The Activism Speaker Series commenced this week with a talk from Zeke Thomas, a DJ, artist and music producer.
Thomas, who is the son of NBA legend Isaiah Thomas, came to Mercyhurst to speak about sexual violence and to share his own experience. As a gay man who was a victim of sexual assault, he uses activism to change the narrative.
The Activism Speaker Series spreads the message of self-acceptance and builds on last year’s idea of claiming one’s identity. Through their stories, speakers push others to be spokespeople and champions of representation in their communities.
Previously, Mercyhurst Student Government (MSG) has only hosted two speakers a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. This year, the series has become more robust, with a common theme among the speakers. Later on in the year, talks will be given by political commentator Symone Sanders and filmmaker and entrepreneur Celine Couteau.
MSG hopes to highlight that activism does not have a specific mold and is not limited to one group or person.
The talk by Thomas emphasized the fact that one in six men in the United Sates are sexually assaulted, as are one in four women.
Thomas told the audience that “no one ever talks about this, but there are survivors and victims everywhere. I felt that my manhood had been taken from me.”
Thomas is hoping to create a platform for real conversation by changing the culture and conversations around sexual violence, and by breaking down societal barriers and harmful stereotypes.
His talk focused on the central message that “a lot of times in this life people don’t get the chance to be free and to express themselves.”
“We’re going to have to grow as a generation and a society. We don’t protect each other enough, we don’t look out for one another. The path isn’t always a straight line, but you don’t need to go it alone,” Thomas said.
The speech concluded with a question-and-answer session that allowed students to express their own thoughts on this difficult topic, and to ask questions.
Before the final autograph signing, Thomas concluded with a powerful call to action. He asked the audience to consider: “If you don’t be you, then who are you?”
Students who attended cited the talk as powerful, moving and heartening.
Tthe Activism Speaker Series is another means of how MSG hopes to enhance the lives of students on campus. We want this series to be impactful. My hope is that with everything going on in the world, these speakers help spur meaningful conversations on campus and empower students to want to say more – to be part of change not only on campus, but beyond the gates of Mercyhurst,”Jonah Jackson, Student Government president said.