During “The Listening: Sanctuary” open mic event, people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or depression, who have lost a loved one to suicide or who have known those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or depression can share their songs, writing or art with the community or listen to others share their work.
“The Listening: Sanctuary” event will take place in the Old City Cemetery Chapel on Friday, Sept. 22 from 7 to 9 p.m. The price of admission is $5. The proceeds for the event will be split between The Listening Inc. and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), in support of the Lynchburg Out of Darkness Walk, which benefits the AFSP.
“I hope to save somebody’s life. The biggest lie of suicide is that you’re by yourself or that no one understands or no one can possibly understand. I hope this will prove them wrong,” said Nicholas George, poet and the founder and executive director of The Listening Inc.
The Listening Inc. is a non-profit organization that has monthly open mic events with specific themes. This open mic’s theme is “Sanctuary” to examine the space people come to when they come “Out of Darkness.”
George stated that he has a personal stake in this particular theme because he attempted suicide in high school and lost his college roommate to suicide. He was also impacted by the deaths of Robin Williams and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.
According to the AFSP, “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,” with 44,193 Americans dying annually and an average of 121 suicides per day.
Anyone can perform at the open mic event. George encouraged those who hope to perform to arrive early to sign up for the open mic list. Attendees can also just listen to the performances.
George stated that attendees should “come willing to participate” and that they should be aware that potentially triggering topics may be discussed.
Refreshments will be available, including vegetarian options and water.
George and others created The Listening Inc. in 2012 in response to people being divided on former President Barack Obama’s second presidential victory. They saw that people were passionate, and they hoped to create a space where people could “manage those passions creatively.” The Listening Inc. had their first official public event in March 2013 at The White Hart.
The question The Listening Inc. presents is “If you had a room full of people willing to listen to you, what would you say?”
George said he wanted The Listening Inc.’s open mics to be more intentional and engaged like those he had seen in his native New Jersey.
“The open mics serve as our main tool of engagement with the community. [They are] a way to provide safe spaces for creatives, for performers and artists to gather, to network together and to build the kind of relationships that we feel are lacking in the city,” stated George.
The group’s name was inspired by the hip-hop group Little Brother’s album “The Listening.” In the album’s title track, one of the artists, Phonte, argues that people are often satisfied by things of questionable value instead of analyzing content, said George.
“[We want to] encourage people to pay attention to what’s being said but also to present something worth listening to,” George stated.
The Listening Inc. also provides mentorship for middle school and high school students in creative writing and spoken word performance.
Anyone who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide or depression can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.