Since the ’80s, Chocolate House has been a place to uplift the voices of marginalized gender identities. The most recent edition of Chocolate House was hosted by the Prevention-Intervention Network on Saturday, March 23 in Newcomer 19.

The coffeehouse-style event invites a variety of performances from women and gender minorities. Performances this year included singing, dance, poetry and a children’s book reading. 

Emma Gingerich, a junior history major, and Drew Smoker, a senior engineering physics major, took the lead in planning Chocolate House in collaboration with other PIN members.

Talking about the importance of Chocolate House to Goshen College, Gingerich said, “I think that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of creating equal spaces for all voices. … One of Chocolate House’s unique strengths is that it creates a space that is so encouraging and inviting … because we’re so intentional about prioritizing the voices of the performers, rather than critiquing based on skill and ability.”

Smoker said, “It meets a specific niche in terms of who performs. It is a more serious event, but you’re not leaving it being like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m weighed down now.’ It’s more like, ‘I’m leaving this and feeling supported and heard and uplifted.’”

Hannah Lehman, a senior music education major, said, “I think it’s a really good chance for men to take a step back and think about their privilege and focus on those other voices in our community.”

Lehman performed an original song at the event about women’s empowerment and independence. Lehman said, “I write a lot of songs and never perform them for anyone, so I figured, it’s my senior year … might as well perform a song that I wrote.

“I felt a little bit vulnerable … because these words are coming from me, … but it was fun to look out and see all these people I know watching me and cheering me on.”

Shayne Wassell, a senior graphic design major, also took the Chocolate House stage with a cover of ‘Enchanted’ by Taylor Swift. Speaking about the supportive environment, they said, “[the audience was] dancing, lip syncing, some of them were actually singing — I didn’t feel as alone performing.”

PIN only took over organizing Chocolate House this year, after the dissolution of the Goshen Student Women’s Association four years ago, who ran it previously. 

Referencing a conversation about the uncertainty of Chocolate House planning, Gingerich said, “I was like ‘what if we just adopted [Chocolate House] under PIN’s umbrella so that we can make sure that it happens every year?’” 

Smoker said “So much of what [PIN] talks about is creating supportive attitudes, and just reminding … ‘Hey, we need to listen to women and trans people.’ Providing that platform to say, … we listen and respect these people, does build those supportive attitudes.”

Julia Miller, a first-year biochemistry major and member of PIN, shared her reflections on the tone of Chocolate House: “If I randomly decided to go sing a song, I would have been fully supported and people would have been cheering … It was just kind of that wholehearted support and positive energy.”

“Anyone can get up there and do whatever they feel to express themselves. It’s like the most welcoming audience ever,” Miller said.

Vaughn Smoker and Griffin Eash, both first years and members of PIN, took this opportunity to participate as audience members.

“I’m a part of PIN, and I knew like a bunch of people who put the work in to make it happen, and I always like to go and support events at Goshen College, no matter what they are,” Vaughn Smoker said. 

“We were a couple of the only dudes there,” Eash said. “I would just like to see more support for our feminine voices on campus.”

This sentiment was shared widely. Drew Smoker said, “Men can go and are encouraged to go … I think that because [women and gender minorities were] performing, it seemed that’s [who] the event is for, but it’s really for everyone to come … and bring chocolate.”