By: Cate Talaue- The Brock Press
In a calm, spring Friday evening in a small cafe in Downtown St. Catharines, many students gathered around to listen to different musicians from the GTA whose lyrics were filled with hope and courage. Along with their music, the artists and a few Brock University students shared their own stories about struggle, survival, and ultimately their strength. Hosted by the Brock To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) UChapters, this second annual Hope N’ Mic Night event at Mahtay Cafe brought the community together to break down the stigma of mental illness.
Among the seven musicians/bands that played at the event, Hamilton’s Ash & Bloom performed two sets throughout the night with high hopes that their music will inspire others to keep pushing through. “We write songs about situations in life that are hard to talk about. We’re putting words to moments that people are trying to figure out and that’s probably one of the most special things to happen to us,” said singer, songwriter, and guitarist James Blowmendal. They performed one of their newest singles “Heaven Is A Ghost Town” in which they engaged with the audience and encouraged them to sing along with the hook of the song, really driving home the message and theme of the evening as being a sense of community.
One of the most touching performances came from Alysha Pula, who has been with the Brock chapter of TWLOHA since its establishment as an official Brock club. She shared her personal struggles and triumphs through poetry, leaving barely a person in the audience without a tear in their eye, including her proud father who was among the many people that supported her throughout her journey.
Friend, fellow club member, and co-president Tia Kuhling was not only proud of Pula, but also very impressed by the turn out and support from the many people who attended. “One of the biggest goals of the event was to ensure that everyone feels comfortable about who they are and what they are going through. More so, that it is okay to share your feelings with other people, especially with a community who has come together to collectively heal,” explained Kuhling. Kuhling is very excited to be part of the executive team for the coming 2014-2015 school year, hoping that more students realize that there are many support groups for them to reach out to, including this club.
This event effectively showcased the benefits of music as soothing the mind, body and soul, and showed the incredible things that could happen when people come together to influence others and raise awareness about social issues such as mental illness. Third-year student Asmir Basic, who sat attentively in the crowd, was moved by both the performers and students that had something to share.”It was wonderful seeing people just like me get up there and express themselves in such a beautiful way. I had chills basically the entire time.”
As the school year is coming to a close, an event such as this couldn’t have come at a better time. It was the perfect way for students to wind down for the week and revitalize their energies that they have exuded due to the mass amounts of stress. The live entertainment and inspiring stories left the audience with a sense of courage, emphasizing the message that hope is real, help is real, and love is the movement.
For more information about Brock TWLOHA UChapters, visit and like their Facebook page, BrockTWLOHA.