Jamaican-born poet, writer and activist, Staceyann Chin, spoke about her struggles growing up as an outspoken girl and homosexual to kick off the University of Richmond's Coming Out campaign.
Chin has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, "60 Minutes" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She also co-wrote and performed in Russell Simmons' Def Jam Poetry on Broadway.
Chin spoke to a group of about 60 students on Tuesday in the North Court Reception Room. The event was moved from the Greek Theatre because of rain.
"I think it's important for us to share our stories, our triumphs and our terrors," Chin said as she introduced her memoir, "The Other Side of Paradise."
Chin read a story about her childhood in Jamaica, after her mother abandoned her and her brother. The story recounts Chin's attitude as a child before the sexual abuse she suffered from her cousin.
She followed this excerpt with a story about her first sexual discovery, which had the crowd laughing. Chin chose the second excerpt because "a life of tragedy is not without its comic scenes," she said.
She also read her poems and haikus which were serious with moments of comedic relief.
Chin's voice resonated throughout the room as she acted out characters and expressions.
Chin said the best way to get back at those who wronged you in the past was to fight back."They win when you become this closed creature," she said.
Ted Lewis, associate director for LGBTQ campus life, said he had met with students to talk about the coming year. "I asked who was the number one person they wanted to hear from, and they continuously said Staceyann Chin," he said. "I think it went fantastic. We filled the room, filled the expectations."
Jamaica Akande, co-president of BASE (Black Alliance for Sexual-Minority Equality), said the group had done a lot of work to get Chin to Richmond.
"Our major goal was to get Staceyann Chin to campus by the time we graduated," Akande said. "She is a great example of an individual who has faced multifaceted oppression and has survived. It took a community to bring her here."
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Akande said: "I was completely blown away. I believe it was more powerful and raw than I had anticipated as she was belting out integral moments of her life and her tragedy. I couldn't help but sit back in awe.
"I believe tonight was only the beginning of an amazing month. More great speakers, great dialogue and an awesome queer party to come."
The event was the first part of UR Comes Out, a celebration of LGBTQ History Month, sponsored by BASE, CA Alternatives, Common Ground, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Richmond College, ROSMY (Richmond Organization for Student Minority Youth), SASD (Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity), Westhampton College, West Indian Lynk and WILL (Women Involved in Living and Learning).
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