"The most influential creations often emerge from the realization that there’s something missing, that there is a need which has not yet been addressed or met."
In case you didn’t notice it while it was happening, assuming you were blind to the brilliance, something immensely powerful occurred in Oakland this past weekend, something of undeniable importance. If you've been living under a rock or didn’t quite notice the energy in the air as it shifted, not to worry, I’ll fill you in. From April 6th-9th 2017, the first ever Women in Music Festival commenced, and it was just as glorious as it sounds, kicking off it's first panel event spotlighting a diverse group of women including Goldenvoice talent buyer Ellen Lu, Pandora partner manager Amy Strack, singer-songwriter Rayana Jay, Soulection DJ/producer Eden Hagos, and Chulita Vinyl Club founder-director Claudia Saenz at the Pandora office in downtown Oakland.
"Once you get rid of your fear of failure or making mistakes, you can move with the confidence you need to keep pushing when things aren't perfect."- Evangeline Elder
The most influential creations often emerge from the realization that there’s something missing, that there is a need which has not yet been addressed or met. Innovators see that as an opportunity to fill that gap by acknowledging what does not yet exist in order to bring something great into fruition, to provide space for that specific need to be met. A perfect example of this phenomenon is the space, or lack there of, that Evangeline Elder and Carmena Woodward saw a need for. They created this for not only women in the music industry, but all women everywhere. The message that Woodward and Elder have revealed is that there are so many women out there doing absolutely incredible work, all breakers of the glass ceiling, yet all existing in a world that breeds competition among women. These competitive dynamics leave us with the unfortunate assumption that there can only be one successful woman around- the twisted concept of the token woman. Woven through a series of curated events such as panels, workshops, a market, and dance parties, even an incredibly refreshing yoga course, certain themes kept emerging; these themes were conversations that were finally given the chance to see the light of day, conversations that everyone seemed to know were going to change the framework from that moment forward.
I think women navigate with more intuition, gut feelings, and we're simply vibe readers. I think our emotions have been misconstrued by patriarchy to have us believe that emotions aren't powerful. - Evangeline Elder
Each and every event gleaned of authenticity, and as I would scan the room at each event, I would see a collective head nod taking place, as if all of the women identifying people in the room were ritualistically nodding their heads to show respect and appreciation for all of the women who came before them, all of the women who made something like this women's festival possible in the first place. At times, I was thrown down a rabbit hole of history, remembering the struggles of our ancestors and how they overcame such adversity at times so we may have the sweet experience of privilege, and we do, we are privileged because our women ancestors fought for that right. Seeing it all unfold was beautiful. We were continuing their quest, dismantling patriarchal systems and claiming our own space, weaving new traditions and setting new systems in motion. "The women of the future will appreciate this," I thought to myself over and over again.
"The fact that I believe in myself more than anything else empowers me to keep going and never give up on myself or my goals as a DJ." - Carmena Woodward (aka DJ Red Corvette)
I'm not sure if everyone else realized it, but I'm sure they did. I'm sure they felt it too- that they were witnessing history being made, that Evangeline Elder and Carmena Woodward would go down in women's history as the two heroes they are, creating new space for women to freely express themselves and thrive in. That's the significance, that's the power that we hold when we uplift each other and work together, we are a force not to be reckoned with, and the beauty of it all is that it was just the beginning. These women set in place a ripple affect that will touch lives forever. In Oakland, CA, women choose to be strong, empowered and innovative. Make sure you pay attention as the story unfolds, make sure you don't miss the history as it writes itself.
Where do you draw power and motivation from in this world? Why is that important for you?
E: I draw my power from the women in my life, mainly my mom and grandmothers. My dad is amazing also. But lately I've realized how much my mother's strength is present inside myself. I relate to her more and more everyday in different ways.
I draw my motivation from the different women I meet at events who come up to me looking to network. Their beautiful faces and kind words are enough for me to keep going.
C: My motivation comes from my passion and love for music, first. I always believed that there was a career for me in a male-dominant industry that also isn't easy to make a living in. I also draw motivation from me never wanting to live traditionally or safe so I keep trying and trying until things work and edit those that don't make sense.
I feel empowered every time I am able to help another DJ out, pay women in music, and shock my other DJ friends with the events, mixes, or gigs I book. The fact that I believe in myself more than anything else empowers me to keep going and never give up on myself or my goals as a DJ.
In what ways do you think that women identifying people navigate life differently than men?
E: I think women navigate with more intuition, gut feelings, and we're simply vibe readers. I think our emotions have been misconstrued by patriarchy to have us believe that emotions aren't powerful. But in all reality, women are able to navigate and "feel" things out using their emotions at times, which makes us move different.
C: Women always make a way no matter what they are up against. We usually find out all our options and pay closer attention to details before we execute. Women are also compassionate and create more trustworthy relationships rather than seek opportunity only from others. This helps when we need allies to confide in.
What are a few major ways that women identifying people in the music industry can and have made it a better space?
E: Women have taken on a lot of behind the scenes roles, along with entrepreneurship. So whether we've integrated long-running spaces or created our own spaces in music, as a result of exclusion, we've added our touch increasingly over the years. We still have a long way to go though. There's a lot of silent sexism and passive interaction in the industry.
C: We as women in the music industry have to keep collaborating and building alliances to work and support each other. With all the underpaying, over charging, misogyny etc. we all need to stick together tell our stories. We also need more Women In Music festivals, Chulita Vinyl Clubs, and Everyday People's in the world.
Is there any advice you can offer women identifying people who are hesitant to venture into male- dominated industries/careers?
C: Be hands on about your business. Learn how to properly write an email, have someone proof read all business inquiries, don't be afraid to ask questions or advice from others as well as offer yours. These things make for a successful growing individual in any industry. Get started rather then wait to prepare you learn more once your in it. Lastly, free yourself of timelines it takes time to master anything plus life is constantly evolving.
E: Don't be afraid of rejection or failure. Once you get rid of your fear of failure or making mistakes, you can move with the confidence you need to keep pushing when things aren't perfect. A lot of men and even women will reject you for no reason or look over you. Don't let that deter you from excelling in the industry you want!
What is the most difficult situation you have faced as a woman in your specific field? How did you overcome it?
E: I had to fight to get the right booking price for the artist I manage who is also a woman. The booking company was very rude and passive and low-balled me on her pricing. I had a breakdown day-of her event in my car and had to walk in the venue and deal with the same man & people who had been the main problem. The strength I had to pull together and be a good manager was hard to find that day but I found it...I had to overcome it by putting my emotions aside to make sure my artist was taken care of and that her performance went well. Sometimes you have to rise above what you're handed in the music industry and look at the opportunity cost.
C: Being in a DJ collective of men I have to constantly hold them accountable for their lack of support and my involvement. So with WIM I felt like I wasn't properly being supported and would complain to Vang and friends behind it until I finally spoke out. It took a lot of me to tweet frustrations and call people out but it kind of worked. Although I know I am possibly going to have to continue to be more vocal and not allow people to treat me any way I finally felt like I was heard.
What impact were you hoping this festival would leave on the community? On the music industry?
E: I was hoping the festival would be a direct incubator for women to go after careers that seem like a boys' club from the outside looking in. That women breaking traditional boys' clubs up, is a real thing.
C: I wanted others to see that we as women are present and consistently killing things. The lack of awareness frustrates me whenever I am asked who should I get or who else is killing it as a DJ. We decided to dig deep and book all the local DJ's/talent that we could, that just happened to be women, to show who is looked over.
I also hoped to educate others who want to be in the music industry about the many different positions in music. We don't all have to be an artist, they're lanes open for talent booking, licensing, A&Ring, etc.
What do you see for the future of the Women in Music Festival?
C: I believe the festival will grow into a national/international must attend event with bigger artist, better concepts, and an amazing staff of women to keep pushing the envelope in Music. I also see WIM expanding into other markets where representation is needed.
E: I see the festival getting bigger and better. Expanding our reach and diversity. Exploring more communities of women identifying people. Putting some more money in womens' pockets.
How can people get involved?
E: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We check all of our e-mails and will be building our tribe in the summer.
C: Email us and follow @wimbayarea for upcoming info. We are planning to continue having events throughout the year leading up to Women In Music festival 2018. [I am so excited].
Is there anyone you'd like to shoutout?
C: I want thank Callea Wilson and Megan Brooks for all their help along the way and support with involvement during the entire Festival planning and week. Big thanks to Soundcloud, Pandora Women, Noosa, Bai, Zola, Bare Snacks, Suja Juice, Oaklandish, Adesina Cash, Nook & Kranny, Malidoma and Le Vanguard for all their help, installations, and support that they contributed with the festival. Big shout out to all of our panelist, DJ's/artist, and vendors who killed their sets, talks, and came with the dope goods. Thank you to everyone who came, listened, and bought a ticket I love you all from the bottom of my heart for taking a chance.
Lastly, also want to thank Evangeline for being such an amazing person and dealing with my shit throughout this unfamiliar exciting process. We finally found our groove girl.
You can read a bit about these two women and the beginnings of how the festival came to fruition in this great article in the East Bay Express by Ruth Gebreyesus, also note the iconic cover photographed by Azha Luckman.