Women’s History Month drew to a close, or should we say a crescendo this past week with two special March end-of-the-month events, where women were celebrated and given a platform to share their thoughts on a host of topics, including the F word: feminism.
At the Apollo Theater’s panel discussion, Bold Soul Sisters: A Revolution of Sound and Style, moderated by music journalist and essayist Christian John Wikane, four legendary recording artists (Rochelle Fleming of First Choice, Nona Hendryx of Labelle, Ruth Pointer of The Pointer Sisters, and Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge) reflected on the cultural impact of 1970s girl groups who revolutionized the scene with their progressive style, provocative lyrics, and feminist stance.
The taping of BET’s Black Girls Rock! show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, included several musical offspring of the aforementioned acts with the likes of Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Jill Scott, Janelle Monae, and more. Taking its namesake from the nonprofit organization founded by DJ and philanthropist, Beverly Bond, Black Girls Rock! honored women from actress Cicely Tyson (Living Legend Award) to educator Nadia Lopez (Change Agent Award). And oh yeah, First Lady Michelle Obama just so happened to make an appearance during the show which airs Easter Sunday, April 5 at 7pm/ET.
We caught up with some of the events' attendees about the state of feminism, the connection between Black women and gay men, and intergenerational communication.
On Gloria Steinem’s recent suggestion in Black Enterprise magazine that Black women invented the feminist movement:
“Gloria is the chick you associate with that word, feminism. So it is interesting and layered that she said that. Feminism sometimes has this stigma attached to it. But I embrace that idea that Black women carried a lot of things on their shoulders like culture. I already know who I am as a Black woman and culturally where I stand, but it is interesting.” Lalah Hathaway
"I think Black women have always been forward in that way ‘cause we always worked even during slavery in the fields. We always had a different approach to who we were. Black women in music like Bessie Smith and Mahalia Jackson were very independent. As female artists we tend to take control in many different ways. So that has always been a part of our tradition.” Nona Hendryx
On the beauty of Black women and how gay men support the cause:
“The Black woman naturally walks with a natural sway. They say she switches her hips but no, she naturally glides and is born with rhythm. Even our gay men with vogue—which is an exaggeration of the Black woman—shows how we just flow. Often it takes a man who celebrates a woman to remind us of who we are. My friend, King he always tells me I am beautiful. He loves my natural hair and says I don’t need make-up. It’s not to be controlling. He just reminds me that if I want to do it is okay but when I take it all off I am still beautiful. That’s dope to me.” Lil Mama
On intergenerational bonding between women through music:
“I remember once having a nail day with my daughter and the lyrics of a song came on the radio and it was very explicit. She turned it off. I called her attention to how the song was bringing this wall down between us because she felt uncomfortable listening to that music with me around. To me, music should bridge generations. We live in a society where everything is at your fingertips. I think that we have to make an effort for our music to reach out. If you’re in the public eye, whether you like it or not you are influencing someone somewhere and you have to think about that.” Kathy Sledge
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.