I wasn’t planning to make much of this set here, but events of this week have made me feel it’s important to honour the powerful women in my life.
To start with, this live set features a poem by American author Besmilr Brigham. Recorded for Bob Holman’s excellent United States of Poetry compilations in the mid-1990s, I’ve been playing this poem since then on various radio shows. In this set, it anchors the whole thing. The poem:Tell Our Daughters
each is beautiful
a woman’s life
makes it (that awareness)
through her touch
of strict age
set against vanity not secure in loveliness a girl is born
like a little bird opening its wing
she lifts her face
in a down of feathers
opens its leaves
with such a natural care
that we give words for
in the imagination
a bitter thing
or a word is
an imagination tell our daughters they are
fragile as a bird
strong as the rose
deep as a word
and let them make
their own growing time
big with tenderness
the fire of love
Besmilr Brigham was born in Mississippi, lived in Arkansas with her husband, thirty cats, and countless books of poetry. Her grandfather was Choctaw. She was a voice of the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s. This poem is a simple and wise statement of both the strength and the struggle in growing as a woman, in embracing both the fragility and the power inherent in our lives. Embracing the fragile bird and the strong resilient rose. Looking within for the depth of the word. Putting together this set for the ‘Warrior Poets‘ night in Brussels – a night of film screenings and debates by and about women in hip hop put together by two beautiful women of Brussels – Tell Our Daughters was the place I began.
The set starts with a Native American song, sung by a woman to her grandmother. Through the mix, I wanted to celebrate some great women poets and chanteuses, those who ignite the fire within us … and so in this section of the set, you’ll hear from Akua Naru (USA/GER), Watcha Clan‘s Sista K, Bissecta (FR), Arianna Puello (Dominica/SP), Mei Saraswati (AUS), also some poetry from Say (GER) and our poetic soul mother Maya Angelou (USA). Sister Fa (Senegal/GER) – an inspirational MC/singer from Senegal, based in Berlin, the subject of Maria Luisa Gambale and Gloria Bremer’s moving film Sarabah about her campaign to end female genital cutting in her home country. This film moved me more than I can say, particularly the portraits of the women of Sister Fa’s home town Thionck Essyl, their deep consideration and wise response to her challenge to a longstanding practice which though immensely damaging continued through notions of ‘tradition’ and false notions of protection. Their decision to end the practice is the kind of listening, consideration to action that I wish we could all apply to all areas of our lives and societies. The drive to nurture, to protect, coupled with the ability to consider think and reconsider – things we all must recognise and develop in ourselves, things that our mothers teach us. These women confronted, courageously and honestly, a very difficult subject, and took action to protect their daughters. I really encourage you to see this film if you can. Here is the trailer :
Since I played this set last weekend, it has taken on new meaning for me. My hometown of Melbourne has been struck by a tragic event, losing a beautiful independent woman to senseless violence. She left a Brunswick bar to walk down busy Sydney Road to her home five minutes away, and vanished. Days later, she has been found an hour out of the city in a shallow grave. From the bucolic and lazy cat-days of country Italy I read the news and the bewildered postings of my friends and feel immensely sad. This event has touched a nerve in urban Australia. The search and the discovery have brought up all kinds of emotions in people, some good, some not so serving. The insidious suggestion that women are somehow responsible for being attacked simply by being outside at night alone has arisen often in the mainstream media. For many years in Australia women have been activated to change this perception, through events like Reclaim the Night and Slutwalk. But it still exists. And not only here.
Sexual violence happens, every day, to women and men alike, around the world. We do not – we could not – grieve them all, our capacity must in many ways be defined by our sense and responsibility to home. In the privileged ‘western’ world we can be easily aware (if we look) of the struggles of women in the world, of the dangers so many women face simply leaving their homes every day, every night, or even in their own homes. Do we only outpour our grief and demand change when it happens to ‘one of us’? She could be me, she could be my friend, she walked the path I walked only two months ago, at the same time of night, only moments from my home. It is close, it is personal, but that is where the incentive to act comes from. We all want to make our homes and our friends and our people safe. Can we extend that nurture to our world and then to the world beyond our own? I hope so.
So beginning with a celebration and through pain to hope – this small offering I’m dedicating to the women in my world. My teachers, my friends, my mothers, my sisters, my aunties, my nieces, the babies my friends are about to bring to enrich our lives and our fierce love for them. And to the women fighting for equality, for safety, for expression, for simple being, everywhere. And, to those simply being. In Spain, in Greece, in Afghanistan, in Egypt, in Iran. In Melbourne, in central Australia, in every home and on every street. Each is beautiful. Honour them.