Contributed by Julia Stier. Photos by Matt Ritchey
“Take your hands off my sister!”
On a recent evening, Sadie Jemmett effortlessly led an auditorium through the chorus of her new song, Don’t Silence Me, during a live acoustic performance before the LA screening of the song’s music video. The song, which Jemmett was inspired to write after her friend Mhairi Morrison came forward with her own story about being sexually assaulted, is meant to be an anthem for survivors of such attacks.
After years of silence, Morrison, an actress, and mime artist is finally speaking up about her own sexual assault at the hands of an influential French film director (whom she has not yet named). By sharing her story, she has inspired others to open up about their own experiences so that they may begin to heal. Many of these women appear in the music video for Don’t Silence Me, which premiered at the Nickelodeon Theater in Burbank, CA on March 4th, 2019.
“So this video is for us, for the survivors,” Morrison began during her introductory talk before the screening. “To celebrate our bravery, our tenacity, our beauty, our courage, and our resilience.”
The powerful video – directed by Jenn Page – features scenes from the recent Women’s March, juxtaposed with images of the women silenced by a piece of tape over their mouths. Each piece of tape is inscribed with a single word such as “worthless” or “invisible.” The women go through a transformation of reclamation as they rip off the tape, and begin to lip-sync along with Jemmett’s words.
In an interview before the screening, one of the film’s producers, Stephanie Arapian, related how moving it was during filming to see the women write down their words, tape them over their mouths, and then rip them off in silence.
Following the screening and acoustic performances by Jemmett of her songs I’m Glad You’re Back and Don’t Silence Me, an informative panel titled Silenced No Longer: Using Our Voices to Creatively Heal – moderated by Sabra Williams, named a “Champion of Change” by Obama – gave the audience a chance to hear from a mix of activists and survivors about how the arts can help one overcome trauma. The impressive panel was comprised of Lili Bernard – one of the women who came forward about Bill Cosby – Kathy Eldon, Ilana Bar-Din Giannini, Jemmett and Morrison. Eldon is the founder of Creative Visions, an organization that promotes creative activism, and Giannini, now a therapist, was kicked out of the American Film Institute (AFI) after she reported that she had been sexually harassed by her mentor.
The women recounted how their creativity has facilitated their healing. “My art is my safe place,” Bernard shared.
Jemmett believes in her medium of music, because she’s “always considered music to be the highest form of art…so it can heal.”
Morrison summed up the shared belief by observing that she believes art can be used as a conversation starter for important issues. “Art kind of catches on fire.”
It was a night buzzing with positive energy. The event was not a lamentation of past aggressions, but rather a celebration of survivors’ bravery to come forward and enact change. Morrison’s courage inspired others, and Jemmett’s folksy, upbeat song gives this “sisterhood of survivors” an anthem and battle cry.
And it doesn’t stop here. TheDon’t Silence Me campaign will continue its mission to empower survivors around the world, with screenings in London and Paris.
Share the love on Instagram and Twitter: #dontsilenceme @dont_silence_me @dontsilenceme2
Photo (above): Mhairi Morrison from the video Don’t Silence Me
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