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The Art of Changing the World

Mary Getachew sings "Tunnel Vision" in a performance of "SExT" alongside Amen (guitar), Saad & Michelle Nyamekye (dance). Photo by Dahlia Katz.

SExT: Sex Education by Theatre came together because of Shira Taylor, a PhD candidate out of the University of Toronto, deciding to focus her thesis on using the arts to give youth the tools, information and voices they need to educate themselves and each other on the various topics of Sex Ed. More importantly, SExT gave my community (Toronto’s Thorncliffe/ Flemingdon Park) the chance to decide what was important to us, and how we wanted to communicate those learnings back to our community.

Before SExT, I was an immigrant whose only access to sex ed was via a volunteer opportunity I had to seek out. I wasn't informed of my rights. I wasn't informed of what consent constitutes or how complex it can be (e.g. when inebriation of any kind is thrown into the mix). I wasn't informed on how to stay safer. I was young, in high school, and wanted to perform. It's all I've ever wanted to do: be on stage. I didn't have the prerequisites when I got to Canada to join grade 12 drama, so I settled for volunteering and engaging in as many opportunities as I could. Then, along came SExT - this incredible opportunity to perform and incorporate teaching folks all the things I had to work to learn. Joining was so easy and so obvious a choice to me! I anticipated having fun and giving folks something to think about. What I didn't expect was the response: so many youth and adults had no idea about so much of our content, like the fact that there are 10 steps to putting on a condom, or that people can be in abusive relationships regardless of age, demographics, orientation and/or gender. It showed me that there is so much work to be done, and it showed me how incredible the arts were for facilitating that work. On a more personal note, I learned that I could write. I could make art out of my experiences and pain and use it to help others, and myself. I rewrote our original abusive relationships scene to reflect my own experience, and was even helped in creating a song and dance to it (watch “Tunnel Vision” below), to better tell my story as a survivor of domestic abuse. To watch crowd after crowd, adult after adult, and most touchingly, student after student open up to and relate to a piece I thought would never see the light of day? It makes me feel like some nightmares are designed to make your dreams bigger, and purposeful. I'm stronger, and much more aware of myself and my life and my goals now, and it's in no small part thanks to projects like SExT. I’m very excited to participate, engage with and learn from this Art of Changing the World Gathering; in particular with the Reconciliation and Hope segment. I’m ready to learn what allyship can and should look like from a settler-perspective, and I’m thrilled to be able to do so!

*This blog originally appeared in the #ACW2017 blog series on the Art for Social Change website. Check it out here.


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