The first time I ever felt the force of feminism—in all its fiery angst, oratorical ardor and intellectual property—was watching Staceyann Chin perform on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam when I was a junior in High School. The half-Jamaican, half-Chinese, lesbian/feminist delivered her prose with a zeal that set a spark in my pre-natal activist womb. Other queer poets, like Alix Olson and Andrea Gibson, exemplify the perfect marriage—or partnership, if you will—between spoken word and feminism.
Getting the opportunity to see Chin live last semester at Panache Lounge only strengthened my respect and admiration for the poet and the genre of spoken word. This is why I took notice when I saw an event posting for The Open-Mic Feminist Performance Party, which took place last Friday, Oct. 24, at Spark Contemporary Art Space. The event was held in conjunction with the Feminist Rhetoric for Social Justice symposium, which brought speakers like Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Backlash, Susan Faludi, and author of the two-volume series, Man Cannot Speak for Her, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, to Syracuse University’s campus to talk about why feminism still matters in an age perceived as post-feminist.
The event at Spark was a hearty mix of wine, spoken-word, artwork and belly dancing. I got there late, but made it in time to see Renee-Noelle Felice, a feminist clad in historical regalia reminiscent of mid-19th century Abolitionists.
Felice read a speech sharply directed towards religious fundamentalists.
Elisa Norris, a graduate student, writes and performs poetry about “what I know, and what I need to know,” she said.
Norris’s performance spanned a range of topics, from what it means being a middle-class Queer Black woman to Sakia Gunn, the 15-year-old lesbian who was murdered in Newark as a hate crime. The Gunn tribute almost brought Norris to tears before she finished reading. Although she lacked the aggressive panache of poets like Staceyann Chin or Alix Olson, Norris’s writing was just as rich, evoking poignantly detailed imagery that left me speechless.
The room adjacent to the open-mic performances featured feminist artwork.
The highlight of the night, aside from Norris’s poetry, was the Maya Tribe belly-dancing group, hailing from Trinity Place off of Westcott.
It was truly feminism in action: curvaceous women embracing their bodies and flaunting their sexuality.