November 1, 2014. What can I say about that night? Have you ever been so moved by the presence and words of others that you get a feeling in the dead center of your chest? Not like you got punched there, but like it’s hard to breathe? That’s what happened to me that night.
Let’s start at the beginning. A month ago, now, I saw an Instagram post from ElixHER magazine. ElixHER magazine is publication that produces two print issues a year, but is primarily an online publication for queer women of color. There’s news, entertainment, beauty, everything a magazine should be, and geared towards the LGBTQ women of color community. The publication is award-winning and was nominated for GLAAD Media Award. I’ve been reading and following along for a while. So, I saw this post that essentially just said ‘Hey, check this out. Revival Poetry 2014 Farewell Tour’ with a link. I checked it out. It looked interesting, like super interesting. An 9 city tour with three main acts, a featured artist, and a surprise artist for each stop on the tour. The DC show on 11/1 happened to be the ‘Welcome Home’ show. I’m not even going to get into the fact that it’s the last Revival Poetry Tour.
Anywho, I saw it. It looked interesting, and I’d just heard that J would be free. You see, November 1st is her birthday. She’d started this theme of doing something new. For my birthday, she took me shooting. Shooting is something that, though we’d never done it before, fit her. Isn’t that the point of gift giving? We pick something that we like, that we think the other person will like, and hope like hell that they do, because if they don’t….well damn. Poetry and author readings, and things like that, fit me. But I’m getting too far off topic. J is in a relationship with a great guy. Really, he’s a good one. I’d been researching birthday plans and experiences to do on another weekend, thinking that J and her bf would spend her birthday together. Then she told me he had to work that day. No big deal on their part, but I now had another day to work with. This all happened about two or three days before I saw the ElixHER Instagram post. I sent her the link revivalpoetry.com, and asked if she’d be up for it? She said yeah, and I bought the tickets.
That night, it was so windy. Walking from the metro to the venue, the Human Rights Campaign, felt like a mush in Alaska. Hyperbole, but whatever. It was cold as fuck.
The Revival Poetry Tour is a salon style poetry concert/reading produced by Jade Foster and Eli Turner. It’s been happening for four years, and the 2014 tour was the last one before The Revival Movie comes out. It’s called Woman & the Word. It’s not out yet, but I’ll try to keep you posted. The main performers are Queen Sheba, a Grammy nominated spoken word artist, Be Steadwell, a queer pop musician, and Natasha “T.” Miller, an award-winning poet/singer/songwriter from Detroit. The guest artist for this final show was the great Nikky Finney. The surprise artists were two members of the DC Youth Poetry Slam Team, Lauren May (Lolo) and Morgan Butler (Momo).
Our hostess for the night, Queen Sheba, started the show with her poetry. Visceral and light by turns. Her piece “The Women” needs to be heard. Scratch that, she needs to be heard. She’s gorgeous, as well. Her shoes were to die for. She was nominated for a Grammy in the spoken word category, and I now own that particular album. 🙂
Our second performer, Be Steady (Steadwell), is a musician of fantastic ability. I have not ever seen an artist build a song in front of me. She beatboxes. Her vocal range is lovely. She harmonizes with herself. She did a few pieces, the one that stuck with me the most being “Who Have I Become.” That song hit me as a personal truth. She brought up a friend, Ziggy, and they did a cover together. Eargasms.
Sidebar: I feel like I don’t have the words to express accurately how I felt being in such a loving, open, positive space, filled with people who love like I do. It was profound.
Our third performer, Natasha “T.” Miller, is a multi-talented poet, Kresge Fellow, and songwriter. Her pieces and her humor and her hair. Fabulous. Pieces about her murdered brother, raped/murdered queer women that nobody else cared about, the ex she’s bitter about, three years of celibacy. Some crazy part of me made me miss out on her available cd, but I console myself with knowing that I was also buying things for J, the birthday girl.
After intermission, the surprise artists performed. Lauren May and Morgan Butler of the DC Youth Poetry Slam team. They were adorable, so nervous, but so worthy. Nikky Finney called them “Fierce” and they are. Lauren’s piece was about loving yourself and her inner struggle to do just that, while loving french fries with a passion. Morgan’s piece went to the mother’s in the crowd, about raising a black boy, the hardship and terror that comes with that, and the fact that your son can be shot just for being himself. I cried. Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. She can count her black boy friends on two hands, I can’t. Two of the guys I went to high school with are dead. We haven’t been out of school for ten years. She spoke about the fear of having kids, sons, that black women endure. It was…truth. They did another piece together about fat women loving themselves. I laughed out loud. They spoke on snacks at 3am, thighs touching, a lot. J, apparently, had a hard time not poking me about my 4am Quiche that I made and told her about, maybe four years ago. I had just had a conversation with my mom about highs touching, because I don’t mind it and she does. She complains about chafing. True, chafing is a problem, but that’s why they make lotion. MOISTURIZE YO THIGHS!
Our featured artist, Nikky Finney, presented a film and poem about the rape/murder of PFC LaVena Johnson from 2005. The US Army told her parents that she committed suicide, but anybody who looks at those photos, watches that video, knows anything about the military and it’s treatment of women, knows that what happened to her was not suicide. She read other pieces from her National Book Award winning book, Head Off & Split, and other books of hers. For two of her poems, she shared that her mother leaves the room when she reads them. The first was about female sexuality and the clitoris. The second was in response to something her mother said about sex between two women not being anywhere close to sex between a man and a woman.
I felt honored to be in the presence of these women artists, the rest of the audience. I know, I’m not mentioning a lot of people, but if you check out the websites below, you’ll find everything you need.
After the show, J and I walked toward the restaurant where we had reservations for dinner. She insisted I call to make sure the kitchen was still open. Well, I did, it wasn’t, and lo and behold, I realized the next morning that I called the wrong location of our restaurant. It was not a big deal. We were in DuPont, restaurants and bars and clubs were everywhere. We ended up at Bar DuPont, which was filled with people. It has delicious food. We ate truffle chicken wraps and had a bottle of pinot noir that knocked my socks off. It was delicious. We toasted her birthday, and the official end to the Dark Ages.
I felt it that night my soul. I laughed. I cried. I saw and heard greatness. It was a night I will never forget.
Want to bask in the greatness? Check out these sites!
Follow them on Twitter!
Be Steady @besteadwell
Queen Sheba @thequeensheba
Natasha T. Miller @tmillerpoetry
Revival Poetry @revivalpoetry