The 5C a cappella group The After School Specials performed at the White House in April, singing their powerful rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You,” a song about sexual violence written for the documentary The Hunting Ground. Their performance was part of a White House Champions of Change event hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and attended by advocates for various causes from across the country.
The singers’ path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was paved by both activism and talent. As participants in the It’s On Us campaign to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, the singers won first place at the national Sing for Survivors competition, in which their video performance was judged by such pop music luminaries as Diane Warren, David Foster and LL Cool J.
The 18-member ensemble received the White House invitation just a few days before the event was scheduled, so the students took a red-eye flight into Washington, D.C., for their whirlwind visit. Amelia DeSnoo ’16 says they knew the song inside and out and were prepared to deliver a solid performance for the vice president, other senior administration officials and their fellow advocates.
“The fact that we sang at the White House means that our voices, advocating for such an important cause, are being heard on a national scale,” DeSnoo says.
Tenor Niko Tutland ’17 says he was struck by “the amount of exposure this is going to bring to the message of the song.”
DeSnoo believes the initial goal in this effort to combat sexual violence is to increase awareness of the problem. “The first step and the larger point of this campaign specifically in the short run is to allow college students to lean into the discomfort of knowing that this is an issue that is pervasive on all college campuses, even colleges like the 5Cs, which we consider to be a very safe space. … We also need to recognize that no one can put themselves into the mindset of a survivor of sexual assault.”
To see the group’s winning video performance, go to www.pomona.edu/media_colorbox/26506/default/en.