first thing we saw in the theater of the charles wright museum was nina simone on a screen speaking about that blackness, grounding us in the assumption of our beauty, power, greatness. the sold-out 10th anniversary of black women rock was officially beginning with a powerhouse concert, the first event of a two day exchange of love and brilliance amongst black women, curated by jessica care moore.
my sweetheart and i got cute and went.
the artists were brilliant, starting with a series of short intimate performances saturday night.
jessica, the force behind this event, shifted between emceeing and performing her own rock jazz poetic offerings throughout the night, with about seven original outfits in the rotation. i honor her for the work of creating such a space, a container for legacy building.
the people she invited were a mix of the brand new and the delightfully familiar.
kimberly nichole was up first, very young and feisty in her tutu, ‘rock ballerina’ her signature style. her voice is compelling. i got her cds, and i am excited to see how she grows.
on either side of the stage artists were painting. i ended up buying a piece created during the evening, detroit artist/teacher/fashionista sabrina nelson’s take on betty davis’s nasty gal cover.
tamar-kali creates a solid wall of afro punk rock black classical music sound – really unparalleled because she is creating something new, rough and somehow tender and gorgeous. i own all of her music and merch, but was excited to see her perform after recently contributing to her campaign to take her work on her first solo tour. i need this tour, and so do you, so donate to support it.
imani uzuri makes me feel like i am in the fifth element. she unleashes a futuristic operatic experience, pouring forth from a bright light of black global womanhood. her album gypsy diaries was one of my favorites from last year.
steffanie christi’an performed music from her new cd, which i also had to get. i love her tina-turner-demanding-full
-audience-attention kind of stage presence, and her full body commitment to rock.
joi was next and there really is very little i can say to do justice to the effect she has on me as a woman with southern roots, as a pleasure activist, as an artist. i have listened to her for years but had never seen her on a stage. she is a legend and a perfection. leather latex tank and pencil skirt, locks down to her thighs, fishnets which you can see end mid thigh up a back slit. everything fitting like a breath on a bone. red heels roughly ten inches high. i was fanning myself before she opened her mouth…and then she opened her mouth and sang these growling emotive notes. the things she does and sings all feel true, and important for us to hear, sing, scream along with her.
wunmi closed out the night, a british nigerian dancer and singer. she brought the rest of the world to the stage. her music was a comfort, a home sound in a way that is ancestral, not logical. the way she moves is breathtaking and she opened a situation on that stage where ferocious spirit was pulling everyone up and through their bodies.
on sunday they followed up the show with a panel, and i had to share with you a taste of the wisdom these artists dropped (culled from twitter and memory)
jessica care moore:
i taught my son, king.
who does mommy work for? mommy.
what is mommy’s job? poet.
how does mommy pay the bills and make sure we have this house? poetry.
and who are you going to work for? king.
The spirit gives you what you’re going to do & you let it form you, wherever you are. A rose will blossom in dogshit, but I know I’m still a rose.
Back in Africa you don’t think about anything, you just live it. I didn’t learn I was black until I traveled to the US. It is deep to have to think about your color every day.
With children you nurture them by letting them seeing you for who you are. I never ask the children I teach to do what I can’t do.
I made myself belong to me.
I can only be true to myself. When I go against that, it brings me nothing but pain.
It’s really important not to prescribe for others, that’s the white supremacist model. I don’t want to flip that, to be in reaction, to just do the same behavior to others. Not everyone wants to approach life like I do. I am embracing the differences.
I’m thinking (about how we turn) accolades into action. Technology has us less connected. We think that to ‘like’ something is to take an action.
Don’t say you love me & then never purchase my music. Art is an exchange, it’s our energy, we pour our whole selves into it. And we’ve all worked through pain, grief, death through the work of others.
Also, make something. (she was wearing wool socks and a cowl that she’d crocheted – which are available as perks if you invest in her tour!) We don’t create anymore!
To change who I am based on other’s expectations is to lie. I refuse to lie on stage. I’m embracing my whole humanity.
I am working now on embracing my humanity, and getting other people of color to see ourselves as an integral part of human history. I don’t want to ask, to be an afterthought, a token, or tolerated – I am understanding that I, that all of us, are an essential part of the history of humankind.
I’d been socialized to diminish what it meant to be an artist, so I became an activist, and said ‘I’m a revolutionary!’ Then I remembered who I was, and I could not deny that my work was as an artist. And I was going to make my living as an artist.
The revelation (of being an artist) is not linear. It’s ongoing, it’s a series of choices…as I unveil myself to myself.
Media & entertainment is used as distraction. Propaganda is real. We have to keep decolonizing ourselves.
Imani also had a beautiful moment of speaking about being a bisexual artist and how important it is to hold that space as a black woman. She was moved to tears, and moved many of us right along with her, as she spoke of the tension of being both privileged and marginalized in the same life.
you can’t see the way forward if you don’t know what to honor from the past. I’m a preservationist, musically.
I don’t strategize necessarily, but I can inspire others to awaken in themselves. I can see that something.
If we are fortunate enough we all become masters of something. I’m embracing my mastery, bringing mastery of others together.
revolution comes from baring your complete self, can’t nobody fade that.