During Ottawa’s coldest week on record I found myself in the first true “safe space." It even took the form of...

During Ottawa’s coldest week on record I found myself in the first true “safe space." It even took the form of a room full of strangers, imagine that! I went to Tell Em’ Girl Poetry Showcase held at LIVE! on Elgin expecting to hear poetry from strong young women but not to have my perception of the world shift.

Initially, I felt out of place. I went by myself and I didn’t know anyone there. But once Maya Basudde (the event’s coordinator) took the stage to start off the night I felt a genuine and automatic sense of community. I didn’t have to say a word, I didn’t have to establish my presence or work for it. Just by being there and through the bond of shared experiences unconditional acceptance was extended to me.

Powerful poems, songs, and stories were shared in voices cracking with genuine emotion. Raw experiences unfiltered by what is ‘acceptable’ or ‘proper’ to talk about in public spaces were met with supportive cheers of “Tell Em’ Girl!” regardless of who was on stage. Tears were shed in moments of great vulnerability but that did not take away from the performer’s radiating confidence and determination. Even in myself, wounds I had buried were unexpectedly revisited.

All the women I saw perform have very important things to say. They just need a safe and supportive platform to share their thoughts. “Safe spaces” let people express themselves in a way they feel comfortable and provides support by listening and showing people they are understood instead of simply saying so.

 A “safe space” is established on a personal level. It’s very dependent on who is in the space with you. It’s a place to share or listen to personal stories and to connect in a deeper way that goes beyond going to the same school together, living in the same neighborhood, or sharing a workplace. It’s a place for conversation that doesn’t fit into day to day life. It’s a place for stories of abuse, depression, sexual assault, anxiety, slavery, and the weight of collective responsibility. It’s also a place to share about your first love, to share your upcoming music as an emerging artist, and to share how proud you are to be you.


Keep telling em’ girls. Your words are valid, your emotions are valid, and YOU are valid.  You’ve sold out both shows you have put on, people are listening.