Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Shaha performance to focus on racism in LGBTQIA+ community

(Amanda Creegan/ Daily Collegian)
(Amanda Creegan/ Daily Collegian)

“Shaha: The Storytellers,” a diversity peer education troupe, will be having a performance and discussion encompassing racism in the LGBTQIA+ community on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Room 165 of the Campus Center.

The troupe creates peer educational skits based around experiences with racism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, sexism and other forms of oppression.  Shaha also focuses on how these issues arise at the University of Massachusetts and within the Five College community.

Shaha’s educational theater presents a unique way of exposing injustices and oppression that marginalized students may experience on campus through a performance that allows students to provide feedback and responses afterward.

“Through blending art, discussion, a thematic focus, performance, intellectual engagement and pieces written mostly by students, Shaha creates an opportunity for us to engage with each other and ourselves in a different way,” Shaha’s cast assistant Melissa Myers said. “(It’s) another path toward social and racial justice.”

Shaha collectively decided that a show based on racism and intersectionality in LGBTQIA+ spaces would be most beneficial for the community, Myers said.

Addressing diversity and social justice issues on college campuses is crucial to creating a “socially just environment,” she said, adding, “Shaha is one of many spaces on this campus working for change.”

“We saw the Shaha performance as a dialogue starter and the following discussion as a potential first step in finding a way for students to address racism in the LGBTQIA+ communities and spaces of this Five College area, with a focus on UMass,” she said.

Through original skits, Shaha exposes how overlapping social identities are related to different systems of oppression. Sophomore Shaha performer Hannah Youssef said Shaha’s show explains how necessary it is to “acknowledge the intersectionality of oppression.”

“Not acknowledging racism in LGBTQIA+ spaces erases oppression as well as the ability for queer people of color to enter these spaces with faith that there is an attempt at support of all of their identities,” Youssef said.

Youssef added that the troupe provides students with an outlet to combine theater and social justice, while also creating a supportive space to create solidarity with other students.  She said Shaha’s skits “provide such a powerful tool for education on social issues, as well as an outlet for healing from and coping with the trauma that results from systemic oppression.”

Shaha normally receives requests to put on performances for residence halls and other groups. Myers said the troupe wanted to reach to an even larger audience for their final performance of the semester, and thus decided to collaborate with the Stonewall Center and the gender neutral “Spectrum” floor in Baker Hall dormitory.

Recently, UMass students have demanded the University deal with the lack of diversity on campus, specifically the recruitment and retention of students of color. More than 100 students staged a walkout on Nov. 19 in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri.

Additionally, student activist groups, including Gender Liberation UMass, have been putting pressure on the administration to address the lack of resources and safe spaces for transgender and gender neutral students.

Serena McMahon can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @serenaamcmahon.

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