25 Nov VOICES: The Listening Tour: Listening Is Crucial In Solidarity-making
“We need each other. To hear each other and to think about the ways we create and imagine with the discourse we have,” says Aja Monet, V-Day’s new VOICES Artistic Creative Director. VOICES is an entirely new art project and campaign, featuring stories by and for Black women on the African Continent and across the African Diaspora to unify the vision of ending violence against women: cis women, trans women, and nonbinary people.
VOICES begins with listening. In the lead up to the artistic piece, Aja is hosting The Virtual Listening Tour on VOICES’ Instagram Live. It’s an expansive series, featuring conversations, performances, and offerings that will encourage and inspire Black women from all across the African diaspora to submit their stories, poems, and art to VOICES and demonstrate how those in solidarity can engage with the project.
Conversations so far have included:
Influential contemporary American artist and MacArthur “genius” grant winner Carrie Mae Weems, who told Monet, “I push myself because there’s certain things I want to see in my lifetime and that’s starting to happen,” noting that Black Women “are the craters of the expression of the moment.”
Roslyn Smith and Liza Jessie Peterson, two women who have been impacted by the prison industrial complex and use art with women behind bars. This is how they described their conversation, “Since the foundations of this country, Black women have pulled from language, from song, from storytelling, from art and from the depths of their soul to survive in places not created for their livelihood. In using the power of their voices and using their imagination to create new worlds, incarcerated women all over the country are refusing victimhood and manifesting freedom.”
Sonya Renee Taylor who sees, uses, and promotes radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice. She shared, “Care inside of whiteness is always mitigated by the structures and confines of white supremecist delusion. That is not care. What I want is the care that says, yes, if they sell your baby down the river, I will care for your baby like she is my own. That’s Black care. That’s the kind of care I am interested in.
Radha Blank, writer, director, and producer of Netflix’s upcoming Forty Year Old Version who asked, “Can Black storytelling get the space to be mundane? To be quiet? To be contemplative?” before declaring “we have a right to safety, to silence, to contemplation, to mundanity.”
And of course,V, formerly Eve Ensler, who opened the series with Aja discussing the importance of listening, solidarity, and meaningful collaboration. “One of the things I’m really excited about is solidarity,” said V. “It’s time for white women to listen… The role in this for anybody who’s not a Black woman is to listen, take this in, to allow this material to impact you, to transform you, to take you somewhere elses where you haven’t been before”.
After all, listening is crucial in solidarity-making. So listen in to the series, which has featured Sonya Renee Taylor, Radha Blank, Carrie Mae Weems, Roslyn Smith, Lisa Jessie Peterson, Safiya Umoja Noble PHD, Mandy Harris Williams, Karimot Odebode, and Virginie Pougnand. And there will be more as The Listening Tour continues on Instagram, with the VOICES team working to decolonize that space by inviting artist and activist communities to radically listen to Black women, their voices, stories, and art.
VOICES is actively facilitating this listening, calling upon Black women to share their poems, monologues, stories, and visual art by the end of the year. From these submissions, Aja and the VOICES team are curating an entirely new piece that will replace The Vagina Monologues as the heart of V-Day’s work, as its central piece of transformative art.
As Aja says, “It is time for new art and new stories to be at the center of our movement against violence, poverty, racism, and patriarchy… No movement will survive without our sistering. When we can carry one another in our struggle and our joy, in our frustrations and our contradictions, we make more room in the world for healing justice… What can be more expansive than the consciousnesses of women united across the world? ”
Join V-Day by tuning into the listenting tour on YouTube or adding your voice to the VOICES project by submitting your artwork. Let us embody and inspire solidarity-making in our collective imagination.