Eyes Wide Open celebrates 15 years at GVSU

GVL/Emily Frye - The Grand Valley State University group Eyes Wide Open discusses current global events relating to sexual assult on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015.

Emily Frye

GVL/Emily Frye – The Grand Valley State University group “Eyes Wide Open” discusses current global events relating to sexual assult on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015.

For 15 years students at Grand Valley State University have been working together to spread education and awareness about sexual assault on campus through the student-run organization Eyes Wide Open. The advocacy group will celebrate its 15th birthday Thursday, Nov. 10 with a poetry slam focused on giving a voice to people facing oppression.

Since the student organization began in 2001, Eyes Wide Open has focused its efforts on sexual assault education, defining consent and working to fill in gaps through peer presentations and events.

The birthday celebration and poetry slam called “Oppression Out Loud” will take place in Area 51 in the basement of the Kirkhof Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Students and local poets are invited to perform original pieces based on experiences of oppression in an open-mic format. Additionally, Eyes Wide Open will be selling baked goods to raise money for the organization during the event.

Eyes Wide Open President Alyssa Phillips said the event is also an opportunity to go beyond the conversation around sexual assault.

“We decided to do something that was as inclusive as it could be, because intersectionality is really important to our activism fundamentally,” said Phillips. “We wanted to be able to make a mark on campus that is a little different than events we’ve done in the past.”

Finding perspective, moving towards understanding and shining a light on underrepresented or oppressed groups and issues are also focuses of the poetry event.

“Everyone’s perspective is really important, because we all experience life and events from different points,” Phillips said. “It is important to talk about, listen to and discuss those different points of oppression.”

Eyes Wide Open Vice President Brianna Bost said another goal is to provide a space to raise awareness and start a dialogue about the oppression people face, and analyze what can be done going forward.

“Nothing is going to change if we don’t talk about it,” Bost said. “It might be uncomfortable but these are conversations we need to have as a society in order to change anything because nobody ever got anything accomplished by being quiet.

“Events like this can make people aware, and when they’re aware they can start conversations and with conversation comes change.”

In addition, Bost emphasized the importance of the learning experiences that can come from “Oppression Out Loud” and other Eyes Wide Open events.

“You can see all the different ways that people experience things that maybe you didn’t know about,” Bost said. “It might educate you so you can be a better ally to people that need you.”

Eyes Wide Open works to create open dialogue spaces at other annual events, as well, like “Rock Against Rape” and “Take Back the Night.” Additionally, the group helps to connect students with educational and community resources to stay informed and aware on issues of sexual assault.

Eyes Wide Open meetings are open and take place every Monday at 9 p.m. in Kirkhof Center Room 1142. Additional information about the event and organization can be found at www.orgsync.com/63054/chapter.