I was thinking about our upcoming Women’s History Celebration this Saturday at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, and some of the challenges presented by putting together a program of women. The dynamics of bringing together particular groups of people led me to ask myself why it is that we designate days or months to celebrate certain things.
Next month will be poetry month, presumably because of a perceived need to raise awareness of one of the oldest art forms. I don’t think there will be a television awareness month coming anytime soon. Last month it was black history. We don’t designate a white history month, because we are already dominated by white history and compelled to learn it. This month it is women’s history, and there’s not even a men’s history day of which I am aware.
So why do we feel the need to shed light on the accomplishments of women? Part of the answer lies in the word “history” itself. Although women give birth to men, they are somehow excluded from the very idea that they have had anything to do with the progress of “mankind.” Or do you prefer “humanity?” I never did like a sentence containing he/she or his/her. That has always seemed wishy-washy to me, and less than poetic, but it does give one pause to think about the words we use to communicate with people we love. And women around the world are objects of love, mostly imperfect love, but love all the same. Women are loved by their sons and daughters, their fathers and mothers, their husbands and lovers, and yet their contributions continue to be devalued. Women themselves contribute to the situation every day when they allow their vanity to dominate their good sense, their envy to dominate their compassion, and their greed or selfishness to override what they know is for the common good.
When it comes to the performing arts, women who wish to participate are presented by many challenges. They make less money, get less respect, and are even vulnerable late nights when finishing work. Often the greatest challenge is for the woman who is a mother. Whether married or single, the responsibility for looking after the children will generally fall upon her. The necessity for travel increases the difficulty, and excludes some women completely. Many women make the choice not to have children. Some are forced to sacrifice a career in the performing arts altogether when they become mothers. Others bring their children with them, and even make the commitment to” home-school” them away from home, or spend long hours and days away from them, relying on family members to pitch in. And still others begin careers only after their children are grown. Even at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, where we actively engage in bringing in a diversity of people, most of the performers we book to perform are men.
Despite the challenges, there are notable women working in every field of the performing arts, and also some entertainers who cater to women and their children. One thing I know for certain is that when a group of women get together for a purpose, there is always a special feminine energy that I greatly enjoy, and from which I derive strength. I’m not talking about muscles either. I’m talking about a fierce feminine energy that is intensely creative in nature, and when unobstructed can produce wondrous sounds, sights, stories and laughter that knits together communities, heals deep wounds, and forces us to progress to higher levels of consciousness.
This Saturday night, March 18, Tony Mims will be in Oakland receiving the ?Blues Print Media of the Year Award?, for Listen & Be Heard Weekly, at the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame & Awards Show, at the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive in Oakland. Stephen Jacobson, our staff photographer has been nominated as a blues journalist of the year. While they are there, Martha Mims will be with the women keeping the spirit alive at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?. The evening will start early, at 7pm with an open mic hosted by DC, also known as Donnette Mosley. DC is a young woman who has already had a varied career, and is now back in school at Diablo Valley College. She has been standing out at Listen & Be Heard with her unique and spirited poetry since back in the day when we were just an open mic without a newspaper or caf?. She will be your capable host if you wish to come and share your poetry from 7-8pm.
Julie Anderson is a comedian with a lot of energy for which other comedians should probably be grateful. Her World Comedy Jam will debut at the caf? on Tuesday March 28, and continue on Tuesdays in April with comedians from all over the bay area on the bill. This Saturday at 8pm, you can get a taste of what’s to come with two comedians Gail Epps who has a “serious need and desire to bring the funny and ignite the laughter in the room” and Jovelyn Richards, who you may have already heard about at Kimballs East. The comedy will be followed at 9pm by a double bill about which I am really excited. Phoenix Rising is a personal favorite. We have played their first CD, “Whispers” around the office quite a bit. They are Wendy Loomis on piano, and Monica Williams on flutes. Self described as creating “scenescapes of light and energy” they will have special guest Annie Yeh join them this time on the cello.
Born in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1975, Fely and her band perform original “world” music in the spirit of West African, Latin American and Jazz. After over three years in San Francisco, Fely has established a household with her daughter, provided for her wellbeing and education, taken college courses in English, business and computers, founded her own music label, Fely Productions & Divers, and assembled a band. We are very happy to welcome her to the Listen & Be Heard stage to finish our Women’s History celebration on a positive note.
For those women and men who like to get out early in the day, we have something for you too. Our usual acoustic jam from 11am-2pm will be hosted this week by our local percussion star Shannon Lacy. Following the jam session will be a special show for mothers (and fathers) and the children. ?Dr. Solar’s Goodtime Sunshine Traveling Medicine Show? leaves out of the title that he is a ventriloquist. I’m sure he has lots of fun in store for the kids and I will be there with mine. It’s free, and I hope that you will join me.