Open mic night opens floor to discuss taboo topics


Alfred Shaker performs several songs on the electric guitar, including Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne, during Lyrics and Conversation on February 26. Lryics and Conversation was put on by the Kent State chapter of To Write Love on. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Megan Wilkinson

More than 50 students came to watch guitarists, poets, vocalists and speakers at To Write Love On Her Arms UChapter at Kent State’s “Lyrics & Conversations” open mic night.

Approximately 75 percent of the money raised at the event went toward the national To Write Love On Her Arms organization in Melbourne, Fla., and 25 percent went to Kent State’s UChapter.

Caitlin Shaffer, president of TWLOHA and senior communication studies major, said the group wanted to raise between $500 to $1,000 for the national TWLOHA organization, but she said they probably would only make a couple hundred.

“In our dreams, we would raise $1,000,” Shaffer said. “In reality, I’m thinking a couple hundred dollars, which would be fantastic.”

Katie Gunderson, vice president of TWLOHA and senior fashion merchandising major, said the goal of the event was more than just serving as a fundraiser for the national organization. She said the group wanted to bring awareness about mental illnesses at Kent State through poems, speeches or musical performances.

“We’re really welcoming,” Gunderson said. “We want to make students and young adults feel comfortable talking about these issues that are normally not in everyday conversation through the stories.”

About 10 to 15 students volunteered at the event. The group hosted a raffle and sold handmade merchandise to attendees to help with the fundraising effort.

Toward the end of the event, Margie Byrne, junior fashion merchandising major and marketing officer for TWLOHA, presented a poem about struggling with mental illness.

“I wrote it a while ago when I was struggling,” Byrne said. “I felt like I wanted to contribute to this organization, and it fit well with our whole mission.”

Byrne said she struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders. She said she had her first panic attack when she was around five years old and said she realized crowds bother her to the point where she feels sick.

“You feel like you’re dying,” Byrne said. “It’s sheer panic, really, and it’s been a lifelong struggle. It’s awkward, but I found some resources [at Kent State].”

TWLOHA UChapter has been a student organization for about two years. Shaffer said this was the organization’s first major event.

“We’ve had red flag events, free hugs and things like that, but we never actually held a benefit and had people come from around the community like this before,” Shaffer said. “We were definitely prepared for this and excited.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].