Poetry Provides Outlet for Abuse Survivors

by Michael Hall

The Guardsman

Voices boomed through the air of Batmale Hall as students rapped, rhymed and retold personal struggles of the domestic violence and sexual abuse they experienced in their past.

Project Survive and students from the Poetry for the People course sponsored the Oct. 25 poetry and storytelling event.

Lauren Muller, department chair for interdisciplinary studies, founded Project Survive at City College in 1993 to empower survivors to be role models for each other.

“We train students to be educators, and we get their work published,” Muller said.

According to Project Survive’s website, “students deliver solutions to their peers in frank, open discussions. They approach the subject in a non-threatening, hopeful manner.”  Collaborating with the Poetry for the People course allowed students to deliver their messages through poetry and song.

“October is domestic violence awareness month and we’re happy to have our voices heard today,” Muller said.

The event was emceed by Alan Herrera, a student and also president of the Poetry for the People course and co-hosted by Project Survive Coordinator Leslie Simon.

The poetry readings were from a variety of authors, including famous authors such as Maya Angelou and June Jordan. Other poems were written by the poetry students, as well as audience members who chose to participate.

The poems read ranged from haikus to group readings and classic poetry. Some authors chose to remain anonymous but had their work read by others.

There was a hushed silence from the audience as Lisa Crippen, a member of Project Survive, read her poem entitled “A marriage takes three”—an analogy for her experience as a victim of rape and violence, while she also struggled with a Crystal Meth addiction.

“I’ve been off of Meth for five years now,” Crippen said. “My kids are grateful for it every day. Once you deal with what troubles you, you know how to move on.”

Crippen eventually took on full responsibility of her four children and divorced her abusive husband, who was also on Meth.

“My message to women is to never settle for less than you’re worth,” she said.  Her poem and related comments were met with a standing ovation from audience members.

Dimitrios Philliou, a member of the poetry class, stole the show with his lyrical rap poem called “Brainwash Blues,” which addressed the cycle of violence.

“My message was that if you glorify violence, you destroy yourself,” Phillou said.

Phillou said the Poetry for the People class was key to developing his writing skills and help him move a crowd.  His was the longest poem of the event.

“I’ve been doing hip-hop music for three years, rapping and beatboxing,” Philliou said, “but this class is where I learned to create imagery and add life to my poetry.”

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