Local efforts boost women artists from New Orleans

March 2, 2007
By

TYE WALLER AND

A year-and-a-half after Katrina, there is still the challenge of helping the people of New Orleans make their way home.

On Feb. 9, Spontaneous Celebrations Community and Cultural Center of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury sponsored the first benefit for the New Orleans Women Artist Collective (NOWAC). Spontaneous Celebrations (www.spontaneouscelebrations.org) is located in a 19th century social club on Danforth Street, and for this evening to raise money for NOWAC, it was transformed into a bit of New Orleans, with music, fellowship, Mardi Gras beads, good food and crawdaddies, too.

NOWAC is a non-profit organization based in Jamaica Plain and New Orleans founded last fall to assist New Orleans women artists in their journey back home by providing them with the support and resources necessary to restore and sustain their livelihood through the arts, with the encouragement of artists both within and beyond their communities.

NOWAC’s $1 Restore-A-Home Campaign is working to get volunteer tradespeople and donated materials down to New Orleans. To date, they’ve been working with a number of artists and musicians in New Orleans. One of the first of several recipients of this kind of restoration help was former Berklee professor Angelamia Bachemin who had returned to New Orleans just before Katrina. There are a number of other projects lined up for the spring months to continue this rebuilding.

Several of the artists have said to members of NOWAC that they just want to get back to work, but it’s hard to do that when just surviving in the still not restored infrastructure of New Orleans is a daily challenge. To help overcome this, NOWAC is organizing both small and larger tours for some New Orleans women musicians.

One of the first of these groups on tour will be Zion Trinity, a group of songwriters who sing in the genres of roots (churchical) reggae, jazz, funk, spirituals, and African ritual chants from the African diaspora. One of the members of Zion Trinity has also received rebuilding help. A much larger tour is planned for the early fall. Berklee College of Music is going to be sponsoring part of this tour, which will start at the Berklee Performance Center and make its way back to New Orleans, with stops in several cities on the way back home.

NOWAC’s upcoming all-women Poetry Slam contest, sponsored by the Milky Way Lounge, will be held on March 29 and feature visiting poets from New Orleans as well as local poets. This is a cash prize event which will take place at Milky Way.

For more information about the work that NOWAC is doing and the lineup of the poetry contest as it takes shape, see the NOWAC web site, www.nowac.org.

The writers are cofounders of NOWAC.

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