The front door was blocked off, so instead, I walked through a moody side alleyway lined with empty liquor bottles and bits of trash, up a severely cracked cobblestone sidewalk and into the back door, held open by a chair. Had I not come to the first women317 event a year ago, I wouldn’t have known what to expect. Tin Comet Coffee was still pretty empty around 7 p.m., when the show was scheduled to start.
When I got there, a few folks were chatting at the small number of scattered tables. A sign that read "free snacks and water" sat beside batches of homemade snicker doodles and frosted carrot cupcakes, donated and baked by two local ladies. After a recommendation from the barista, I settled on a Turkish apple tea, chose a bar stool and prepared to get feminine energy-wasted.
“We wanted to give women a safe space to use the arts as a way to focus on issues facing us in Indy,” said Elle Roberts, the bubbly, young and passionate founder of shehive and curator of the show. After a late start around 7:15 p.m. or so, the show began.
One-by-one, six talented women performed original pieces. Some rapped — including the show’s closing with a cypher from three local female emcees — strummed guitars, sang, played the keys and led a conversation about women being judged based on appearance.
Highlights from the show included the high-energy opening poet, Chantel Massey, who began by singing an acapella verse of "Miss Celie’s Blues" from The Color Purple. Her poem "Black Sheep" was written as a celebration of black girls and women.
Mishara Winston took a different approach. She had asked her aunt and friend to dress as either a homeless woman or a Muslim woman for a day. The goal was to find out whether the two women would be treated differently and to share the results. “My friend in the hijab was nearly refused service at a local Dairy Queen,” said Winston. “While dressed as a panhandling homeless woman, people wouldn’t look my aunt in the eye. However, other homeless people offered her money and support.“
Krystal Tibbs got a standing ovation by taking on the persona of Hattie McDaniel, the first black person to win an Academy Award. Tibbs embodied the frustration and triumph of McDaniel’s Oscar win and explored the judgment the actress received from both blacks and whites for her supporting role in Gone With The Wind.
The crowd was generous with both shouts and applause as each woman finished her piece. As the night went on, people piled into the small coffee shop so tightly that they spilled out of the main room into the foyer. By the end, it was standing room only.
The audience was diverse in ethnicity, gender and age, all there to appreciate the beauty of femininity, in all of its varied forms. It was pretty damn cool. And my Turkish tea was good too.