this campus, especially considering statistics of gender-based violence on this campus. I hope that in the future, more people will come because I think some groups didn’t perform or they dropped out late, and I wished that more groups would perform and more people would attend,” said Young.
Similarly, Matloff encouraged more students to attend Take Back the Night. While she recognized the school’s current efforts to promote the event, Matloff suggested some other measures to increase student attendance.
“I don’t really know how the school could really continue to support it, because they posted things on social media, but possibly having more teachers talk about it… I know a lot of people plan events on Friday night, and they don’t realize that Take Back the Night is [on] Friday night. And so trying to have either the Student Activities [Office] or the administration make sure that there’s not as many mandatory events on that day so that more people could show up to this event,” said Matloff.
Editor’s Note: The Phillipian reached out directly to Dr. Patricia Har but did not receive a response.