Filmed by Logik. Starring Keisha-Monique Simpson.
Wombmanifesto: The Rebirth
Sunday, September 18th, 2011 at Revival
Wombmanifesto Program Coordinators: Jade Lee Hoy and Nayani Thiyagarajah
Wombmanifesto Artistic Director: Amanda Parris
We Created Hip Hop HerStory: A Wombmanifesto Thank You from Amanda Parris
I don’t know if I have ever logged on to Facebook and started crying. Perhaps the only comparison I can make to this moment is around the time of my one-woman play 32C (which was close to this time last year…clearly there is magic around this time – the transition from summer to fall). Toronto. You became my home in 1995 and you have raised me with so much love, so much support, nurturing me and teaching me so that my growth is so overtly and tangibly continuous.
I accepted the opportunity to be Wombmanifesto Artistic Director for two reasons:
- To develop my skills in producing and directing so that I can have the capacity to create stages for stories that I believe in to be heard
- To make sure an event was created that was so bomb and so crazy that no one could ever argue that an event celebrating women and trans artists in Hip Hop culture was not necessary at The Manifesto Festival or in the city of Toronto.
I can proudly say that both of those goals were achieved last night – beyond expectation.
Our inspiration for this event largely came from Omega Vibrations – an event celebrating women in Hip Hop and reggae culture that occurred last year at Manifesto Jamaica. The magic and reverence with which people speak of this event created such a high standard for us that honestly a week before the event I just gave up the hope of trying to reach it. I knew Wombmanifesto: The Rebirth would be good, but I didn’t think it would have the same magic that Omega Vibrations had - due to logistical limitations and all of these other little details that were getting in the way of us participating in a process similar to what Jah9 had created in Jamaica. I released the expectation – something Eternia talked about on the Feminism in Hip Hop Panel. And just like she said, as soon as I did, magic was able to move in and flow organically.
There was a moment when I was on the side of the stage with Zach, our Assistant Production Manager and we both realized that there was no longer anything to worry about. All artists and honourees were there. We were on time. Everything was just happening. Everything flowed. I realized this was no longer an event I was directing or that Nayani and Jade were coordinating. It had taken on a life of it’s own…moments like that…experiences like that…are what I live for.
We celebrated the many layers of Hip Hop culture last night; so many articulations of it that often do not get recognized were recognized on September 18th, 2011. I can’t go through it all, but just had to shout out some moments:
Do you realize yesterday the weather was warmer than it's been for a while? Sun shining, birds singing…even Mother Nature gave her blessing for a beautiful day to us.
When I came upstairs and saw what Jade, the Manifesto staff and our amazing volunteers had transformed the space into…I couldn’t believe it was the same Revival where I have experienced hundreds of shows and parties…Jade you are amazing. What a gift you have. I am so glad we were able to create the space for you to share your artistic side through all of this.
Looking back every now and again to see L’Oqenz’s huge grin, to hear the song selections she made so perfectly to go with each moment…love. I LOVE YOU L’OQENZ!
The moment I saw Mindbender rockin’ out on the side of the stage…I knew we had received our stamp of being an official T-dot Hip Hop event! Much love to you Addie. Thank you for the love you allow to flow from you always.
When DJ MelBoogie accepted the tribute made to her by Kemba King…her speech just made me stop making notes on the set list, take a breath and recognize that the moment which I was experiencing was the reason why we had done all of this. Right there. That was it. Thank you Mel for allowing your tears to come, for being emotional and gracious and eloquent and REAL. You stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of something so important.
The Arterias Collective. Amai Kuda, Sonny B, Milo de Milo, Victoria Mata and Rose. Damn. You all took me somewhere so intimate, so ancestral, so spiritual. The goosebumps. People came up to me during intermission and said that that was the most powerful performance they had EVER seen. Thank you, each of you, for continuously bringing such urgent and honest and reflective work to the stage. You collectively represent a movement that is rooted in critical and courageous love.
Afrakaren and Tuku are back. They are BACK. And do you hear what they are coming with??? Thank the goddessess. That is all.
Ania…I have heard you sing a million times. And I love hearing you sing. I don’t know if it was just me, but your voice last night…it SOARED. Literally SOARED. I had goosebumps all over my body. Wow. There was this glow all around you that was just spectacular. Your sons were emanating pride that you are their mummy…and rightly so. Thank you.
Aquilla, Aquilla, Aquilla…I knew that you would tear up the stage. I knew it. In my soul I knew it. But there was no way that I could have prepared for it. Dayyyuuum girl! What an energy you have! What a voice you have! You had everyone coming up to me asking who you were and where I found you – I told them on the 32C Eglinton West bus baby! Lol. Thank you for reppin dub poetry the way that you do and honouring Anita Stewart the way that you did.
Zaki. What can I say? You are just the epitome of beauty. Seriously. It shines from within and I am so captivated by your sound, your energy, your scream…I am so happy you were able to be a part of this night.
The moment when Eddy DaOriginalOne spontaneously jumped up on stage to b-box with Lola Bunz as she did her tribute to Motion was one of the moments were I felt the magic – something larger than all of us was on hand – it was the ESSENCE of HIP HOP right there.
I kept saying it last night but I have to say it again: have you ever heard of a crowd demanding a PULL UP on a SPOKEN WORD track???? I have NE-VER heard of that. To know that your mother was in the crowd listening and watching an entire audience jump out of their chairs and off the rugs to demand a pull–up on a poem written and inspired by her??? To the supreme Spiritual Gangster Keisha-Monique – I feel so privileged to call you my sister. So privileged.
When Eternia jumped OFF the stage and turned the whole thing into a Hip Hop mosh pit starting down low and then bringing it back up – I felt like I was back in high school…I looked across the room at my bestie Tash and knew we were all having a throwback moment! The aggressiveness, the sexiness, the rawness, the gutter tones of your voice, the swag, the sway, the flow, the hot t-shirt…Eternia you are a beast in the best way possible!
To see Jelly, go on stage, with her swag and RIP IT for Michie Mee…classic. Absolutely classic.
To see Anita Stewart and Lillian Allen stay till almost the very end and wait for that moment with Michie Mee…beautiful. Beautiful.
I can’t believe all of that (plus more) happened in one night, in one room. We really did create Toronto Hip Hop Herstory.
Che called it: “the best event Manifesto has had in 5 years.” Huge. WE did this.
Kinnie Starr wrote to me: “10 years ago the Hip Hop scene was NOT open to us beige girls…and last night was MONUMENTAL to be not only included and honoured, but to witness such love among your TO community. I do wish I would have said more when I had a chance on the mic... Wasn't aware that the tone was gonna be so free! So loved up! So I kept is ultra short. What I woulda said is how hard it has been to be in a mans world as far as hip hop went, and how being there in Toronto that night around all these people who knew each other from decades ago... That felt like I witnessed something so real and pure for the people in your city. Obviously i am not from TO ... So .... What a privilege to be an outsider looking in on such love.”
Two small but necessary to speak on regrets I have:
- Having to move around set time due to late performers and thereby having Ebonnie Rowe miss the tribute which was presented to her by Haviah Mighty. I am so sincerely sorry for this and take full responsibility. Perhaps if I had not been hosting, I would have had space in my brain to think of a more creative way of moving things around so that we could have prevented this from happening. I was so excited for Ebonnie - who is someone I look up to so much and has supported our work in so many ways - to be celebrated and honoured and I really regret that it didn't pan out the way we had hoped. My sincerest apologies.
- Forgetting to recognize a young visual artist whose work was featured on the television screens in the space: LiChelle. Her pieces are incredibly beautiful and I am so sorry that we did not get to share them the way I would have liked or that they were not recognized the way they should have been. I promise to make this up to you and recognize and celebrate your work in the way that it should be, one day soon.
When I say this was a serious collective effort, I am not exaggerating. I have never worked on an event that involved so many people, but it is because it was so collective that it could be so monumental. No one person can create something like this: Wombmanifesto could only be rebirthed through collective energies. So just a few specific thank you’s that I did not do properly last night:
Thank you to Zach and Cam and Vince who taught me, guided me and supported us through the production end of things. You all were so patient with me. Thank you.
Thank you to Wan our Music Program Coordinator for making endless phone calls and e-mails on our behalf…without you…this could not have happened. I have to recognize and show you love because you really went to bat for us several times. Thank you.
Thank you to Ngozi Paul! Wow what an incredible host you are! Honestly I don’t know what I would have done without you. You brought so much charisma and energy and magic and humour to the stage: thank you. You are beautiful.
Thank you Che for believing in us. You really did believe in us. I felt it. And through that you supported us so much. Endless love. Thank you.
My girls! Jade and Nayani. Damn you ladies work hard. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. Seriously. You all put your heart and soul into this and it was felt. It really was. It was an HONOUR and a PRIVILEGE to learn and grow with you both. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for providing me with this opportunity.
Ok, before this turns into a novel, I am going to stop. Other thank you’s in other messages and other moments.
Oh wait…one more thing: for all those dudes who claim themselves as Hip Hop Heads or part of the Hip Hop “industry” that didn’t see this event as something crucial they needed to be at: check yourself. You just missed Hip Hop His/herstory in the making. Don’t ever miss another Wombmanifesto again or your Hip Hop authenticity card will be revoked. Nuff said.
Toronto. I love you. Thank you for loving me back and thank you for believing me.