Poet Ayanna Mohammad at the Literary Exchange gala. Denise ( Eboni ) Puckett. Gaylon and Janice accept for Affinity. Amigas Latinas. NBC-5's LeeAnn Trotter. Vera and Pat of Executive Sweet. Lisa Pickens. LE's President Sharron Matthews, Director of Publications Dr. Yaounde Olu, and Director of Fund Development Melba Poole. Neysa Scott of Neysa's Peaces.
By D. Kevin McNeir
With a focus on promoting literacy among women of color, The Literary Exchange, a Chicago-based volunteer organization, marked its 21st year of service to lesbian and bisexual minority women with a gala fundraising event April 30 at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Place.
The event ( which featured spoken word performances by former Windy City Pride slam winner E. Nina Jay, Ayanna Mohammad and C.C. Carter; a fashion show highlighting casual and sports wear, formal attire and business wear; and an awards presentation ) was the brainchild of Denise ( Eboni ) Puckett, LE's coordinator of financial services and management.
'We wanted to have some fun while at the same time, take a moment to honor our 'sistah' organizations: Affinity, Amigas Latinas, Executive Sweet, POW-WOW and WACT ( Women of All Colors/Cultures Together ) ,' Puckett said. Puckett also served as a commentator for the fashion show. She was joined in that role by NBC-5's LeeAnn Trotter, who also made remarks to the audience as the guest speaker.
'Creating a voice with your organization in a space that was once silent is the phenomenal task that you have accomplished over these past 21 years,' Trotter said. 'I stand here because I celebrate who each of you are—I stand as an ambassador to your community. And I hope that one day we won't have to talk about people coming out because that won't be necessary. We will all have the freedom to be who we were meant to be. We'll just be out.'
Sharron Matthews, LE's president, facilitated the awards portion of the program and talked about her experience as a member of the organization.
'I remember how hard it was years ago for women like us to find a safe space just to gather and celebrate our lives,' she said. 'We weren't welcome in the clubs and we often had to deny who we truly were. Tonight is a rare opportunity to celebrate herstory—the stories of bisexual and lesbian women of color. It is amazing to think that this all began 21 years ago when four women were invited to a Black gay men's reading group to discuss The Women of Brewster Place. Those men had been meeting for 10 years. And those sistahs realized that it was time to claim a space for ourselves.'
The Literary Exchange has pioneered 'Black Herstory,' a series of performing arts productions in celebration of Black History Month; co-sponsored the International Women's Day Dances; conducted women's health fairs; and has issued a quarterly 'paperzine' called the Literary Express.
It was a evening that appealed to a myriad of tastes and was a true showcase for the skills and service provided by Chicago's les/bi community of color.
See photos opposite page, and online at www.windycitymediagroup.com