Female confidence is one of my favorite things. In a society that profits from our self-doubt, boldly loving who we are is such an important thing. More than anything (even my extreme love of dresses), I believe loving yourself is such a beautiful thing. When we love ourselves, that love overflows onto those around us. It’s so easy to love others when you start by loving yourself.
Last Sunday was my birthday. To celebrate I got together with a couple of my favorite female entrepreneurs and had a little black dress party. Women were encouraged to wear their favorite little black dress and join us for a drink. I wanted to have an interactive booth that embodied what A World of Dresses is all about. So I decided to set up a photo booth with chalkboard signs asking the question “what makes you feel confident?” The thing I love about this is that there are no wrong answers.
4. Haley and Barbara
We had such a great group of women! I’ll admit that at first, I was slightly disappointed. We did not exactly get the turnout we envisioned for our little black dress party. It can be tough when you work so very hard on something and then that happens. However we had a great group of women. Furthermore three of those women pictured above drove several hours just to see me on my birthday. Old friends are simply the best.
Meet Sister Circle: some of the women who live in Winton Terrace. As an outsider, it could be easy to get the wrong idea of Winton Terrace from a quick drive through the neighborhood. A low-income housing community or “the projects,” as some like to call it (not me) is located in this neighborhood. There are only a few businesses … a couple liquor and corner stores. Other than a school, a few churches and a recreation center, there is not much else in the neighborhood. However Sister Circle brings a whole new definition to Brick City, a well-known nickname for their neighborhood.
However the story the women from Sister Circle tell is one of hope and empowerment. Their unity and shared experiences is their strength. The group was started seven years ago by LaMonica Sherman, the Site Supervisor for the St. Vincent DePaul satellite office in Winton Hills. She found that at least 60% of the households in the community were led by single mothers, something she felt she could identify with. She herself is a single mother of two adult children.
“I saw myself in them,” said Sister Circle Founder LaMonica Sherman.
When she started the group, there was really nothing for the women in the neighborhood. Now the group meets on a monthly basis. The ages of the women range from 16-87. The group has started to perform around the community. I actually first discovered them in the community at the Contemporary Dance Theatre’s PTA show about a month or so ago (Not your mom’s PTA). Their show is called “I’m From” and it’s a mixture of story-telling, song and dance. It was amazing.
I decided to approach them about writing about them at the show. They were excited to work with me, so this is how we have ended up here! I must say that they too have been a pleasure to work with. I have laughed and learned a lot. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing them perform “I’m From” again at their holiday gathering. It was quite a treat.
Clad in the same long-sleeved purple shirts, the women started their performance holding hands in a circle. I love how symbolic that is. The strength of the group comes from their unity. That unity is transparent on stage. They share with each other, empower each other and lift each other up. It is truly beautiful.
Throughout the performance, the women spoke about what where they’re from means to them. For some, it’s foster homes. For others, it’s a TV that never turns off or fried everything. The women took turns in the spotlight each telling their story. Majoretta Gallaher spoke about what it meant to be an unwed mother in the 1960’s, wearing single motherhood as a badge of honor and her determination to get her GED. Her part was so very moving and full of emotion. LaQuita Brown, who at 16 is the youngest in the group, said that it’s hard to get away with anything being surrounded by all these mothers. And while at times that’s frustrating, she’s glad that she knows she’s loved. She also shared that she plans to be the first person in her family to get a four-year degree … unless her mother, who is also in the group, gets her’s first. It sounds like she has many amazing role models in her life.
These women derive their strength from each other. And as they build each other up, they can in-turn make the world a better place. LaMonica remarked at how 98% or so of the women are involved in their community in some way. Some serve on their neighborhood councils, others in their church and others in other community organizations. LaMonica truly believes Sister Circle is a place that creates leaders.
I hung out with these ladies twice this week. Wednesday evening each lady wore her favorite dress and we took some photos. Friday, of course, I saw their wonderful performance. You can view many of the photos here:
I love keeping up with the women I feature on my blog. Each and every one of them has their own unique and complex life. Each has her own interests. For Jai (My Closet: the dresses of Jai), storytelling seems to be her jam these days. On Sunday, she acted as Mcee (although no mic was needed at a storytelling event on a Sunday afternoon taking place in a bakery) as several people told stories on the theme of abundance. I just wish I had gotten there sooner. I’ll admit, I was running a tad late coming from a morning photoshoot for the blog that day.
When I walked in, I found the group seated around the side room in Findlay Market’s Cake Rack Bakery. Sarah Mancino was telling her story about farming and working as a Findlay Market vendor. She told of the abundance in her harvest as well as her interactions with regular customers week after week. Clad in work boots and jeans, you could just picture her working in the dirt to grow the food into what is sold at the market.
Next George Hibben from Rookwood Pottery took the stage, so to speak. He spoke of the pottery studio, which is now located in Over-the-Rhine, in close proximity to Findlay Market. He spoke of the history of Cincinnati and past pottery groups located in the neighborhood. It was fascinating to imagine Cincinnati in the late 1800’s. The economy of the city in regards to pottery and how the studio in turn positively affects the economy of Findlay was also discussed.
Both speaks I had the privilege of seeing were so open to sharing with the group. Both gladly welcomed questions. Overall, the event was attended by about 15-20 people. It was a nice and intimate gathering. The room felt full of good energy.
Jai, as always, greeted me with a warm hug. Jai’s warm enthusiasm mixed with her passion for authenticity are what make her the wonderful person she is.
These storytelling events happen the last Sunday of every month.
It’s not every day that you walk into a theatrical performance and find empty bags of chips, water bottles and a pizza box strewn on the floor. If it wasn’t a part of the show, I’d be a little confused. Instead, I was amazed. It was all a part of the pre-show for the Contemporary Dance Theater’s fall Performance and Time Arts show, or PTA for short. But this is not your mom’s PTA. That is definitely for sure.
If you’re amazed by the pre-show, you know you’re in for a treat. I definitely was. The evening included a series of poetry, spoken word, dancing, singing, multi-media and visual arts. The show is based on Director Diana Ford’s Facebook blog entitled Welcome to America: There’s Gotta be Something Better Than This Crap. Diana created the page as her final project when she got her Master’s in Liberal Arts with a concentration in humanities and social justice. Themes of social justice, the state of our world and community were very evident throughout the entire performance. She hopes to turn it into a full theatrical production this next year.
As I walked in, there were several still models in various poses on the stage. These models would later be a part of a fashion show during the production. That part was the work of Pamela Carter Pitts and her business L’BAE (which stands for Living Blessed and Empowered). Each model represented a way in which the world can negatively influence us: rich, poor, technology, party life and body image. Her whole business is around the idea of letting go of negative worldly influences and living out who you are. Here are a few more from the pre-show:
The show included several contemporary dance acts and a lot of amazing poetry. One of my favorites was the group Sister Circle, a group that began as a women’s support group in Winton Terrace. The PTA was their first performance as a group and they were all very excited about it.
The eight ladies came out on stage looking fabulous. Each woman wore the same Sister Circle purple shirt, black pants and yellow flower in her hair. The performed a variety of spoken word and song about growing up, hardships, resiliency and their neighborhood. You could tell that their strength has been in their time spent together and sharing life.
The evening continued with many other neat performances. There were several African drummers and dancers. There was poetry recited about slavery and racism. The evening concluded with Diana and her dancers performing pieces inspired by her blog page. As they performed, media was projected in the background. Themes of social justice and apathy were projected onto the screen. It’s so neat when art can be used to make us think deeper about the world. In a time when millions are tweeting and Facebooking about everything from important issues to pictures of food, things can get a little lost in the shuffle. Yet when performed, you see them in a different way.
My favorite part was when they danced to the song Sixteen Tons. The song is all about owing your sole to the company store. In this context, it refers to how much debt everyone is in. While we may make money, we owe much of it to say student loans, a credit card company, our mortgage, our car payment, etc. Furthermore, our country and many others in the world are also in debt from spending. The ladies wore unique costumes and got to act a bit, something they enjoy. Here we can see them in a dramatic moment during the song and dance.
I was left amazed at the end of the night. So many different forms of artistic expression beautifully woven into a performance with a consistent theme of social justice and community. Currently Diana is looking to turn her work into a full theatrical production. You can learn more by clicking here.