Room to Rock: A WOC Takeover
By Maria “Vida” Billini
For Halloween, this year I went with my family’s superhero theme and proudly donned my Wonder Woman costume. I figured I wanted to be a superhero who not only resembled me but represented the kick-ass, take-no-prisoners, leading female powerhouse that echoes the same courage, boldness, and fortitude that I work hard to emulate in my own hustle, even if on certain days I fall short. Hey, I’m only human folks. In all this Wonder woman talk it led me into thinking a lot about our collective female empowerment and how on so many levels its almost non-existent in communities where women of color rise from. Yes, there are organizations, schools, movements, scholarships, retreats and programs that are an awesome platform for women of color like myself to shine. But I’m taking it a step closer to home, and focusing on how sometimes we ourselves as Women of Color stop other WOC from taking center stage. A stage that is rightfully ours after years of hard work, overnight dedication, sweat, tears, and you know the rest.
You also know the kind of ladies I speak of. I’m referring to the women that take every chance to snip your dreams. They forget to return your call, read your blog, give you props, and attend your events. Chicks like this often steal your ideas (and do not give you credit). It’s the ladies who roll their eyes at your success, enviously forget to like a post or photo, refuse to collaborate or give valuable feedback. It’s the ladies that instead of leading with their minds, lead with their bodies. Instead of speaking their truths, they whisper lies. It is the same ladies who know the struggles that come with being a brown woman of limited resources but still knee deep in dreams and yet continue to manage to hate on your hustle instead of joining you in a collective win.
Why can’t we all win ladies?
I learned about these two awesome ladies in California who have done quite the opposite of what I have just illustrated. Poets and longtime friends, Angela Aguirre and Yesika Salgado, decided that a great way to uplift and support their fellow ladies of color was to create Chingona Fire, which has essentially formed an alliance for all women of color to come and share their talents through all kinds of venues in poetry and the arts.
In an interview by Latina magazine, the ladies spoke about the main goal, which was most importantly supporting their fellow chicas of color. “We want to be like the plug,” Aguirre, 28, tells Latina magazine. “When you think, I need a dope woman of color for my corporate event, my open mic, whatever it might be, you know who to ask because you know who has the connect: Chingona Fire.”
So, in honor of the movement that is being a woman of color, Chingona Fire, and all the beautiful modern day Wonder Women out there striving hard to set their passions ablaze, I’ve come up with 5 ways we can be better as women and to each other.
1.Make it a Date and Bring a Plus One.
There is no greater way to show support and let someone know that you got their back than showing up to an event that they will be hosting, organizing or performing in. These events are like mini birthday parties. Imagine throwing a party and no one shows up, that’s a bummer and can really be a heart breaker. There is no bigger indication of who has love for you more than the loyal heads that make the effort to show up, rock out, applause and show love. Now you don’t have to go to every event. People understand that some of us have children, families, obligations and other hardships that might get in the way. But if you can make it to at least one or two during the year it will make all the difference. As for the plus one, it never hurts to bring someone with you that has the same interest and might lead to a possible colab between both of your talented homegirls.
2. Spread the Love and Share Opportunities:
Sharing is definitely caring. Don’t be afraid to share ideas, prospects, and events with WOC who are also focused on getting their careers on track. A true comrade will keep their fellow ladies up to date on the approaching events, scholarship opportunities, calls for submission, rehearsals, readings, open mics etc. In sharing you also get to create a real sense of community and sisterhood by uniting your fellow ladies to partake in building a solid force. Let us remember that combining our talents will ultimately lead to leaving behind a bigger footprint and establishing a platform we can all rock out on.
3. Imitation is NOT the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Unfortunately, some ladies confuse showing support with swagger jacking. These are the ladies that after reading a couple of your poems and attending a few of your events will all of sudden become poets when they have been painting all their lives. These are the ladies that ask you questions about your craft, your method, your tools, or trick and tips, and then turn around and try to imitate your work in in their made-in-china boot-leg versions. Or ladies that will steal your logo, phrase, lingo, signature signoff, blog lay-out, concepts, ideas, handles, clients, gigs, hairstyle, whatever they can get their hands on. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, hmmm as someone who has experienced that a lot, especially lately, I would have to highly disagree. Imitation or jacking my style is straight disrespectful and super wack. It undermines the hard work I’ve put into molding myself as an artist and it only further highlights the imposters lack of talent, creativity and heart. Be yourself ladies. All the best artists that we know and love today were unafraid to be their awkward, strange, beautiful and genius selves. Think of Frida, Madonna, Basquiat, Piñero, Bukowski, Prince and so on. All dope artists who were unafraid and brave enough to be themselves and now are legends of their era and art.
4. Give Praise, Referrals and Constructive Criticism.
Give props where props are due. As a poet/writer myself I get so excited when I see a fellow poetess rock the stage. I hoot, holler and give a standing ovation because I love to see us doing the damn thing! If someone is looking for a writer, photographer or painter, and you know of a talented lady who would be perfect for the job, let a sister know. That awesome karma comes back to you tenfold. On the same breath when I am asked to workshop a peer’s work, I take my time and make it my business to give them an honest and thorough evaluation/critique of their work because I know it will make them a better artist and because we all sometimes need a fresh pair of eyes on our work to give us a different perspective. It is always nice to get that feedback in a constructive and respectful way.
5. Remember When One of Us Shines, We All Shine.
Finally let’s keep in mind that this is not a competition, it’s a common goal, a common journey. As women of color trying to breakthrough with our passions and talents it is so important we create a tight network of loyal, supportive and strong-minded sisters. Let’s find ways to uplift and encourage one another and let’s join forces for the ultimate takeover. Because at the end of the day, when you really think about it, no one will ever understand the struggle or hunger more for that win than your fellow homegirl.
New York City
Blogger/ Poet/ Hostess
Maria Billini aka Vida B is a Brooklyn poet, hostess, free-lance writer/blogger, and photographer. She graduated from The City College of New York with a bachelor in Broadcast Journalism and an MFA in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Shakefist Magazine, The Burning Word Literary Magazine and the Promethean. She has performed in the Red Howl Moon slam for the Society for Menstral Cycle Research, Show N’ Tell Em showcase, Nuyorican Poets Café, MFA Reading Series at Bar 82 and the SpeakUP showcase at the Sofa Lounge.
Maria explores various themes in her poetry such as gender bending, addiction, sexuality, complex relationships, urban and Latino culture, menstruation, pregnancy, motherhood and the woman’s body.
Follow her blog Vidaandthecity to check out her personal memoirs, Latina living advice, mommy adventures, and poetry.