"Silence Is Never Neutral": A Letter From the Voices Collective

 Zora Neale Hurston once said in Their Eyes Were Watching God that there are “years that ask questions and years that answer.” A lot of years have asked questions. It is in attempting to answer these questions that we grow. On the days and nights when Swarthmore’s campus was in turmoil, with distrust and pain running rampant, questions regarding campus controversies dealing with marginalized identities arose...Where are we going? Why does this happen? What can we do to fix it? On October 6th, 2017, Voices began. This was a year that, beyond just asking questions, began to do the work of answering them. We wanted integrity, we wanted accountability, and we wanted change. So we demanded it.

Voices was born of campus unrest and discontent with pervasive narratives that do not represent the needs, experiences, and perspectives of marginalized peoples. It was born under the premise, “silence will not protect you,” a premise on which it will continue to operate, and a premise that necessitates that we, as a collective community, work and grow together. Voices was born in the nascence of the revolution that Swarthmore’s campus so desperately needs.

Silence is never and will never be neutral. Failure to represent marginalized communities is not neutral. Failure to speak out against injustices occurring on the Swarthmore campus and beyond is not neutral. Failure to seek out the stories and amplify the voices of those asking for and making change is not neutral. It is, instead, participating in harmful erasure that has existed for centuries. Silence will only protect those dominant narratives that have been and continue to be told, rather than acknowledging those unheard yet timeless stories that have been rewritten over and over and over again.

It was with this mindset, in the outrageously early hours of the morning of October 6th, after hours of writing, thinking, and researching in the WRC, that Voices came to life.

Voices does not and was never meant to happen in a vacuum. Its life depends on the help of those who have both supported and questioned its vision. It came to life through being read, shared, contributed to, appreciated, and criticized. It came to life through discussions, research, tears, laughter, pain, and joy. It came to life through the experiences of people who asked and continue to ask questions, and hope to find answers to them.

From poetry to prose, investigative long-form pieces to thoughtful photo series and news stories, engaged testimonials to transformative perspectives, Voices has sparked campus debates that we hope will continue. We hope that Voices can create a place where, rather than polarizing reactions, thoughtful and impassioned reflection can occur to make the Swarthmore student body more cognizant of its multiple truths, listening to each other and listening to ourselves.

We look forward to hearing, seeing, collaborating, and communicating with the Swarthmore community in the coming years, and we appreciate you all. May we continue to question the systems into which our lives have been engrained, and challenge each other, and ourselves, to grow.

In Solidarity,

The Voices Collective