(Photo by Wilkine Brutus)
It was sometime this past November when listening to the song “1 Thing,” written and performed by Amerie, that Sofiya Ballin got the inspiration to start something she knew she didn’t have the time or money for.
But as she was dancing around her house and just having a good time, she thought about how refreshing and motivating it was to hear a woman’s voice — and that feeling was something she wanted to share and talk about with other women.
“It was just so great to hear a woman be so happy and vibrant in herself” said Ballin, features reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I hear my own voice telling me, ‘You can do this, you got this, you’re a boss lady.’”
“I’m 24 now and I think I’ve understood what it meant to be black … in this world and in this society, but I think for whatever reason, just now, I’m starting to look at the intersection of blackness and womanhood, what it means to be a woman, the importance of sisterhood and women supporting other women.”
And so began the planning for The Electric Lady Series, a weeklong series of woman-centered events taking place from March 21 through 26 that’s exploring and celebrating what it means to be a woman — especially a woman of color — today.
Check out our line up of events! Our tickets are now available via eventbrite and we're selling package deals ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/unTxkDnUId
— The Electric Lady (@ElectricLadyPHL) March 9, 2017
Here’s the lineup:
- I AM WOMAN, March 21 — A free panel discussion on intersectional feminism featuring Melanie McCoy, founder of CoCo FULL OF GRACE; Dominique Matti, freelance writer and editor; and Nyasha Junior, assistant professor in the department of religion at Temple University
- F.U.B.U., March 22 — A panel of women entrepreneurs talking about how they started their own businesses and tips on how you can, too, featuring Rakia Reynolds, founder and CEO of Skai Blue Media; Carol Wong, founder and director of the Chinatown Learning Center; Audra Anusionwu, founder and CEO of BeautiFitStrong; Yasmine Mustafa, CEO of ROAR for Good; and Ariell Johnson, owner of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc.
- U.N.I.T.Y, March 24 — An all-woman art showcase featuring visual and performance art all taking inspiration from lyrics and themes of Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y”
- FREAKUM DRESS, March 25 — A dance party featuring exclusively music by women, spun by women
- CRANES IN THE SKY, March 26 — A conclusion to the series with yoga, journaling and meditation, hosted by Yogetree
You can buy either buy a package ticket for the whole series (excluding CRANES IN THE SKY) or register for each event separately.
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While Ballin has organized events in the past, most notably with the “Black History Untold” project she started last year for Black History Month (which had an excellent second rendition last month focusing on Black Joy), this was “the most audacious thing I’ve ever done,” Ballin said.
She knew she wanted the series to kickoff at the end of Women’s History Month but with so much of her time needing to be dedicated to her Black History Month project as well as another project currently in the works, Ballin knew she needed help from women “who took initiative, who are passionate about women empowerment and are vocal about it in different ways,” she said.
That’s how her team — Melissa Ly (“queen of taking initiative”), Alexis Mercado (“can juggle everything, she gets it done), Keturah Benson (“she’s just a hustler”) and Lara Witt (“amazing voice for feminism”) — was assembled.
As for why each of these women chose to be involved in a project like this, here’s what they told us in an email (and if you want to help out, the team is in need of sponsorships, but volunteers are still welcome):
- Ly: “An event series like this is so important because it’s intentional. We’re highlighting the talents and contributions made by women all over the city. From our DJs to artists to panelists to our designer to our organizing team, we made choices that support women. The series is also a means of connection. Whether our attendees is a student, young professional, entrepreneur, artist, the list goes on.”
- Mercado: “Sometimes as women we take on so much that we forget to love ourselves. This is a series where we have the opportunity to learn about ourselves, learn about other women, learn to love ourselves, and celebrate womanhood as a collective. It’s important because it’s simply reinforcing the power in womanhood and sisterhood. If not now, then when?”
- Benson: “This event is important because it’s women-centered. Not only is it women-centered but we really wanted to be intentional about incorporating women of color in each event. It’s rare that we as WOC receive a safe space to express ourselves freely in public. The sense of urgency just meshed well with the extreme times we’re experiencing in society as a whole.”
- Witt: “Women are the backbone of society, we have been doing the work for centuries. We excel in most fields and yet we are rarely rewarded for our efforts because women’s labor is under-valued and under-appreciated. The purpose of this event is to give our audiences the opportunity to feel inspired by what women do in a way that does our artists, entrepreneurs, writers, teachers and advocates justice.”
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