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POW-WOW Tuesdays to end after a decade
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Melissa Wasserman
2012-12-10

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After 10 years of welcoming women and their various artistic performances to the stage, POW-WOW Inc. ends its weekly POW-WOW Tuesday program at Jeffery Pub, 7041 S. Jeffery Blvd., Dec. 18.

POW-WOW, Inc.—an acronym for Performers or Writers- Women on Women's Issues—began in February 2003, backed by C.C. Carter's intention to create a safe space for lesbians, especially those of color, to do politicized work. The rare space serving as a cultural event—as opposed to a party—grew tremendously to include more groups.

"What we would say is, 'Check your privilege at the door' and 'Anybody is welcome to the mic as long as your politics are correct," said Carter, executive director and founder. "That allowed us to open up to white women, to Black women of different class status, to men, to anyone who was looking for a cultural event and be able to have this realness of where you could just speak your mind and nobody judged you and the audience was trained already to receive your message."

Each Tuesday night features all types of verbal art, including poetry, singing, sign language and dance.

Through the years, Carter describes her favorite parts of the Tuesday-night experience as seeing people who never think about getting on the mic and then perform for the first time as well as those who have gone on and made a name for themselves in the entertainment industry, but still return because they feel POW-WOW is their family.

Poet Niki Goss has been reading her work on the POW-WOW Tuesday stage for a year and has been an audience member for four years. She has described her poems as always having slight humor and sometimes having an uplifting and enlightening quality.

"I always go to POW-WOW and it differs from other sets just for the fact that I know I'm home there as a member of the LGBT community," said Goss, who goes by Nike Gee on stage. "However you're feeling, you can explore your feelings there and nobody's judging you. I can go there, let my hair down and say anything. I can always be a full all-around artist at POW-WOW because they accept everything I do and say."

The humorous poem she performed at the Dec. 4 event among a lineup of eight other poets, titled "Straight Girls," showed her explaining how she developed from her past 21-year-old mindset and her experiences as a lesbian in bars attempting to flip straight girls. POW-WOW, she said, is the only poetry set she would perform the piece as it would receive a different response anywhere else.

M. Shelly Conner is another POW-WOW participant who attended the Dec. 4 event. Although she mostly stays in the audience when she attends, she says the event's energy is helpful in her creative writing.

"It's a safe space; it's a haven," she said. "I love the humor of it, I love the sensuality of it, I'm always appreciative and amazed by the open sincerity of it with someone sharing. People really pour themselves out and I'm constantly amazed at the people you meet and how they share themselves. A lot of times this is the only space where they can do that. Maybe they haven't told friends or family about certain things they've experienced, but they tell us."

Although POW-WOW, Inc.'s volunteer-based Tuesday-night outreach is ending, the focus on women's issues remains strong. The organization will continue with its various year-round volunteer-based outreach programs involving organizations such as the juvenile detention center, senior assisted living and many others.

"I think it's one of the most important things that has come out of POW-WOW—that we are always, always trying to give back to the community," said Lucy Shumpert, POW-WOW Tuesday's emcee.

During the last performances and just in time for the holiday season, the organization is accepting toiletry donations for Robbins Assisted Living. The community is also encouraged to email pow-wowgifts2012@gmail.com to receive the seniors' wish lists in order to help provide holiday gifts.

"Most of our work, most of our energy has been spent on our outreach program, which has been POW-WOW Tuesday," said Carter. "What we're saying is we're looking to take POW-WOW Tuesday to a different level, which is outside of a static space—maybe into a more global space, maybe into a more social-media space where we can reach a broader set of people. That static space has existed for 10 years and we need to grow the way the world is growing."

Carter says although she is still ambivalent toward the end, she is hopeful and optimistic about where the group is headed, adding if people have been POW-WOW addicts, they're going to love the new direction as well.

"I don't think anybody needs to miss the last night because, literally, we have reached out to everyone who has ever been on our stage in 10 years," she said. "We've gotten confirmation from over 40 people. It's going to be ridiculous."


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