Sonia Sanchez laid down the cadence that evolved into poetry slams and Hamilton, influencing multiple generations. Reading her poetry like jazz, she inhabited the work and set a style that still resonates. She also pioneered teaching Black Studies at white universities and was the first woman in America to teach Black Women Studies at the university level. This is Baddddd Sonia Sanchez and you will want to hear actor Joyce Guy tell you her story.
The theme for the 2018 TEDWomen Conference was “Showing Up”, and I did just that, by packing my baby, husband and mother-in-law into our wagon and setting off for sunny (and rainy, and cold, and windy) Palm Springs this past November.
I’ve struggled the past couple months to find the throughline for my experience at TEDWomen because the talks were so very diverse in subject matter. I was able to hear about 64 talks during my three days in the desert, and with so many meaningful messages shared, I’m honored to now share a few of them with our Look What SHE Did! community.
I listened to Stacy Abrams talk about narrowly losing a hard-fought governor’s race in Georgia, and Kotchakorn Voraakhom talk about how she constructed the first new public greenspace in Bangkok in decades, one that boasts zero water waste, protects the area from flooding, and improves air quality for local residents. I was thrilled to meet Cecile Richards, outgoing CEO of Planned Parenthood, whose talk included this brilliant quote that I will now recite forever, “If women aren’t at the table, they’re on the menu”. And I heard speakers from as far away as Kenya and India tell their stories of grassroots organizing to provide girls with education and save them from atrocities such as child marriage and FGM.
Many of the speakers reaffirmed my commitment to women’s empowerment and human rights, such as Dolores Huerta, who spoke about the day-to-day work of activism and how anyone can make a difference in their community. Others opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and flipped my preconceived notions on their head, such as Emily Quinn, who spoke about her experience being intersex and the fact that we all have a combination of male and female markers in our genes—research that renders male/female gender a social construct. Ai-jen Poo spoke about how domestic workers (those who take care of our children, our homes and our families) have the capacity to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and should be looked to for their advice and wisdom.
Now looking back to my program booklet, where I had scrawled some notes in the dark theater during talks, the theme for the event kept jumping out at me from the page headings– “Showing Up”, so I figured I’d run with it. Now, “showing up”, to me, seems like a pretty low bar for anything. I guess sometimes, showing up is all that’s required, for instance when I put gas in my car I just “show up”, no preparation or advance notice required. But I think the TEDWomen organizers meant it in a deeper way. I felt that we were convened there to celebrate women all around the world who show up to work, to fight, to love, to innovate and to bring together what has been torn apart.
What I realized from my experience at TEDWomen is that women are at the forefront of every major social issue in the world. As the incredible and diverse cross-section of speakers shows, women are leading the charge to combat climate change, fighting for civil rights, for fair labor practices, and for the basic human rights of education, food, shelter and safety for everyone, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they came from.
Of course, I didn’t need to go to TED to know that women have always shown up–it’s what we do. We see a problem in our community, we fix it, we see injustice in the world, we fight for people’s rights, we see discord, we create harmony, we see suffering, we provide care. And in too many instances, that work is invisible to the world. This is where WE (you, dear reader, and I) show up. We have powerful voices that are respected and listened to. We need to know more of the stories of female achievement that have been ignored by society. We need to learn them, recite them, amplify them, and lift them up into the public consciousness. This is the work that Look What SHE Did! is currently doing, with your support.
So thank you, Look What SHE Did! community, for showing up for us again and again. Thank you for reading our monthly newsletter, contributing to our list of astonishing women, donating to our cause, and for showing up every day in your own lives as the astonishing women (and men, and everything in-between) that you are. Happy 2019!
-Sylvia Hathaway Chavez
Look What SHE Did!
Smarita Sengupta, a quiet, business-minded young woman from India decided to do something about sex trafficking and created Destiny Foundation/Reflection. Tanya Monsef Bunger, Board Chair for Global Women’s Leadership Network, tells the story of her friend Smarita’s courage and persistence in the face of great odds, as well as the brilliance of Smarita’s economic ideas about what to do to bring women out of this modern-day slavery.
“Courage is contagious.” TED star Brené Brown has spent decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, giving us insight to a healthier, more joyful life. Screenwriter Brittany Ashley takes us on her own personal journey learning from Brené.
This month we welcome our very first Managing Director to Look What SHE Did! Sylvia Hathaway Chavez is a graduate of Antioch’s Nonprofit Management program and has worked in nonprofits in the Bay Area and Los Angeles for over a decade. We are fortunate to have her on our team and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership. Welcome, Sylvia!
Meet serpentine dancer Loie Fuller! She pioneered modern dance using fabric, cutting-edge lighting technology and her own genius to revolutionize dance. Choreographer Deb Slater tells us about Loie’s lasting impact.
The shocking story of Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen, who started as an abused child bride, became a notorious criminal fugitive and eventually was elected to India’s Parliament. Though she was assassinated in 2001 the legend of the Bandit Queen lives on. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Neetu Badhan-Smith, tells the story of this powerful female avenger. Be advised, video includes mention of sexual assault.
Co-founder and Lead Editor, Farrel Levy, organized a shoot with girls from Hamilton High School’s Academy of Music Magnet in Los Angeles. Academy director, Marlene Zuccaro had been excited about the work of Look What She Did and felt that many of her students would be as well. She found girls who were interested in doing the research and who were comfortable being on camera. Marlene worked with them to refine their presentations before the day of the shoot.
Four students spoke about Barbara Johns, Lorraine Hansberry, Katy Jurado and Gwendolyn Brooks. Another student acted as Director of Photography.
This was our second venture into filming with high school students and it was another success. The students enjoyed themselves and reaffirmed the need for sharing stories of female role models.
Madam C.J. Walker was born into slavery as Sarah Breedlove, but became the first self-made female millionaire in the US, creating a beauty empire that helped African-American women celebrate their natural beauty. Using her influence to push for anti-lynching laws before the Civil Rights Movement, she also became a model entrepreneur. Listen to writer Wendy Calhoun tell Madam C.J.’s story.
This month we’re proud to offer this interview with the beautiful and brilliant poet Jane Hirshfield. I met Jane through the Philosophical Club in San Francisco, a meeting place for artists and scientists convened by Lucia Jacobs (both artist and scientist). I am always impressed with Jane’s comments at these gatherings— both scholarly and humanist, an irresistible combination. I know you will enjoy her insightful interview and I hope it will inspire you to read Jane’s work as well as that of her subject, Ono no Komachi. We have so much to learn from the women who came before us. From Komachi: Wash the cheater’s book and his lies will fade away…
Award-winning poet, essayist, and translator Jane Hirshfield tells us about ancient Japanese poet Ono no Komachi, a woman whose work feels so contemporary that it speaks to Jane as if it is her own experience. Komachi is one of the very few women in the Japanese Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. She wrote brilliantly with a mastery of language that made her a legend in her own time… and for the next two millennia. Jane Hirshfield brings to life the work of this astonishing woman.