Black Women Rock pays homage to the Diaspora
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Black Women Rock’s featured show at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History has become one of Detroit’s premier annual cultural events, an electrifying evening of music organized by the Motor City’s globally celebrated poet jessica Care moore.
Artist Steffanie Christi’an has been with the show since the beginning and has emerged as one of the shows highlights, stunning the crowds with her powerful voice and commanding sensuality.
On March 16, the women return to the stage with the show Black Women Rock: The Diaspora! featuring guest performers Ursula Rucker, Dionne Farris, Martha Redbone, Saidah Baba Talibah, DJ Stacey Hottwax Hale and live art from Sabrina Nelson.
Tickets are available for the show at the museum for $25 and a sold out crowd is expected.
“I can’t even express my gratitude about how happy I am to be a part of the show,” says Christi’an. “From the moment I started doing those gigs, I’ve had an incredible following that grows exponentially every year every time I perform with Black Women Rock. For that I am very grateful.”
The show is a unique presentation of Black women artists performing rock music, and is annually seen as a tribute to the great Betty Davis, the Bay Area singer who was married to jazz legend Miles Davis. Davis is celebrated at the show as a spirit guide for the women, an artist who brought attitude, independence and a bold sexual energy to her performances.
“Us paying tribute to Betty Davis is also very important, because I think Betty was ahead of her time,” says Christi’an. “She was doing (shows) that I don’t even think that people are doing today. She was completely out of the box, and that is what we stand for.”
Steffanie Christi’an has spent over a decade emerging as featured rock performer, paying her dues as a backup singer, the lead in her band, Fluxphonic, and now recording as a solo artist. Giving her all on stage is her trademark, a born performer who found her calling despite the fact that major rock record labels spend much of their time and energy promoting only Caucasian men.
“I love rock and roll, and when I do it, I bring it. I love performing, I can’t even explain it. I just feel like I’ve been touched some kind of way, like I know that is what I’m supposed to do.”
The women of Black Women Rock don’t want to be seen as a novelty in the rock music genre, especially given that rock music came from the Black music traditions of blues and gospel.
“It’s not about us taking it back,” says Christi’an. “It’s not a gimmick. We don’t do this to try to be different, this is just us. I know for sure that this is just me, this is the way I grew up. I’ve been singing rock ‘n’ roll since I can remember. My granddaddy taught me how to play the guitar and the blues, and rock ‘n’ roll came from the blues, so this is what I’ve been doing. I think just getting up there and being ourselves and not succumbing to what is expected of us from other people who don’t really represent us fully or in the right way, that says a lot about our character.”
With the theme of this year’s show being “The Diaspora,” jessica Care moore and the event organizers came up with a diverse lineup of artists two show the wide amount of influences in Black music.
“I look at it in two ways,” says Christi’an, “Black Women Rock, we rock the (African) Diaspora in a literal sense, and then include the different type of music that we do culturally.”
On March 17 at 1:30 p.m., the women will return to the museum for a panel discussion to talk about their common experiences as artists and why this event is so powerful for themselves and the audiences. This seminar is an annual tradition, and is often as impactful as the music performances from the previous evening, with tears sure to flow from the powerful display of sisterhood.
“Everybody’s crying,” laughs Christi’an. “That is even more so emotional than the actual show for me. The first year I talked a lot, but I try to just sit back because I want to listen. That day I look forward to even more than performing sometimes.”
Black Women Rock has left the seeds of inspiration with many women since their performances began in 2010, which is ultimately the goal of featuring Black women artists in a way that challenges stereotyped societal roles.
“I’m excited about what else blossoms from what we’re doing,” she says. “I already feel very proud about what we’ve accomplished. I can’t wait to get onto a larger scale. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame. For me it’s about showing other little Black girls in particular that you can do whatever you want to do.
“And you can do it and you can put your foot in it, as my grandma would say.”
This unrelenting energy is brought to the stage with each Black Women Rock performance by Steffanie Christi’an, jessica Care moore, the live band and all the featured artists, and they hope that the show continues to grow worldwide to help spread this love and inspiration to new audiences.
“None of us are going to stop making the type of music that we make to please the music industry or anybody else,” says Christi’an. “We maintain the integrity of what we’re trying to do. And I think that is one of the most important principles of what Black Women Rock stands for, is that we’re not going to be teeny boppers for half naked, or with weave down our backs, and talk about stuff that we really don’t mean. That’s just not what we’re going to do in order to please other people.
“The people hear us. And even though we may not be reaching the masses of people that we want to yet, the key word is yet. We’re on a mission, we’re a movement, and we’re not going to stop.”