Modern Griots Reviews: Highlights from Word, Rock and Sword Concert


Toshi Reagon
Toshi Reagon

I love seeing spaces where a group of women with so much power, spirit, energy, creativity and love, and who break the mold get the shine they deserve. So here is some shine for them today. In their fourth year, the Toshi Reagon-presented and funded (with no sponsors) Word, Rock and Sword Festival provides a space for women and LGBTQ communities to express themselves and find healing. The events included health and creative workshops,community gatherings/services, author readings and film screenings, and justice conversations. This was my first year in attendance and the event I was able to attend was the musical concert — A Musical celebration of Women’s Lives — on Saturday evening at Le Poisson Rouge lounge.

The women that gathered together that night were truly forces of nature; you could feel the energy rising in the room. Opening the show was Adaku Utah dance to Laura Mvula’s “That’s Alright,” a great match for her dance as Utah moved like a dancer-warrior prepared for spiritual battle, much like in the song. The night proceeded with acts familiar and not so familiar to me, a variety of young and old, fun and serious, funk and folk. Some of the memorable artists of the night included revolutionary poetry and music of Climbing Poetree and The Mahina Movement, June Millington still rocking it at 66 with her song “Gods and Foreign Strangers,” Hanifah Walidah’s funktastic high energy performance of “We Got It,” Be Steadwell’s “queer pop and soul” song of magical love, “Witch,” Toshi Reagon’s rendering of Patreese Johnson’s (Out in the Night) poem about struggling mothers, and Marcelle Davies Lashley’s performance of her song “I Found God in Myself,” appropriate for the 40th anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s book, For Colored Girls. Nona Hendryx ended the night with a bang performing “Chameleon,” “Gypsy Moths,” and “Sweat,” having her own booty shaking line on stage. Words, Rock and Sword stresses throughout the sacredness and complexity of women’s lives, and that women’s healing comes from receiving justice for the oppressions done to us as well as the freedom to express and explore of our voices and our bodies. And that deserves a big spotlight.

Below are some of the artists and the works performed Saturday and here’s a link to more info about the events and artists from the festival:

*Climbing Poetree’s “Heart Led Rebellion”

*The Mahina Movement’s “Sugarland”

Judith Casselberry’s “Amazon Women will Rise Again”

*Be Steadwell’s “Witch”

*LaBelle’s “Chameleon” and “Gypsy Moths”

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