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Word*Rock*Sword: A Festival Exploration of Women's Lives 2016

Word*Rock*Sword: A Festival Exploration of Women's Lives 2016

I woke this morning still laughing over the comedy of Karen Williams—the hilarious MC that ripped through hundreds of on-looking women inside (le) Poisson Rouge, Saturday, September 24th for the 6th annual Word*Rock*Sword: A Festival Exploration of Women's Lives. Curated by Toshi Reagon herself, this hand-picked cadre of over 20 female performers was the festival’s flagship event, pitted inside a jam-packed weekend of film (at the BedStuy Restoration Plaza on Friday, 9/23), festival (at le Poisson Rouge for the flagship), and fellowship (at BedVine for Sunday Service—a DJ’d gathering).


all photos Desdemona Burgin

As someone who has attended multiple years of Word*Rock*&Sword this year was momentous as it followed the year-long absence of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, a music festival in the woods that served a circuit of thousands of women from across the globe for 40-years to the woods, for a week of celebration. Ending it’s 40-years in 2015 mean that those who have convened the women’s music festival circuit were now seeking space to experience these same performers—and Reagon made it happen in one room. Last night we collectively rehashed the “woo” that has kept us all together, bound by a reckoning of song and circle, percussion and community.

Amid a room filled with ex-lovers and new possibilities, massaged by laughter and good vibrations, we heard from new and old. I’ve taken the liberty of hyperlinking the names of all the artists below, but what is a review without a few highlights?

MAL Devisa, who has been compared to Nina Simone on numerous occasions. Her deep melodic charm is equipped with the lyrics of a poet. Her sound honestly reminded me of what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. Be Steadwell reminded me what it was like to break-up, and have a part of you changed forever. Allison Miller’s drumming was life-altering. I imagine that only a woman can beat a drum with her entire body, forcing vibrations to pass through an entire room. To top it off, DJ Mursi Layne kept my feet pumping when the musicians took a break, properly leading us out with the perfect beat for when the audience chanted, “TO-SHI, TO-SHI, TO-SHI” at the close of the night.

Word*Rock*Sword: A Festival Exploration of Women's Lives
Featuring; Toshi Reagon, and (listed in alphbetical order) Allison Miller, Ann Klein, Asa Lovechild ...

Be Steadwell, Christelle Durandy, Climbing Poetree, DJ Mursi Layne, Ganessa James, ...


Imani Uzuri, Joan As Police Woman, Judith Casselberry, Juliette Jones, Julie Wolf, ...


Karen Williams, Kimberly Nichole, Lyris Hung , Mal Devisa, Marcelle Davies Lashley, ...


Martha Redbone, Mishti, Morley, Nona Hendryx, Pri the Honeydark, Shelly Nicole, Tamar-kali, ...

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Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz is a member of the Editorial Collective for Sinister Wisdom 103: Celebrating the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, with a release date of January 15th, 2017. She is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.