First Bloom is an annual women’s history month celebration including music and poetry from local female voices. As founder Susan Lively remarked, a lot of people do not realize that women’s history month is even happening. First Bloom is her way of highlighting the occasion, by providing a setting for local artists to empower other women and make their voices heard. Kranzberg Arts Center, a local non-profit venue that enriches local arts and education, is the perfect venue for Lively’s event.
First to the stage was event coordinator and creator Susan “Spit-fire” Lively. Susan is an artist, poet, and writer. She started out with her erotic piece titled “Erasure”, which oozed female sex appeal. She moved through her pieces in her distinct breathy and yearning style—covering topics of social justice and love. To bring her second set to a close she performed a piece that she dedicated to women, called “I Am”, touching on what it means to be a woman. Susan wears her passion on her sleeve and it’s inspiring to see the lengths she takes to bring women together to celebrate each other.
Emma Jean took the stage and didn’t waste a moment getting raw with the audience. Emma is a singer, entrepreneur, poet and public speaker among many talents—her focus is on mental health healing. She sent her first few minutes giving us an idea of her perspective, delving into details of her life journey, past trauma, and her relationship with her mother. To start off the performance she sang an A cappella version of “Lost and Found” by Lianne La Havas, her beautiful voice carried us through an emotional song about being damaged by someone we love. Although the song took us to emotional places Emma was sure to steer us in an uplifting direction as she spoke about embracing darkness and turning it into forgiveness. Emma’s original pieces cover a range of topics from intimacy, to judgmental people, to losing her father—but her overall message was powerful and she radiated positivity energy and acceptance. Her book, Unveiling Hidden Excellence, will be available for purchase on June 20th, you can follow updates on the book’s Facebook page.
Next to the stage was Daniella Monae, a model, poet, and writer. She began shouting her opening before she even walked all the way onto the stage—making her attitude and power apparent from the start. Her own words, “Black girl magic might be cute, but not quiet”. Daniella has a uniquely affronting style and uses clever word-play in her pieces that cover topics of relationships, bad first dates, and love. To close her set, she read several of her haikus that display her talent for funny word-play and invited the audience to become her friend on social media and stressed wanting to make a connection with people. She spoke about empowering women and supporting black owned businesses. Daniella is the host of Verbzz After Dark, and open mic intended to provide a platform for voices to be heard—the open mic is held every 2nd and 4th Saturday at Northwest Coffee.
Pamela Garvey took the stage next, reading from her book of poetry that was only released a few weeks ago titled “Seven Miles Deep”. Pamela opened her set with an interesting and daring poem that takes the perspective of The Virgin Mary speaking on the immaculate conception. Her imagery and beautiful word choices evoke intense emotions that force us to look at the story from a critical new perspective. She uses the repeating imagery of wasps, which she explains stemmed from a nest that she watched grow between two window panes of her past house in Virginia. Pamela also touched upon her time spent in El Salvador after the 13-year civil war, how women are silenced, and her relationship with her mother. Her style is marked with a slow cadence that’s packed with powerful metaphorical meaning and raw emotions. You can buy her book “Fear” and her new book “Seven Miles Deep” on Amazon.
Following was Felice Skye who is a writer, poet, and jewelry maker. Felice has the kind of voice that instantly relaxes you and urges you to listen and a contagious smile. In her opening remarks she stated, “I love being in love and being inspired by love”, and that was apparent throughout her performance. Her first poem was about a past love, clearly written while she was at the height of passion, she delivered it with her sensual slow cadence with humorous moments throughout. She moved to the more serious topic of her younger sister who battled Leukemia at age 4. Felice took a heavy subject and turned it into a poem about learning to be strong. During her second set, she performed a poem about her own illness, Scleroderma, titled “Hard Skin”—giving the audience a glimpse into her journey finding acceptance of her condition. She performed an inspiring piece about being supported by community, as well as a hard hitting and emotional poem about missing black girls and human trafficking that is particularly relevant and in need of a spot light. Her openness, beautiful energy, and passion added a lovely element to the group of amazing women gathered at the event. To support Felice, visit her jewelry website or check out her book “Lovepower Mixtape Vol. 1: Relativity”.
Drea Vocalz took the stage next, after a few minor technical difficulties, she didn’t miss a beat and captured the audience with her beautiful singing voice and sensual stage presence. She encouraged the audience to participate in “repeat-after-me” fashion. Her original songs are made up of smart lyrics, heady beats, her powerful voice, and of course her unique and confident attitude. The audience shouted encouraging words as she performed like, “Sing it, girl!”—the supportive energy was uplifting to be a part of. To start off her second set, Drea said, “I feel good, I feel empowered”, I think we all agreed. She performed a cover of Erykah Badu’s track “Tyrone”, as well as a powerful performance of “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys—the perfect anthem for female empowerment.
Next was singer/songwriter, Raye Cole, who battled a broken shoe and a dead car battery to make it to the event. Her first piece was a poem titled, “Mind Games”, which touched on the topic of staying in a relationship even when it’s not good for us, which surely many women in the audience could relate to. Next, she sang an original piece titled, “Like This”, which borrows lyrics from Mamma Said by The Shirelles—but Raye put her own spin on the song, which was written about her mother who passed 9 years ago. She has a beautiful and powerful voice with palpable passion.
Arica Foster took the stage, joined by her two children. She spent a moment explaining how she hadn’t performed for an audience in two years, although she started out a bit timid we had the opportunity to watch Arica open and spill her heart out to the audience in a truly moving way. Her first song titled “A.M.” was written for her goddaughter, Ambria, who passed suddenly a couple of years ago. It was unique to see such a lovely, and musically talented, family perform together. After the song, Arica visibly opened something within herself, and she took a moment to speak impromptu words on mourning several losses of important people in her life. She dedicated the next song to her mother who sat in the back of the crowd, the song was “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom” by India Arie. Arica’s performance made us all stop to think about how we individually process loss and trauma and how important it is to take the time to feel our emotions. She proved to all of us how the deepest pain can be turned into beautiful creative energy. We felt as though we watched her transform and heal through her creative expression on the stage, right before our eyes, which speaks volumes about the importance of coming together to celebrate the strength of women through creativity.
Our host, Susan Lively, closed the evening with a poem dedicated to her late great-grand mother, which she has performed at every First Bloom event. It was a perfectly fitting way to end the evening. First Bloom was a night of female empowerment that left everyone in the room feeling creatively charged and just a little bit more comfortable in their own skin. Each woman shared a piece of their soul with us; from stories of heartbreak and abuse, to their relationships with their mothers. Each artist had their own unique perspective on what it means to be a woman, and the path they have gone to learn to love themselves better. It was a beautiful way to highlight how empowering the diversity among women truly is. These lovely and talented artists have all experienced loss, yet they have turned those experiences into passionate and meaningful art.
More photos from the event: