Hope and recovery on stage

By: Jessica Ricks, Staff Writer

During the In My Mind: Hope N’ Mic Night, Towson students, alongside poet Neill Hilborn, got the chance to bring hope, strength and recovery to others on the Paws stage Dec 1.

Organized by Towson CAB and Active Minds, a mental health advocacy group, various students came together to tell their stories and bring hope to others through poetry, dance, song and monologues.

“Mental illness is not something that’s normally discussed and it’s something that I feel passionate about, so I wanted to get people more aware of it,” CAB event programmer Melate Berhanu said.

This was the first Hope ‘N Mic Night the two groups have put on directed toward mental illness. After coming together with their ideas, the participating students were found through social media, word of mouth and by contacting Hilborn’s agent.

Hilborn gained recognition through a video of him performing the poem, “OCD,” which was then posted to Reddit. Shortly after, it was picked up by Huffington Post and Upworthy, and he was interviewed by NPR and Fox News. Since then, his career has taken off and he now tours the country performing poetry full time.

Along with “OCD,” during the Hope ‘N Mic night Hilborn performed poems about his own struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and depression, and work from his book “Our Numbered Days.” He said that he never expected that his poetry would suddenly take off in such a big way and attributes his success to hard work.

“Sometimes you fail, but the harder you work and the more perseverance you have, the more chances you have for someone to really recognize what you’re doing,” Hilborn said.

In addition to poetry by Neil Hilborn and students, there were other performances that carried a message of hope. The a cappella group Tiger Tones and student dancers Haley Brill, Andrea Salizzoni, Allision D’Amato and Heather Rera from the Fusion Dance Team also performed.

Junior psychology and mass communication major Mary Rose Pedron performed her own original poem called “I Am Not The Sun,” about wanting to be a positive force in someone’s life, but it not being as fulfilling as intended.

“It was nerve wracking,” Pedron said. “It felt inspiring at the same time, because these were my words being spoken and shared with other people. Poetry is unique in that sense where people can take words and make it their own.”

Senior mass communication and creative writing major Vanessa Tropona attended the event and found that it was eye opening to the experiences of others on campus.

“If you see someone walking on campus, you would never expect what they’re going through,” Tropana said. “There’s that one person that’s suffering too and to know that they really aren’t alone. Not everyone has the same experience, but to be able to connect with someone who has a similar experience is really helpful.”

Berhanu intended for the event to impact people in a sense that it would make them more aware of others’ struggles.

“A lot of people tend to hide their problems and I feel like by addressing the issues and normalizing it, many people will feel comfortable with being true to themselves,” Berhanu said.

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