Songs in Black and Lavender

Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music

EILEEN M. HAYES
Foreword by Linda Tillery
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xchf2
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  • Book Info
    Songs in Black and Lavender
    Book Description:

    Drawing on fieldwork conducted at eight women's music festivals, Eileen M. Hayes shows how studying these festivals--attended by predominately white lesbians--provides critical insight into the role of music and lesbian community formation. She argues that the women's music festival is a significant institutional site for the emergence of black feminist consciousness in the contemporary period. Hayes also offers sage perspectives on black women's involvement in the women's music festival scene, the ramifications of their performances as drag kings in those environments, and the challenges and joys of a black lesbian retreat based on the feminist festival model. With acuity and candor, longtime feminist activist Hayes elucidates why this music scene matters. Veteran vocalist, percussionist, producer, and cultural historian Linda Tillery provides a foreword.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09149-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Linda Tillery

    Songs in Black and Lavenderis an ambitious undertaking that provides the reader with an incisive and thought-provoking analysis of a musical space that has been significantly reconfigured since its emergence in the early 1970s. As has been true with all major political or social movements, the concept of “women’s music” was born out of a need for free expression and self-identification. Previously there had been no outlet for the cultural expression of woman-identified (lesbian feminist) ideologies.

    The radical women’s movement of the 1970s held out hope that women of all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds would be able to...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is about manifestations of black feminist consciousness in “women’s music,” which, as I argue here, is less a type of music than it is a site of women’s thinking about music, a context for the enactment of lesbian feminist politics and notions of community.

    Women’s musicrefers to a geographically dispersed network that arose from performances organized and produced by white lesbian, lesbian feminist, and feminist musicians and activists and was extended through their subsequent founding of women’s music recording and distribution companies in the early 1970s.¹ Women’s music was part and parcel of the women’s culture, fueled...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Diary of a Mad Black Woman Festigoer
    (pp. 9-31)

    In the typical arrival story, a familiar aspect of traditional ethnography, the anthropologist acquaints herself with persons unknown and prepares to settle in so that she can begin her “real work.” Although technically this diary does not do precisely that, my intent is that readers will find it a useful introduction to themes raised in this book. This includes, but is not limited to, the experience of festivals from the perspectives of black women.

    Although some readers will be familiar with the women’s music festival scene, most will probably not. Therefore, I sought a vehicle through which I could both...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Reconnaissance: ENTERING A MUSIC FESTIVAL SCENE
    (pp. 32-45)

    Songs in Black and Lavenderunites interview-based research with multisited ethnography carried out at eight different women’s music festivals held during the summers of 1992–1995 and 2003–2005. I attended the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, the Gulf Coast Womyn’s Festival (Ovett, Mississippi), the National Women’s Music Festival (Bloomington, Indiana, and Muncie, Indiana), the Northampton Lesbian Festival (Northampton, Massachusetts), the West Coast Women’s Music and Comedy Festival (Yosemite National Park, California), Wiminfest (Albuquerque, New Mexico), Sistahfest (Malibu, California), and Serafemme: Women of Color Music Festival (Los Angeles, California).¹ I conducted open-ended interviews with more than thirty black women musicians and...

  7. CHAPTER 3 After the Golden Age: NEGOTIATING PERSPECTIVE
    (pp. 46-63)

    According to both movement founders and scholars, women’s music experienced its golden age from the early 1970s to the mid-to-late 1980s, a period that roughly coincides with the heyday of the women’s movement, 1969–1984.¹ As liberal feminism became more institutionalized, explicit antifeminism emerged in the late 1970s as a major foundation of the ultraconservative New Right; the election of President Ronald Reagan reflected the influence of that countermovement.² The halcyon days of the women’s movement gave way to a period of abeyance or suspended activity. Scholars point out that it is possible for members of social movements to feel...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Nappy (and Deep) Roots: STREAMS OF MUSICAL AND POLITICAL INFLUENCE
    (pp. 64-77)

    In this chapter I address streams of musical and political influence that loom large in the genealogy of black women’s collective involvement in women’s music. In doing so, I attempt to reconcile a complex of musical styles and political influences that does not fit easily into traditional histories, whether they concern black music, black women’s history, black feminist organizational history, or lesbian feminist politics.

    Three musical histories converge in women’s music. The first is a broad category of music generally identified as African American, including the entire range of black musical genres, from spirituals to funk. The second category, related...

  9. CHAPTER 5 “Ideal Relationships”: WOMEN’S MUSIC AUDIENCES
    (pp. 78-88)

    In an essay about the commensurate value of musics cross-culturally, ethnomusicologist Christopher Small argues that through music making of all types, our versions of “ideal relationships” are enacted.¹ In this chapter, I focus not only on what musicians and audience members find of value musically in women’s music but also on the types of relationships that audience members expect to see enacted on the stage. I also examine the vision of sisterhood that festival producers project through various promotional materials and through scheduled films included in festival programs. Finally, in an examination of the statement “Black women don’t camp”—frequently...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Redistricting: GAY AND BLACK OUTDOORS
    (pp. 89-113)

    This chapter illustrates the type of conceptual realignment described in chapter 1 as “redistricting.” Given the persistence of a yearning on the part of many African American women for a majority-black lesbian music festival, this chapter refigures all-black events as sites for the emergence of an ideal relationship that departs from that described in the previous chapter. The focus is two events that are similar in ethos to the other lesbian music festivals discussed in this book. Organized into three parts, the chapter includes an interview with the founder of a one-day music festival for women of color; an interview...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Legacy: MUSICIANS OF THE NEXT GENERATION
    (pp. 114-130)

    The reflections that open this chapter are voiced by members of two different generations of black women in women’s music. Tillery’s statement that she is not ready to step aside points to the longevity of some musicians in women’s music, as well as to the vibrancy of a generation of middle-aged women in popular music, from rock to soul to jazz, who are dubbed legends by a new generation.¹ The words of the veteran are counterposed to a comment by singer/songwriter Nedra Johnson, who, as ascendancies go, has risen fast in women’s music; after more than fifteen years in the...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Working for the Weekend: FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS AND WORKERS
    (pp. 131-147)

    Denaturalizing the work involved in the production of women’s music festivals, this chapter emanates from my conversations with black lesbians about their experiences in festival organization—in other words, their roles behind the scenes as they work, often for periods as long as a year, in anticipation of the festival. Women play various roles: as program series organizers, as board members of the nonprofit entities that produce the predominantly white women’s music festivals, or, as workers who are charged with greater responsibility than the rank-and-file festigoer and who in turn receive a modicum of compensation. Board members, whose roles are...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Guys like Us: COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP REVISITED
    (pp. 148-174)

    In recent years, drag kinging—the opposite of drag queening in that it constitutes a performance of masculinity by women—has become a source of entertainment and debate on the women’s music festival circuit. This chapter unites an exploration of drag kinging with an analysis of the Michigan festival’s women-born women admission policy and its ramifications. In 2006 the Michigan festival changed its policy of admitting only “womyn-born womyn” and, in response to pressure by transgender activists and allies, began openly admitting male-to-female (MtF) transgenders. This action brought to a close a controversy of nearly two decades over the admittance...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-178)

    As this book goes to press, I think of the women who contributed to this study and their candor, strategic silences, and activism in music and lesbian-feminist community formation. Black women’s involvement in women’s music—from Sweet Honey in the Rock to the Varied Voices of Black Women tour, and from the first to the next generation of musicians—comprises an important chapter in the annals of black women’s music making and in the history of African American feminist thought. At the same time, this book is not a history of the localized contexts, meaning specific festivals, that are focal...

  15. Dreamgirls: A STAR-GAZER’S GUIDE TO MUSICIANS
    (pp. 179-180)
  16. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 181-184)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 185-212)
  18. DISCOGRAPHY OF BLACK MUSICIANS IN WOMEN’S MUSIC
    (pp. 213-216)
  19. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 217-228)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 229-232)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-236)