OWLs holds Open Mic Night fundraiser to attend national conference


Mount Pleasant band Jettison performs at an open mic organized by the Organization of Women Leaders Nov. 15 at Ponder Coffee Shop on S. Franklin St. 

On Nov. 15, Women’s Empowerment Week continued with a light-hearted open mic night at Ponder Coffee Company, hosted by the Organization of Women Leaders (OWLs). 

The event was part of OWL’s annual fundraising efforts to help send their members to Washington D.C. for the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (NYFLC). 

The Organization of Women Leaders held an open mic Nov. 15 at Ponder Coffee Shop on S. Franklin St.

In addition to funds raised from selling raffle tickets and merchandise at the event, OWLs also received 50 percent of Ponder’s proceeds from the evening.

“(NYFLC) is a really amazing way for us to network, get to know some feminist minds and listen to some awesome speakers and icons in the feminist movement,” said OWLs President Emily Jones. “We’re also trying to create an empowering space and community while having some fun.” 

The event featured three musical performances by local bands Jettison, Pining and Old Greg. The open mic session followed the bands' performances and allowed other artists to take the stage.

“We wanted to focus on making a space for people to feel comfortable because that’s really what OWLs is all about,” said OWLs Fundraising Chair Leana Durbin.

While Women’s Empowerment Week focused on education and promoting self-love, the open mic night gave students an opportunity to share their talents. For many of the participants, this was their first time performing in front of an audience. 

Jettison lead singer Gabriel Doe said this was the band's first show outside of their basement.

Audience members listen during an open mic organized by the Organization of Women Leaders Nov. 15 at Ponder Coffee Shop on S. Franklin St.  

“I think we got too comfortable (practicing) in our space and I feel great about supporting OWLs,” Doe said. “(Empowerment) is totally a message I can get behind.”

Other performers had similar experiences. Grand Rapids sophomore Kailyn Kroll and Hudson senior Kyle Tanner were two of them. Both said they have limited public speaking experience and saw this as an opportunity to practice.

“I felt like this was good exposure because there wasn’t much on the line,” Tanner said. “The faces here aren’t judging me -- it’s an open environment and people of all talents are sharing.”

Thanks to this open environment, speakers chose topics important to them in a setting that encouraged sincerity.

“I know a lot of people suffer from seasonal depression,” Kroll said. “I was just hoping (by sharing that) people could recognize it and feel comfortable enough to talk about it.”

Women’s Empowerment Week is drawing to a close and OWLs is holding its final event Nov. 16. The event invites attendees to write solidarity letters to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. 

“Women’s Empowerment Week has been amazing,” Jones said. “We’ve had great turnout and meaningful conversations at every single event. I think people were genuinely impacted by this week. Whether it was from learning about privilege, intersectionality, sex taboos or body positivity, all of the events have brought something to campus.”