Alyesha Wise's Black Women Necessary is an intimate, chillaxing activism - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 27, 2018 10:30 am

Alyesha Wise’s Black Women Necessary is an intimate, chillaxing activism

The Los Angeles-based author and poet on why she created the safe space, which will return to the streets of Philly for the third time this June.

Black Women Necessary gathering in L.A.

(Screenshot via instagram.com/blackwomennecessary)

Incidents like the April 22 arrest of 25 year-old Chikesia Simmons remind us that no amount of uncouth public behavior justifies the violent handling of a Black woman’s body at the hands of three white, male policemen.

Teaching artist and author Alyesha Wise centers the grit and beauty that is the lived experience of Black women in her work.

After the TEDx speaker and cofounder of poetry education and programming org Spoken Literature Art Movement (S.L.A.M) moved to Los Angeles in late 2013, the geographically scattered layout of the city left her with a sense of physical and emotional isolation — from other Black women, and Black people in general.

Attending rallies, protests and other events, and talking to those who looked like her prompted her to create Black Women Necessary (BWN).

“I know how powerful we are when we come together and I wanted a space where we could just be and not worry about the rest of the world,” said Wise. “If you are of Black heritage, if you are from the diaspora anywhere around this globe, you are welcome into this space. If you identify as woman or a non-binary person, trans, Black trans woman, you are invited in this space.”

The group’s first and main event, a simple and informal brunch, is hosted monthly at the home of a host who has attended at least two previous brunches. Gatherers attend free of charge (funding comes out of the host’s pocket, or from donations via CashApp), and the format usually consist of honoring the ancestors and extreme chillaxing.

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“Sometimes we play board games. At one brunch, we sung karaoke for Destiny’s Child for like a whole hour,” said Wise. “We’re going to be [making] vision boards, and another one we’re going to have a clothing swap, just to keep it interesting each time.”

The success of Black Women Necessary in L.A. prompted Wise to branch out. Philly, now approaching its third BWN installment in June, made sense as the next stop. The Camden native would have been more than happy to start a BWN branch in her hometown, but admits to a higher level of accessibility in the Greater Philadelphia area, where her own career catapulted.

“I’m sure if I looked when I lived there, I would’ve found some exclusive spaces for Black women,” said Wise. “It’s kind of like having an open mic. Just because there’s one open mic that’s doing well doesn’t mean you can’t start more.”

"I know how powerful we are when we come together and I wanted a space where we could just be and not worry about the rest of the world."
Alyesha Wise

“Sometimes they just assume, because it has the word ‘brunch’ and they just assume they’re going to be walking into some type of venue and they have to get dressed up,” said Wise. “I’m trying to do my best to take away from that feel. I want them to feel like, ‘Man, I could just show up in my pajamas, as free as I want to be, and it’s OK. I don’t have to worry about looking or feeling a certain way.'”

The lead-up March celebration of the event’s two-year anniversary in L.A. served as a glaring reminder of why Wise started it in the first place.

“It was open to everyone in the public. I had two white men who were trolling,” said Wise. “Leaving very hateful remarks on the promotion, in the comments, calling us all types of just ridiculous stuff that’s not even worth mentioning.”

Future plans include an expansion to more than brunch: trips to Essence Festival, movie nights, taking over all types other public spaces. Wise hopes to someday create Black Women Necessary annual retreats.

“I hope, mostly, that they feel like there’s no judgment when it comes to them being as Black and as woman or as Black person or as free as they want to be,” said Wise.

Follow BWN on Instagram or email Wise at AlyeshaMWise@gmail.com to find out details about the third Philly meetup, set to take place this June. Want to support BWN? CashApp the cause at $BlackWomenNecessary.

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