The Daily Gamecock

Art performance gives voice to homeless

The Columbia chapter of Homeless Helping Homeless held its Silent Voices Benefit on Thursday at the Tapp’s Art Center on Main Street. The evening was filled with inspirational, raw and gut-wrenching testimonies, songs, dances, musical performances and comedic acts. Each performance was exquisitely unique, showcasing the hardships and talents that each individual possesses or has conquered.

Phillip Gamble, a friendly man in his 60s, gave a breathtaking account of his life in New York with nine brothers and five sisters. He told a dismal story of his introduction into the world of cocaine and heroin, watching his brother overdose on drugs and ultimately dealing with the death of six of his nine brothers. After acquiring Hepatitis C from sharing needles, Gamble decided to turn his life around.

“I did a little bit about my testimony — the way I used to live and how I’m living now," Gamble said. "I took my life back over when I found out that I wasn’t doing the right things in life. When I got help with my life, things started to change.” 

After making a few positive lifestyle changes, Gamble was able to acquire medicine that rid him of his Hepatitis C, and he has been clean from drugs for seven years since. He strives to share his message as an example that you can turn your life around.

“No matter what, no matter how you used to live, you can make a change, all you got to do is surrender, and let help help you,” Gamble said. 

Another performance was a lyrical account of a woman who struggles with domestic abuse finding comfort and refuge in a homeless boy who heals her physical wounds and her broken heart. The artist, Janet Clark, has lived on the streets for 43 years. Clark strives to make the often-forgotten voices of the homeless heard. 

“We got feelings, too. We got heart, too. We got soul, too. We got a story, too,” Clark said. 

Other performances included a poet who described life under a bridge, a comedian who had the audience roaring from his jokes, a saxophone solo, an interpretive dance done by a mother and her child, original and covered songs played on the guitar, a captivating dance piece by a young girl who lost her mother to depression and a rapper who rapped about forgiveness and everlasting love. 

Multimedia-journalist Meaghan Norman from WISTV was the co-host for the event, continuing her involvement after having covered the event three years ago.

“I just fell in love with the mission, with the organization, with the people, the talent and the skill and they’ve been inviting me back ever since,” Norman said.

The homeless population in Columbia, often faced with uncertainty, searches for compassion and understanding in difficult times.

“The theme this year is tolerance. And I think that’s really important because we all come from so many different walks of life, different backgrounds and different religions, different races, different everything," Norman said. "But we all need to find a way to work together. And I think that’s part of what the mission of Homeless Helping Homeless is all about."

Events such as the Silent Voices Benefit provide eye-opening experiences for college students wrapped up in the stresses and obligations of everyday college life. Seeing the struggles of homeless individuals allows students to regain appreciation for luxuries that are often taken for granted.

“I think sometimes when we’re in school, we feel like we’re on an island … so coming to events like this you get an idea of more of the outside world," Norman said. "I think sometimes we get so comfortable in the confines of our own spaces that we don’t realize the struggles of other people."

The Silent Voices Benefit is a hauntingly accurate depiction of the lives of many homeless individuals. When placed on a stage, given poetic license and allowed to tell their story, we find that homeless individuals are not very different from ourselves.