By Gabriela Rey
Emotions ran high during the fourth annual “Take a Walk in Our Shoes” event on April 17 in the Brower Student Center.
The event was hosted by Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, and promoted an open and safe space for students to come and share their stories of personal struggle, and foster a sense of community and support with the audience.
“Our founders started this event because people throughout their lives always bottle up things inside them,” said Damani Walker, a senior finance major and member of Sigma Lambda Beta. “We created this event to give that open space to everyone to speak what’s on their minds, to speak about what’s triggering them.”
The night’s performances included poetry, songs, personal anecdotes and free-flowing thoughts. The microphone was also extended to members of the audience who, inspired by their peers, felt the courage to come up and share their experiences.
One of the most powerful performers of the night was Dejon Ricketts, a junior urban education and history double major representing the College’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who recited his original poem “A Day in My Life.”
Ricketts decided to write this poem in 2016 after riots left him sleepless and inspired. He spoke about the experiences of African Americans in the U.S., and of violence and fear.
“I’ve read this poem before,” Ricketts said. “It’s something that’s really personal to me and I really think it fits perfectly with the ‘walk in my shoes’ (theme).”
Alex Penafiel, a junior finance major felt a build-up of courage watching the other performances. He proudly read a poem to the crowd that he related to, and resonated with his personal challenges and adversities.
“I’m a little bit of an introvert, so being up there was pretty hard and it just helped me see things from a different perspective,” Penafiel said. “I also felt that (the event) created a sense of unity. If you’re up on the stage, you can definitely see the different walks of life.”
There was not an empty seat in the house, and though many students had to sit on the ground, each performer was met with a roaring applause. The audience motivated the performers, and the crowd’s supportive spirit showed the students on stage that they were not only heard, but accepted.
Jesse Geevers, a senior marketing major, came to the event in support of a friend.
“I feel like we don’t take that time out of our day to really listen to someone else’s story. We just see what’s on the exterior and we don’t really get involved,” Geevers said.
The members of Sigma Lambda Beta acknowledged that everyone is a different person with a different story, and they hope that this event not only resonated with those in attendance, but that it will also help to make a change on campus.
“Coming together to listen to one another, to hear what another person has to say and what they’ve been through, I think it’s going to impact the campus overall,” Penafiel said.