future is female; the future is now
by Elijah Watkins
The Future is Female
On Saturday, April 14, 2018, Beyoncé Knowles made history by becoming the first African-American woman to headline Coachella, America’s biggest festival. Her performance was an unprecedented and unapologetically black showcase to a majority-white audience. Beyonce’s headlining performance broke barriers by showcasing raw African-American culture at Coachella in a manner that her black-male predecessors, including her husband Jay-Z, couldn’t. She ditched the expected million-dollar electronic production and chose a backdrop of black marching bands, black dancers, and other black celebrity guests.
This isn’t the first time an African-American woman has kicked down doors. Simply skim through the pages of history and you’ll see the undeniable truth that black-women have frequently been the true catalysts shifting global perspectives and spawning international movements. Yet these women, too often, go overlooked and underappreciated--and this fact is ever present even in our own backyards. During the same weekend as the phenomenon we now refer to as “Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance”, there was a cultural shift occurring in the city of Atlanta that spearheaded by collectives (yes, collectives with a ‘s’) of innovative, artistic and entrepreneurial women of color. Like Beyoncé, these ladies were acting as catalysts for the arts.
Unfortunately, unlike Beyoncé, there was little-to-no media coverage or documentation highlighting how these fearless females were progressing “the culture”. The lack of coverage and recognition was the only true disappointment. It gave me a greater understanding why Drake partnered with 22-year-old Karena Evans to praise an all-star cast of female mavens in his music video, ‘Nice for What’. I, too, felt compelled to create my own ode that could showcase the work of these young, but strong women of color in Atlanta so that their work never goes overlooked and forgotten in history.
An Exploration of Her Ritual
The first event, that led this feminine powered weekend in Atlanta was kicked-off with, ‘An Exploration of Her Ritual’ was curated by Paula Cuevas, and the SOAP Goods Creative. With opening day on Friday, April 13th, the event exhibited new and original works from 23 female photographers, artists, and designers. Together they created an interactive art environment that illustrated the hidden-elegance lying within the rituals that allow women to fully embrace their femininity to its supreme, and still very personal, nature.
A standout installation included, ‘The Restroom’ created by Quianah Upton. The bathroom installation served as mystic sanctuary filled with a myriad of products that women know oh too well. From a male perspective, it allowed me to understand how these “sacred” products metaphorize women’s appearances. These appearances that many men (admittedly, myself included) take for granted because we’re so used to the end-result and not the products or the process involved. Equally as impressive was Chrissy Brimmage’s “Heart” piece it encouraged its audience to “touch my heart, but please be gentle” and it bathymetrically changes colors under the warmth of one’s touch.
Opening night was packed to the brim with an audience as eclectic as the artwork itself, but many didn’t get the chance get into the high-demand and low-capacity of the gallery. To me, this was just a foreshadowing of the impact that a collective of women of color can create when they create together. The exhibition is available for viewing until May 4, 2018.
Another amazing display of black (female) excellence came the next day, Saturday, April 14, with The Cleaners pop-up shop. It was curated and founded by Brittni Mariah and hosted at the Public Eye Studio. As the name “The Cleaners” suggests, the environment was tastefully inspired by the every day dry-cleaners. Brittni successfully enlisted a variety of women and female brands including Alex Belle, St. Babylon, Jazmyn George, and many more.
While being a commerce hub for upcoming clothing brands, the pop-up also included clothing from individual’s own personal collections. The experience immersed and engaged a niche community by showcasing brands that lead by female designers that constantly push Atlanta’s fashion scene forward. While the pop-up has concluded, people can stay updated with The Cleaners by following their brand on IG.
the Art of Metanoia
The weekend lead by female mavens concluded on Sunday, April 15th with the Art of Metanoia quarterly-hosted event, founded by Auriel Oates. The Art of Metanoia, located at the M. Rich Building, has become quickly become a local staple that displays a plethora of young upcoming artists, designers, and musicians. What Auriel successfully demonstrates, time and time again, is that she and her team can consistently cultivate a community of creatives that maintains its freshness and energy. Her niche community has become an incubation that bridges the gap allowing both younger and older generations alike to express themselves authentically, and party authentically, like any true Atlantan.
The Future is Now
Perhaps this incredible ‘Year of the Woman’ can be marked with Oprah’s “Their time is up” Golden Globe speech on January 7, 2018, leading up to the Beychella performance. One thing is for certain: the future has always been women and the future is right now. Women like Paula, Brittini, Auriel and countless others are creating a beautiful world without fear. As a young black man raised under a largely matriarchal household, I find that it is my responsibility to do the best that I can to support this progressive movement. After all, this global shift is being charged and powered by my fellow sisters, mothers, aunties, and soon will be carried own by my future daughters that will create a brighter future for us all.