When six local women, who were all involved in hip-hop in some way or another, got together and started throwing around ideas for a local hip-hop festival, Be-Girl Be emerged. DeAnna Cummings, Desdamona, Leah Nelson, Rachel Raimist, Melisa Riviere and Theresa Sweetland saw other events happening around the United States but wanted to infuse all elements of hip-hop into their festival. And they wanted to have more than a dialogue; they wanted to take action.
They also wanted to keep it young and fresh, so they brought in an advisory board of ten other girls and women to help create the program. “Bringing the right people to the table who have serious dedication and passion really made it happen” said Sweetland.
After a successful summit and festival in 2005–thousands of people attended, more than they or Intermedia, the host establishment, ever expected–this year they expanded this vision and started connecting with the larger global movement of women gaining ground in music, specifically in hip-hop. They’re calling on advisors and artists from around the world.
Local hip-hop musician and spoken-word artist Desdamona is on the advisory and curatorial panel again this year. Her CD The Ledge was one of the best local albums of last year. Desdamona is a perfect example of someone who stepped above the male-dominated hip-hop scene and made her mark.
“A few years back no one seemed to think that there were any females on the hip-hop scene outside of the stereotyped “groupies”. I think B-Girl Be is about saying, Hey, we’re here…and we’re serious about it,” says Desdamona.
Desdamona also knows how hard it is to get started. Even getting your foot in the door can be hard if you’re a female artist.
“I think that B-Girl Be is a place where we give space to women who are at the top of their craft and also to those who are just starting out. Everyone needs to have an example. Once they see the example they know what to reach for and the doors swing open.” says Desdamona.
Desdamona also feels that she hopes the girls and women can take with them a sense of pride, and the feeling they can create the world they want to live in. She also feels that there are greater goals than just having a well-attended and popular summit. “This is about building community and creating a space for people to come and interact with women from all over the world, who are redefining hip-hop for themselves. It’s about telling our stories instead of someone else decided how we are represented.”
Everything starts June 29 at Intermedia Arts with the four-day B-Girl Summit, which brings in national, international, and local girls and women in hip-hop. There will be performances, art making, screenings and workshops.
One of the featured guests is DJ Pam the Funkstress (San Francisco), one of the true pioneers of all female DJs. She also is an advocate for female independence and the pursuit of human rights.
B-Girl Be continues on through July and August with an art exhibition and workshops. Two weeks of workshops for young women run from July 10-21, which will introduce them to aerosol art, rap, hip-hop, dance and digital media.
Music, art and activism can be great equalizers. Last year’s event had a great representation of diverse cultural groups. People of all ages attended the event, and even though the word “Girl” is the main focus, an equal number of men attended the event as well.
For the most up-to-date information and to learn how to purchase tickets, call Intermedia Arts at (612) 871-4444 or visit www.intermediaarts.org. All events take place at Intermedia Arts unless otherwise noted. Intermedia Arts is located at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408.