Senior Natalie Campisi, the programming chair for Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week, began the Speak Out with this sentence: “We hope to empower you to make a difference, to help a friend.”
On Feb. 24, the Policy Group on Rape Education, Prevention and Response (PREPARE) held its 28th annual event in Wait Chapel.
The evening was filled with leaders of PREPARE, powerful speakers, anonymous testimonials, supportive staff and faculty serving as candle holders and musical performances from Plead the Fifth and Demon Divas.
Upon entering the chapel, attendees were greeted with yellow balloons lining the aisle, a bright addition to the neutral colored Wait Chapel. At the front of the chapel, just ahead of the podium, stood three microphones adorned with yellow bows. Behind the podium sat over a dozen staff and faculty members serving as candle holders, who were described as being some of the supportive figures of PREPARE and the mission they stand for.
The speakers included Jasper Privat, a psychology intern for the University Counseling Center, and Abbey Bako, a student activist from Rhodes College.
Since Bako began the #askforbetter movement at Rhodes, she was invited to the university as one of the keynote speakers. Bako serves as a leading voice for activism and she continues to empower others.
“Your journey is just that — yours,” Bako said.
She reiterated that no one experience is the same as another, and that everyone serves valid, important and loved roles within this movement. She culminated her speech with a call to action on the issue of sexual assault.
“Fight for more and ask for better,” Bako said.
Then Privat spoke about violence against LGBTQIA+ students and about their personal experiences. Privat discussed the marginalization of trans individuals and how this must change, and the validity of everyone’s own experience. They also stand as a resource for the community, as an advocate and a friendly face for those in need of one.
The Demon Divas performed first, standing behind the adorned microphones, with soloists standing in the middle. They performed two songs, “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish and “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine, two somewhat solemn songs that rang through the chapel.
After Bako’s speech came Plead the Fifth’s performance. They performed “Say Something” by A Great Big World and “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, creating a beautiful medley. During this performance, a PREPARE member walked through the aisles lighting the candles held by those in the audience. The two performances brought music to this event and added to the already moving set-up and occasion.
The anonymous testimonials, read by members of PREPARE, echoed through Wait Chapel. The crowd sat silently while a recording boomed through the speakers.
With each testimonial, a candle holder sitting behind the podium lit one candle to symbolize the purpose of the event. A candle lit for every survivor. A candle held by an advocate. A candle presented as a call for action. The individuals who submitted testimonies spoke for those who believe they cannot, and serve as real examples of the impact of Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week.
At the end of the event, all those in attendance were invited to walk outside to the pillars of Wait Chapel and then tie a yellow ribbon to them.