SistersInMotion: Social Transformation Through Poetry and Spoken-Word
Today, we are witnessing a global surgency of resistance to a patriarchal reality that has for too long overshadowed the stories of our sisters. Each of us has become well-acquainted with a history overrun by men—by the thoughts of male philosophers, writers and artists—but now, we want to know herstory as we yearn to bring to the forefront the voices of those who have been marginalised for far too long. It was renowned feminist revolutionary Robin Morgan who coined the term herstory, alongside her iconic symbol of the raised fist for feminism. These symbols gained momentum amidst the rise of radical feminism in the 1970s, which sought to disrupt the patriarchal dominion over the female experience.
Indeed, when those with whom we share our cultural identities gain representation among the mainstream and shine under the spotlight, we feel legitimized in our communities; that is why it is so important to find channels that encourage society’s gradual transition to equality and fair representation. We need to find ways to support those whose stories have remained silenced, because now is our time to free ourselves from a past of oppression and let other voices claim the history books of tomorrow.
It is exactly these values that are embodied by Montreal’s SistersInMotion—an initiative that aspires to empower those from racialized and Indigenous communities who self-identify as women. The organization promotes the artistic and cultural nuances present among the city’s more vulnerable sisterhood, and strives to celebrate the intersectionalities of feminism through poetry and prose.
As part of their vision, SistersInMotion hosts a multitude of events that serve as safe and supportive spaces for BIPOC (black, Indigenous, and people of colour) women to freely express themselves. Events range from poetry nights and workshops, to a larger annual show. Each event is centered around the art of performance, empowering sisters in ways that showcase their creativity—creativity that is often conveyed by way of powerful spoken-word.
But these events are so much more than just a way of entrusting safe spaces for women to recite their works: they gift the community with a platform whereby the words of racialized and Indigenous women can be heard. With the help of SistersInMotion, we are able to engage with realities that are so often pushed to the peripheries of mainstream culture.
Malek and Dona, who are the SistersInMotion organizers, underscore the importance of listening, particularly in today’s world, which has become oversaturated with communication techniques that tend to emphasize the individual rather than the communal self. With the rise of social media comes a newfound agency to share our stories and voice our opinions, but somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how to listen—how to sit with our loved ones and be entirely present with them. The buzz and whir of technology is irresistible, but our ability to connect is suffering for it. These are just some of the concerns Malek and Dona have, which is why they aim to host events that force us to become reacquainted with both ourselves and with our communities. Our presence contributes to a different yet equally important form of participation: it creates a powerful space that supports those who feel the weight of oppression while maintaining a strong sense of community. What is more is that these sorts of events foster meaningful listening—a practice that is often neglected in the wake of today's social media use and the corresponding self-promotion that comes with it.
One of SistersInMotion’s more popular events takes place at Kafein Bar, which is located in the heart of downtown Montreal. The series is known as Poetry Night, and it occurs every second Tuesday. The night begins with performances from local poets, followed by an open-mic segment. Dona and Malek underscore the importance of having platforms that are open to everyone, which is why Poetry Night provides an accessible stage for all who wish to share their words. That is exactly the power and purpose of spoken poetry: It allows for the sharing of experiences that span across all walks-of-life, which in turn helps us practice what Dona and Malek describe as authentic communication. For many, these spaces become sanctuaries—places we are safe to freely express ourselves while feeling supported and encouraged by our community. They become an escape from the often impersonal culture of cyberspace, which aims to lend refuge for those who desire to speak their truths.
SistersInMotion also has a goal of facilitating explorative encounters with the self; by channeling our creative energies through poetry and the art of performance, we engage facets of our identity in ways that force us to confront heavier truths—whether about ourselves or about broader social issues. As Malek and Dona reveal, artistic self-expression helps us confront these realities and discuss things that might otherwise go unaddressed.
Indeed, acts of self-expression can be revolutionary, but we must first ensure that there are platforms to support them. That is why it is worth recognizing the efforts of organizations like SistersInMotion—particularly in today’s age of social transformation and reconciliation. Thanks to the hard work of people like Dona and Malek, and to the participation of Montreal’s poets and artists, we can begin confronting and breaking down the barriers that exist both within ourselves, and within our communities.
By Hania Peper