By Janet Dake — 

Engage Lead Serve Board hosted “Voices in Violet: Why I Stayed,” a slam poetry event meant to raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse, on Sept. 25.

Organized by the Public Safety Committee of ELSB, several U of L students, faculty and community members gathered in Bigelow Hall explore the trauma that domestic abuse victims face through spoken word.

ELSB Public Safety Director Natalie Shields was one the main coordinators of this event. Shields said the inspiration behind this event was October being domestic violence awareness month.

“We wanted to do something to honor that and kick it off,” Shields said. “It’s obviously an important issue, one that doesn’t always get talked about as much as it should.”

Beyond this, Shields said she thought slam-poetry was a unique way to talk about this issue.

“There’s a lot of emotions that go into domestic violence, whether that be anger or sadness,” she said. “So poetry and the spoken word are really good ways to convey that emotion, and bring awareness to it in a way that everyone can appreciate.”

“Voices in Violet” was hosted by Lance Newman, a prominent member in the Louisville poetry community. He is the founder and director of SpreadLove Enterprise and is executive director of Young Poets of Louisville.

Newman spoke in between poets at the event, performing a few of his own pieces about his personal struggles with an abusive stepmother, and the different forms domestic abuse manifests itself in.

“There’s a difference between teaching someone a lesson, and just totally making that person afraid to be around you,” he said.

Several songs were performed by participant Tatiana Wells-Smith, about healing through her Christianity.

After scheduled performances by Newman and fellow Louisville poets Phillip Lentsch and Kierra Tanett, the floor was opened to an open-mic for audience members.

Students got up to recite poetry they had written and to speak openly about their personal struggles or opinions about domestic abuse.

Booths for U of L organizations  that deal with domestic abuse, among other things, were at the event. These included the Women’s Center, the Counseling Center and ELSB.