Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

A Summer with Speak About It

by Maya Williams

Last summer, I went on an orientation with an organization based in Portland, Maine called Speak About It. Speak About It uses a theatrical play and co-facilitated dialogue as a tool to talk about consent and sexual violence prevention. An “orientation tour” in this case, was spending three weeks traveling to different universities around the country (and Canada as of recent) during freshman orientation to perform the play and have a workshop before or after. After the orientation tour, during the rest of the school year for universities and high schools, actors can sign up for as needed “pick up shows” as part of schools’ occasional programming. We perform the same play all year until a new play is written for the next school year based on feedback from students and faculty throughout the previous year.

I grew up in a religious family and religious communities where the majority of dialogue about sex was to wait until marriage with an opposite sex partner, otherwise, all forms of pursuance and identities outside of cisgender heterosexuality was sinful. Out of all of that baggage, I believe religious communities are valid in promoting abstinence, I just still don’t feel right about using it as a tool to promote one narrative about sex, or to make other people feel bad what they choose and even can’t choose about themselves. It also didn’t help that my sex education in school wasn’t the best for a lot of queer people, including queer people of color. I said yes to working with Speak About It because of how intentional they are about a variety of experiences in regards to sex, whether one wants to have it or not. They’re also super consistent on using an LGBTQ+ lens and having a lot of racial diversity in their cohort because of how often those narratives have been excluded in sex education and consent education.

There are casts of five that have different routes to different universities for those three weeks. We went to universities mostly on the East Coast in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, along with a short stint outside of the East Coast in Wisconsin. I was quite satisfied with who I got to work with in my cast. It was nice to have a sense of Black solidarity because of the two Black cast mates I had, a sense of queer solidarity because another queer cast mate, and even a sense of religious camaraderie because another cast mate was the same religious background as me, and we talked about how our faith inspired us to be involved in this kind of social justice work through consent education and the arts. I’ll admit, although we maintained contact over social media, I haven’t spoken to any of my cast mates since our tour ended. However, that doesn’t change how I’ll be forever grateful for my experience with them over the summer.

A lot of things are up in the air right now, but they’re still doing great online content on their Instagram and Facebook. My favorite online content of theirs, which started before COVID-19 era, is their series Hot Goss, where they choose a topic about sex, sometimes in reference to pop culture or current events, and answer questions for folks.

About the Author:

Maya Williams (she/they) is a Black Mixed Race queer suicide survivor currently residing in Portland, ME. She has a Masters in Social Work with a Certificate in Applied Arts and Social Justice and published essays in venues such as The Tempest, Rooted in Rights, O.School, Black Youth Project, and more. They also work as a spoken word poet and actor/consent educator with a non-profit in Maine. Follow Maya @emmdubb16 on Twitter and Instagram. Maya also has a website: https://www.mayawilliamspoet.com/

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