Speaking out against oppression (the other side)

Re: last weeks Letter to the Editor, Speaking out against oppression.

Dear Editor,

SPEAKout is a spoken word competition that was held in collaboration with the UTMSU this past Nov. 20. It was initially meant to be the finale of the UTMSUs eXpression Against Oppression week, but this was postponed to second semester barely two weeks before the event.

SPEAKout is independent from UTMSU. We receive the poetry applications and choose from the flood of poets who apply. This gets tricky, as we are weighing, alongside the very important overall quality of poetry, two important rules that are stated on our website: No racial slurs, vulgar language, profanity or sexual references, and Respect others! We value people of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.

The challenge is not an easy one, but the concepts of self-respect and respect for others lie at the very core of SPEAKout. When we, as a small group of individuals, first decided to work very hard and spend the majority of our days organizing this love-affair of an event, there had to be an ideal, a passion to pursue. We as organizers receive no financial compensation for the time and effort spent in logistically bringing the event together, and any extras we make from one contest goes into the account for the next event—and we don’t want any. At the very essence of SPEAKout is an opportunity to prove that we as human beings, free and completely unrestrained, could speak our hearts and minds with loving praise or harsh critique, while maintaining a level of self-respect and dignity that steers clear from using any profanity.

Our challenge is that of the proverbial fist’s right to swing only as far as the next nose starts, and no further. We believe that our rights to free speech are bound by logical constraints, where for example a right to free speech does not include the right to yell fire in a crowded theatre.

We cater to a unique audience that recognizes the value of tasteful poetry, which in our opinion would inherently respect the two rules on which we’ve built SPEAKout.

Our events truly are for anyone, which might not be suitable for everyone. Just as anyone is entitled to their right to speak their mind, so is everyone else entitled to the respect and upkeep of their moral dignity, and these we’ve found not to be a small number. We believe that we have found an utterly unique niche, that is neither prude in its restraint nor excessive in its liberty, which facilitates such thought-provoking events.

It is no secret that constraints are a necessity for genius, and we have found that by challenging our poets to respect the attendant audience, a consistently colorful and creative roster of poets have graced our stage, leaving our crowds wanting more every time. We will continue along this path, so long as there are those who believe that there is a rational, liberal, non-toxic approach to freedom of expression. For more info about

SPEAKout, check out speakoutpoetry.ca or drop us a line at

Besma Sultan

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