Sara Michael ’23
March 12, 2020
Sonya Renee Taylor is as great of a listener as she is a public speaker. The events that Scripps Presents hosts are often one-sided. The audience eagerly pours in, rushing to their seats, they listen to the guest speaker explain their life story, and then at the end, there’s barely time for questions.
Unlike most speakers, Taylor leaned in, listened, and responded, making the crowd feel a rush of connection. She started with a call-and-response exercise, as well as a spoken word piece, which left the audience feeling connected, wide-eyed, and electrified. “ She is such an eloquent and beautiful speaker and performer and that moment both captured it and set the scene for the conversations that followed,” said Maddy Levine ’23 about Taylor’s initial spoken word performance. “She has an amazing presence that fills a room, whether she is performing or answering people’s questions.”
Taylor is refreshingly honest. She read from the first chapter of her book, The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love, explaining that the role of the book is not to coddle our fragile sense of self, but rather that we want to read it because we want that “radical self love.”
Taylor continued by opening the dialogue up to the audience, asking “what thoughts come up? What emotions come up?” She explained that the “conversation is only as good as we are willing to risk intentionally together.”
This theme of connectedness and togetherness ran throughout the event. At no point did it ever feel like she was talking at us, but rather, it felt like a conversation. She leaned in and listened intently to every question that an audience member raised, even repeating it back for everybody else to ensure that everyone was included in the discussion.
Taylor detailed the goal of conversation in her book. She says, “Allow your conversations to be guided by the primary principle of love,” doing just that during her event. Later in the night, she talked about how radical self-love is contagious.
As I looked around the room, it was like Taylor had struck each and everyone there with her own radical self love: friends and lovers had their arms wrapped around each other; knees stopped tapping; and eyes were wet and wide with wonder.
“Taylor was answering a question regarding practicing radical self love and cultivating it in our relationships with others, and she said: ‘Your divinity is a reflection of me and my divinity is a reflection of you, so why not just let it shine,’ and I distinctly remember feeling my heart completely struck by that,” said Alia Biswas ’23. “I looked to my left to find a very dear friend of mine, Tess Gibbs, shining in the room herself, and I started to feel that same love which is a testament to the interconnectedness between us all that Taylor spoke of. I scrambled to write down that quote, only to realize I couldn’t forget something so true because I feel it everyday.”
Image Credit: Sonya Rene Taylor