Chloe Yeo, Group 11
While gentrification and creating affordable housing are hot topics, I had never considered the intersection of gentrification and creating creative spaces. During the CAP (Creation, Activation, Preservation) Report session, I enjoyed hearing recommendations and Seattle’s attempts to define creative space and preserve cultural landmarks. It’s incredibly nuanced and faces significant historical barriers because of systemic racism through redlining, financial institutions, and misconceptions about artists. I never understood the need for studio space for visual or performing arts in terms of city planning, or how these cultural districts can help inform housing and retail space decisions. The CAP report discussion illuminated the potential for arts and housing equity to work hand in hand, which I found inspiring and grateful that these talks are happening at a city level.
Following this table talk, the atrium was opened up to a lovely blues jam session. As a person who strongly values representation, I loved seeing women of color collaborating and creating sounds together in a space that isn’t directly celebrating diversity. In the context of MOHAI, the activities of this (un)conference almost seemed at odds with the space. My initial reaction of MOHAI was that it was built to “sell” people on the idea of Seattle, and dismissed any impact of race, class, or gender caused by rising industries. Therefore, it is important and necessary to put MOHAI and this conference in conversation with each other, and continue to do so in various spaces throughout our changing city.
A documentary was featured at the Womxn Who Rock (Un)Conference was Promise Land which is about the struggles and hardships the Duwamish tribe has gone through here in Seattle since the beginning. The Duwamish tribe is the only tribe that was not given a reservation due to the white settlers not wanting to give them their land. The land that they lived was slowly burned to the ground, became a dumping ground and was taken from them. A woman who co-directed the documentary has been an activist for the Duwamish tribe and has been the Chairwoman of the tribe since 1975 is Cecile Hansen. A story she told was that she stopped sacred land, which was an old village of the Duwamish, being destroyed by standing in front of the bulldozer. On her way home, she saw a bulldozer near the old village about to destroy it, she ran home and called the right people and they called off demolishing that piece of land. Because of Cecile Hansen, that old village, an important part of the Duwamish tribe was saved.
The Blues Jam is beginning in the Atrium of the MOHAI. Annette Taborn, blues singer and archivist, and Reese Tamimura, blues guitarist, are leading the discussion of blues and their performance. Annette loves to teach about the history of music and explains how you can trace history of the United States through music.
They started their performance with a traditional blues in C major with Annette playing harmonica and singing. The next song they picked up the tempo by performing “Johnny B. Goode”. A song originally written and recorded by Chuck Berry back in 1955. For this song, they got the crowd involved! They brought a student up to play tambourine, which made it a more fun and interactive experience for the audience. Following Johnny B. Goode, our professor Michelle Habell-Pallán got on stage to play some tambourine and the drummer started singing while playing drums!
Through their performance we went on a trip through history of blues. Especially when Black Mama came up stage for a song to freestyle because it showed the essence of blues that still can be heard within hip hop today.
In the panel discussion part of the Women Who Rock (Un)Conference, which was the Claiming Space in the Changing City a discussion question that was important was, How do you all see people being pushed out of their respective spaces and what are they, or you doing to stop it? The first women to answer was Black Mama, a femenista artist from Ecuador. She responded to the question by telling us, the audience that one of the ways artists claim space by doing graffiti across the city to convey the message. Another way people claim space is going to restricted areas and have concerts and plays in those areas. They try to spread the information through action since they cannot get it featured in the news.
As soon as you open the main doors to MOHAI, the sound of blues echoes throughout the atrium, filling the wide open space with the ringing of music. Annette Taborn, Reese Tanimura, and other musicians stand upon a stage and alternate between jamming out and describing their life experiences and involvement with music during their life. Their music enlivens and excites the atmosphere, as people in the crowd get into the groove, dancing, clapping, and rocking out in the beat of the bass line, Annette’s harmonica riffs and signature voice, and the rhythm of the percussion. Annette Tabor is described as someone who has been involved with music her whole life, and is a musical archivist with a personal connection with blues and jazz music. Not only does this performance energize the conference as a whole, it reminds us that beyond the archives and the history, we are all here to celebrate the involvement of women in music and to create a center of appreciation and respect for those who are often excluded from the platform.
Annette Taborn, Reese Tanimura, and friends are currently performing blues jam in the MOHAI Atrium. The band’s presence at this conference represents their support for womxn through claiming the space and performing their music. The members introduce themselves after performing their first song, sharing with the audience that their bass player is a former member of the first all women of color rock band in Seattle. The band passionately plays their music, as the lead singer notes that “blues is the folk music of the people.” The lead singer uses not only her voice to create sound and claim space, but she also uses a variety of other instruments, such as a harmonica and a shaker-type instrument.
The band also goes on to invite individuals from the crowd to go on stage and perform with them; this is representative of inviting others to fight for just causes (e.g. justice for women). One individual joins the band and is heard through their playing of the tambourine.
The main entrance of MOHAI housed a collection of powerful images and quotes from women in the women who rock community and powerful women leaders in history and current pop culture. Of these women included Celia Cruz, Laverne Cox, Ida b Wells, Ma Rainey, and Tarana Burke. This served not only as an example of powerful women making a difference, but also as a social activism platform. Specifically, this addressed gentrification in the Seattle area, bringing attention to the issue of low income communities being pushed out of their homes and an increasingly homogenized Seattle.
It’s after lunch time now, and the early afternoon lull has hit. Conference goers wander back into the building to the blues-y sound of Annette Taborn’s harmonica. The lackadaisical tone of this part of the conference is welcoming, as this gives conference goers the opportunity to really appreciate what we came here to learn about: women’s music and women’s role in music.
As we listen to this all-woman blues band, we have the opportunity to examine the Altar that is in the Atrium. The Altar has photos of important women who have stood up and spoken loud about their identity and their values. Also spread throughout the Altar are quotes which cite the importance of the struggle women have experienced. There’s a photo of Tarana Burke with a quote that says “These women are able not just to share their shame but to put the shame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.”
Reading messages like this, while also listening to the music that is created by strong women who have struggled, really codifies the importance of what we are doing here today.
The Womxn Who Rock (un)conference Idea Incubator Forum is a Brave Space attempting to create Safe Spaces for Everyone. Veteran community organizers, women of color expressing their experiences with oppression, and privileged white men working together to practice vulnerability, humility, and create safe spaces. Come down and learn how you can help!
The Altar is a very interesting aspect to the women who rock conference. It is meant to honor the women who have stood up for their rights and have endured pain along the way. This pain isn’t limited to physical pain and is a tribute to the women who have been arrested, injured, or has endured any pain fighting for what they deserve. The Altar has images of women who have made a difference and have spoken out in front of large groups, along with women who can be seen protesting for their rights. This is a very powerful booth because it speaks out for women who recognized they needed to speak out and were treated improperly along the way. The Altar is a meaningful way to represent those women.
Claiming space in the Changing City:
At the conference, we had 4 guest panelists (powerful women in Seattle area). Some of the interesting things that were talked about were the ways to claim space in this busy city. One of the panelists mentioned setting up neighborhood centers to pool money together and make spaces that can be opened up to locals who don’t necessarily have the money to make changes themselves and bring through icons that are typically bought out by rich investors (which takes away from how things were done in the past for the people who were raised with these given icons). They also touched on the idea that it is important to be aware of how people [minority groups] are mistreated and speak out and go talk to city policy makers to change these issues. They also talked about things in the community that people are doing to take space and make themselves known. Black Mama mentioned that the singers and artists of her country use their power to make differences, but no matter what, profits and proceeds are always shuffled through government hands. This is problematic because these officials don’t have the same interests in the community as the artists do and so the profits aren’t used ‘properly’.