Sitting on the Bekins lawn while house music thumped through the air, I watched students, professors, and the Redlands dance club community fill the space around me. These people were all at **Liberated to listen and support marginalized groups in a positive space, despite the current political climate.
**Liberated was created by members of the Johnston community as a counter-program to the ASUR Convocations and Lectures-sponsored Ben Shapiro Event. Beginning with a “teach-in,” a series of informal lectures, featuring a coalition of progressive clubs on the University campus and followed by “a dance party of resistance,” this event followed the political spirit of house and club music.
The teach-in began with Senior and President of Young Progressives Demanding Action, Aaron Mandell, discussing students’ power in creating political progress at the local level simply by voting, attending city council meetings and contacting local politicians.
Following Mandell, members of the Native American Student Union (NASU) spoke on the importance of empowering Native communities, and especially supporting youth to strive for completing their higher education. They described NASU as a family more than anything else, a place where anyone could join and be enriched by Native American culture.
Representatives from the Student Animals and Society Institute enlightened the attentive crowd with facts and statistics around the mistreatment of animals, as well as the daily impact humans have on animals and the environment. They asserted that animal rights are just as important as human civil rights.
Junior and President of the newly-founded club entitled Golden Z, Veronica Knutson, informed the audience on the recently passed executive order known as the Global Gag Rule, which federally defunds any organization operating domestically or abroad, whose services involve abortions. Knutson shed light on the peril caused in regards to women’s health around the world, due to lack of safe and affordable abortion clinics as well as access to essential women’s health products. Ending with the following Tupac quote from the song “Keep Ya Head Up,” Knutson made the importance of women’s agency over their body clear.
“Since we all came from a women, got our name from a women, and our game from a women. I wonder why we take from women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women? I think it’s time we killed for our women, be real to our women, try to heal our women, cus if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies that will hate the ladies, who make the babies. And since a man can’t make one he has no right to tell a women when and where to create one.”
With the crowd clapping, cheering, and rapping along, it was clear that we were all in agreement. Women’s rights are not only important, but a woman should be the only person making choices about her body.
After a celebration of women’s rights with Golden Z, Junior and President of Middle Eastern Student Assocation, Damara Pratt, brought the audience together to participate in Charshanbe Suri. The event is a prelude to Iranian New Year, and involves leaping over open flames. We all did so while the Spotify playlist “Persian AF” played in the background. Leading the snake tail of the crowd leaping over candles, I was able to look back at friends and smiling faces sharing this beautiful cultural celebration.
Once the crowd settled back down, Senior and President of Students for Environmental Action, Austin Tannenbaum, led an interactive game entitled “Ben Shapiro on Climate Change: Fact vs. Fiction.” Tannenbaum read statements made by Shapiro on the topic of climate change and the audience guessed whether each of them was true or false.
To conclude the teach-in portion of the event, one junior explained the ultimate purpose of the dance party of resistance. The student acquainted the crowd with the convergence of the political and musical sphere, specifically looking at house music and the club atmosphere.
University of Redlands Junior Kellen Levi, also known by her DJ name “The Milk Curator,” took the stage and immediately filled the air with house music, beginning the dance party of resistance.
The dance party was filled with many moments of intensity, laughter, joy, unity, affection and compassion for all of those who partook in the event. A unique method of protest, **Liberated was effective in communicating its message across the University – quite literally, in fact, as the music could be heard from the Freshmen Quad.
With creative political decorations, the house music and positive energy of the attendees proved to provide a feeling of solace and welcome for everyone who chose to not attend Shapiro’s speech.
Despite some backlash and resistance, the political event showcased a wonderful opportunity for people to“progress [their] values, strengthen [their] community, and build up and encourage one another”.
**Liberated became an engine of active engagement and an environment filled with passion, love, and freedom of expression for all.
photos contributed by Bulldog reporter and photographer Connor Tibbetts