Attending Weaving Voices as an international student

Photo courtesy of gazettenet.com ||  Zoya Azhar ’20 was surprised to not recognize herself in the audience of Weaving Voices but treated it as a learning experience. 

Photo courtesy of gazettenet.com || Zoya Azhar ’20 was surprised to not recognize herself in the audience of Weaving Voices but treated it as a learning experience. 

Zoya Azhar ‘20
Assistant Opinions Editor

 

Weaving Voices was a project that frequently came up in conversation during my first year, but I had not attended the event until this semester. 

From what I knew of the event, I expected it to be a vibrant, diverse space where Smith students of color came together to express themselves with the default reassurance that someone in the audience will be able to meet you halfway with your experience. I imagined a room full of people who you can relate to and maybe even empathize with. 

However, although I found plenty of color in the audience and many, many struggles rooted in racism, I didn’t find myself within it and I was a little surprised. 

I come from a country where the majority of people look alike. Racism exists but in very different ways than it does in the U.S. I also think sexism and classism are bigger dangers for my community back home, but those manifest a little differently as well. 

In such context, I realized Weaving Voices was not a space where I felt comfortable sharing any part of myself, mostly because I felt it would not be understood. 

However, as alienating as this realization was, it was also a little liberating. I could sit back and focus all my energies on listening.  I did not have to share and put my story out there in order to be a part of the event. 

It was much more interesting to absorb all the stories people were sharing and take the event for what it was — a learning experience. 

The event itself was powerful and took everyone to some pretty dark places and back. Every single story shared was necessary and delivered emphatically. 

Many students mentioned how it was their second or third time at Weaving Voices. Some had attended it every year, and some had spoken up previously as well. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Weaving Voices has become something of a tradition at Smith and will be carried on for years to come.