The legendary Apollo Theatre is hosting the Women of the World Festival this weekend, June 11-14 in NYC. Brian Lehrer interviewed three key women who are involved in the event: Jamilla Deria (programming director), Jessica Care Moore (poet) and Mikki Shepard (executive director). While there are many women's festivals around the country, the speakers pointed out how this event stands out because it focuses on the artists as activists. This isn't simply theatre by women. It's a mix of theatre, performance art, music, discussions at restaurants, dancers, speakers, filmmakers (to name a few), by and for women from around the world. There are 128 participants from 20 different countries, and even the concept of planning and focusing this festival came from 150 women who attended "think-ins" over the course of 12 months.
While the festival has the goal to "celebrate the talents of women and girls from all walks of life and all parts of the world," while being "exciting," "essential" and "empowering," apparently this also stirs up some controversy. Even on Brian Lehrer's website, of the 3 comments below this episode (at the time of this entry's publication), 2 of them are critical of the style of poetry mentioned/heard (I assume?) in the episode. If you convene a group of women, along with the fact that a large majority of those women happen not to have white skin, then celebrate these facts and give them a platform to express themselves...well...there are always going to be those who are not comfortable with this. Ironically, I imagine the women of the WOW Festival would welcome having a discussion with those who say what they hear is not "poetry," or have a negative reaction to their work. It's through differences of opinion, exposing thoughts and prejudices, then respectfully discussing them that we can learn and make progress.
Share your thoughts! How do you feel about festivals focusing on women or minority participants? How do you think events like this empower women? Do you think there are disadvantages to festivals focusing on women and issues affecting them? Have you been to a women's festival, or have you attended the WOW Festival? How was your experience?