Marching to reclaim the night in Oakland


Hannah Heisler | Staff Photographer

Eric Macadangdang moves with other demonstrators down Forbes Avenue at Thursday’s “Take Back the Night” march.

By Emily Drzymalski, Staff Writer

Students gathered Thursday night around a busy conference table littered with poster boards and markers, writing signs with phrases like “Our mind, our power” and “Resisting bitch face” to the tune of songs like No Doubt’s feminist anthem, “Just a Girl.” Then, despite the rain, the roughly 30 students took their newly made signs and marched through Pitt’s campus chanting as bystanders watched and a police car followed at their side.

In the past, Take Back the Night has been hosted by Campus Women’s Organization, which is no longer active on campus. This year, Asian Students Alliance, Female Empowerment Movement and Student Government Board teamed up to put on the march as a part of Women’s Empowerment Week.

Take Back the Night comes from the idea that women should not be afraid to walk alone at night. Devin Dang, a senior computer science student and ASA’s president, explained the history and goal of Take Back the Night — which has happened at Pitt since the ’90s —  in an email.

“This event is a way to highlight the different struggles making it difficult to feel safe on a college campus,” Dang said before the march. “We hope this event sparks that discussion to not only the Pitt community, but the surrounding Oakland community on how we can reclaim the night for marginalized groups.”

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The march started at the Union and went around the blocks immediately surrounding it. Chelsea Rader, a senior urban studies major and FEM’s president, said it’s important to march in Oakland because of high rates of sexual assault on college campuses.

“It’s a college campus,” Rader said. “There’s a lot of frats and parties and drinking and activities that enable conditions for sexual assault.”

One student in attendance, Kristen Steffes, a sophomore majoring in biology and a member of FEM, explained how her own experiences inspired her to attend the event.

“I was gifted pepper spray for my 17th birthday and I felt like that spoke kind of volumes to how unsafe the society can be,” Steffes said. “So that’s why I’m here. I don’t like that I have to be gifted pepper spray.”

People sharing the sidewalk with the march stood off to the side and listened to marchers chant “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the patriarchy has got to go” and “Tell me what a feminist looks like. This is what a feminist looks like!” A few people pulled out their phones to record what they saw, including a construction worker on a lift. One man, who had been leaning against a wall smoking a cigarette when the group approached, began to dance and chant along.

Hannah Heisler | Staff Photographer
Student Government Board President Maggie Kennedy and other “Take Back the Night” participants decorate women’s empowerment posters.

The marchers were a small group composed primarily of members of the hosting organizations. Rader said the turnout was lower than in previous years, and she thinks that was due to a lack of support from the University.

“Pitt needs to do a better job of endorsing and sponsoring programs,” Rader said. “Not necessarily Take Back the Night, but anything that’s going to spur the conversation about sexual abuse and domestic violence.”

Dina Condeluci, a junior biology major and FEM member, said the low turnout didn’t change the effect of the march for her.

“I think even though it was a little bit smaller than I hoped, it didn’t matter,” Condeluci said. “I feel like it was just as powerful and just as empowering, even with a small group.”

Rader expressed her hope for the impact the event would have in starting a conversation on Pitt’s campus about sexual assault, sexual violence and domestic violence.

“I wish it had more of an impact. But, people never want to come out to an event so it’s hard to say,” Rader said. “I think it would be awesome if this event did spur conversations about understanding sexual assault and sexual violence in the most broad sense. Unfortunately, I think the people coming here are already having these conversations.”