On Friday, Oct. 5, in Brooklyn, N.Y., a group of independent artists will come together to kick off the international poetry tour THE REVIVAL. The night of women, wine, and the word honors a queer tradition and demands a safe space showcasing queer women of color, including such local poets as Cave Canem, t'ai freedom ford, Solsis, and folk singer B.Steady.
Jade Foster, producer of THE REVIVAL and an arts management student based in Washington, D.C., is very committed to getting women together and empowering women's voices.
"We are doing this because we have so many stories, and instead of begging the mainstream to tell them, we will tell them ourselves," she says. "That's the point of a poet, to remind folks that their experiences, their trials and triumphs are real, that they matter. Just through the simple act of talking to each other, we become more than women; we become testament. That's the point of the tour."
I had the opportunity to speak with Foster, who gave me some insight into the significance and purpose behind the tour.
THE REVIVAL proudly proclaims that it demands "space." What is at the core of the space that THE REVIVAL is trying to create?
Through this poetry tour, women open their homes to complete strangers. The home is more like a sanctuary, and we invite people into that space to show that we matter to each other. And it's an open space in which we are black, women, and queer. Also, as we let women into the space of someone's home, it expresses an even greater point to women, that point being we might be strangers, but we are still connected and belong to one another in many ways. There can be 100 women in the room, and that is affirming within itself; it signifies that "I am not alone." So, at its core, this is about community and building sisterhood, but we welcome everyone.
How did the idea of beginning a poetry tour come into fruition?
I am a poet first and a poet last. Every word is an extension of my being. In the beginning, I would perform at open mics. I also became involved within the academic and "slam" scene. Ultimately, I had to create my own space, because I knew I wanted to reach more people and feature other poets who were committed to sharing similar messages.
THE REVIVAL is described as a "dance of the tongues," and that language is so vital to the mission of THE REVIVAL. Can you elaborate more on how language operates in this queer women's space?
The language and the word come first, but they all tell different stories. It's natural and necessary all at once. Everyone has written a poem at some point in their life, and it's a deliberate way of telling your own history and expressing yourself. If we all spoke the same language, there would be no division between us.
For myself, you write what you know. You write what you envision. You write what you dream. You write what you want. The poem is not done until it's shared. I think we all have so many shared values, and everything that I want and envision probably parallels with another person that is standing in that space.
How does THE REVIVAL counter mainstream narratives?
I've often asked myself, "Why is the [mainstream] trying to erase me? The state of the arts does not show the point of view we are trying to create through THE REVIVAL. People can become complacent and forget to question that there is a space for African-American culture that should be uplifted and that deserves interest.
People of color are not being included in many statistical studies of the arts or in the mainstream as they should be. Honestly, I do not feel that I am counterculture to anybody's mainstream. This is my culture. If I'm in Brooklyn, I'm partying with Brooklyn Boihood. If I want the news, I'm going to Elix(HER). I can't be concerned with the middle-lane culture -- women have been doing this for years. But also, safe spaces have existed for years. One can look to films like Brother to Brother, authors like Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, to get those historical cues. Gay did not pop up yesterday. These spaces are tribes, circles, and efforts. It's an ancient effort, and it's not counterculture.
What can attendees expect to hear from the local poets during the tour?
Oh, my stars! Amazing poets like t'ai freedom ford, a Cave Canem Fellow, will be speaking. Subjects will cover love, sex, hip-hop, and politics. It's brazen. It's raw. Kim Crosby will take on a very feminist and political point in teaching us how to love ourselves.
I remember seeing my first piece by Red Summer in Atlanta when I was 19. That has stayed with me. Last year, I opened the tour with a piece from June Jordan, but I'm not certain about this time, yet. I usually open the night with a piece from our ancestors to recognize why we are here.
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The salon-styled poetry tour kicks off in Brooklyn this Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. You can find out when the tour comes to a city near you here.