Elle Roberts made it a point in the past to differentiate between the two — to ensure that political did not interfere or make anyone feel like the women317 space was no their's. Since women317 is a derivative of Shehive — a meet up of women in Indianapolis to discuss different points of sexism, race, intolerance and simply to share perspectives — it made sense for the group to fire the gun at this starting line. Now. Now, things are a bit different. The group realized that every situation they were encountering did have a personal element, but it had a systematic derivative that was rooted in a political problem. This is why Roberts decided to kick off 2016 with a night that was all about what it is like to be a woman who is considered less than by the laws that dictate the actions of Indiana and influence how women in the state are educated.
The next event that women317 will host is based on the idea of "Homecoming." They are focusing the show on immigrant artists who identify as women. The night will be a partnership between Indy Parks and Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance (IUYA) held at Garfield Park. The park was already planning on hosting a visual art exhibit showcasing the work of women artists around the city. The Homecoming night will be in the same gallery space.
"The focus of the show is talking about the struggles of being undocumented in Indiana, specifically being a woman who is undocumented in Indiana," says Roberts. "That comes with an added layer and issue concerning gender and also not having papers. What does that mean moving through the wold, what does that mean in the united states, what does that mean in Indianapolis — all of those things present very different issues."
The idea to make this show political was not far left of where women317 has been for a while.
"When you have a show featuring all women, that is political," laughs Roberts. "They could be reciting their ABCs but [the fact that it's] all women together is political."
Another element of the show is laying the groundwork for how Indy residents can make the city a more welcoming place as a whole, and giving a president for what those spaces can look like.
Roberts quantifies it as: "How can women specifically lead the charge on talking about how undocumented people, immigrant communities, are valuable, worthy of respect and should not have to take any lack of respect."
Roberts added that she has been playing with the idea for nearly two years — since Shehive started to take root.
"What kept me from doing it was, one: wanting to build actual authentic relationships with people who identify as immigrants. And not wanting it to feel icky — like a token kind of thing. I hate that. I hate being a token and would never want to make anyone else feel like that ... [It's about] opening up this space that we created for women and realizing that when we are talking about women, we are talking about all women. A lot of time when we talk about women we have this idea in our minds and we forget that there are all kinds of different women who live here in the city. And really being intentional about making sure that people of other cultures feel like this is a space where I can be a women too."
The show will not only be held in the same gallery space as an understood space for female artists, it will host musicians, visual artists, poets and performance artists who are willing to lend their time and creative energy to raising funds for (specifically) undocumented students who, under Indiana law, are forced to pay out of state tuition even though they have grown up as a Hoosier. This is a struggle that stretches far beyond the theoretical for Dara Márquez.
Márquez is one of the poets who will be reading at Homecoming, and one of the representatives of IUYA. She, like so many other women in Indiana was denied a right to education because of her family's decision to see a more stable life.
"It (the idea of Homecoming) reminds me of the different times or different moments where my family, myself or my community has essentially been asked to go back home in different ways — not directly, but in different ways like 'go back where you came from,'" says Márquez.
She was born in Mexico but came to the Elkhart, Ind. at three-years-old. When the time came for her to attend college she found that the same year she graduated there was legislation enacted that would strip her of her scholarship due to her documentation status.
"In that college degree, our family, and our community, and our parents, will be able to earn that respect that we have often been denied — that we haven't been shown as humans," says Márquez describing the two poems that she will be blending in her reading at Homecoming in reflection of her personal experience. "Maybe not just the respect, but also the conformation and validation of our human dignity. Even "though that's not how it should be, society should respect and value all human dignity. But through a college education is how this poem is interpreting it. I combined both of those poems to tell my story and how if it weren't for my mom working as a housekeeping lady, or working in a factory and breaking her back, I wouldn't have a college education. My college degree is my demonstration of my family's sacrifice, and how much I value it, and how it will no longer be denied that that sacrifice was made."
The show will be a fundraising benefit for IUYA and the constant work they do to repeal the legislation baring undocumented students from the same education that their peers might have.