On November 4, 2006, two friends and I released our poetry collection Echoes of Women. We dedicated the chapbook and event to our friend Samantha, who committed suicide four years earlier on that date.
We wanted our words to honor her life and words, she being a sister in spirit and fellow poet. We hoped that sharing our words in public would inspire others, especially women, to share their own stories. Because for my friends and me, writing has been a means of survival and living its end.
An open mike followed our performance. Women and men told stories and visions. One woman broke a decade of silence with ten of her poems. The last to read was a six-year-old girl who shared what she had written while sitting among us. Acceptance in this space was tangible, threaded by our stories of joy, pain, and the absurd. All of this stemmed from creating a space to respect the lives and words of women.
That evening was one of several events I organized with fellow poets in the Lansing area, most of which took place along the 2000 block of East Michigan Avenue, among the neighborhood where I lived. The venues welcomed occasions for local word art: Gone Wired Cafe, Everybody Reads Bookstore, and the much missed Magdalena’s Tea House. In moving back to the same neighborhood this year, I am excited to spur on such events again, like The HerStories Project happening in March.
HerStories celebrates stories about women during Women’s History Month. The program runs on Saturday afternoons at Everybody Reads Bookstore, 2019 East Michigan Avenue. These free events are offered by talented writers, storytellers, and inspired spirits â€“ a number of whom live on the Eastside. The unique program is the result of each contributor, sponsor, and partner, who are listed on the HerStories web site – http://deyofthephoenix.com/herstories .
The program includes storytelling for all ages, writing workshops, and a reading with author Andrea King Collier. The closing event is the Benefit Show and Open Mike on March 27, a fundraiser for the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing. Ultimately, I hope that these events create a space of the quality described earlier: where and when people from all walks of life feel welcomed, so welcomed that one’s story may touch another, whether with laughter, tears, or righteous anger. In other words, that we may gather and truly be in the same place.
For questions about The HerStories Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org.