“Dear sisters, no one will give you room to be radical.”
UMKC alumna and poet Jen Harris, along with spoken word poet Emery Diercks and musician Teri Quinn, voiced their personal struggles of womanhood at a “Curses and Charms” event sponsored by the UMKC Women’s Center.
“Curses and Charms” was held at the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park, Kansas, where the art exhibit “Who Does She Think She Is?” is taking place.
The exhibit focuses on different women artists portraying their hardships through many forms of physical art.
However, Diercks, Quinn and Harris were there for one night only, using their words and lyricism to create an atmosphere of deep emotion and honesty.
The event began with Harris speaking to both Quinn and Diercks separately about the emotional energy they expend by simply being a woman in this world.
“Women don’t get a break. We are constantly defending our decisions, our perspectives, all but begging to have our needs respected, much less met,” Harris said. “It is exhausting to try to keep everyone’s hands off of us, teaching men how to behave toward or around us. ‘Curses & Charms’ is centered on women. By women. For women.”
Emery Diercks spoke on heavy issues such as school shootings and racism in America.
“All lives matter is code for white lives matter,” Diercks said in her first poem, pertaining to the activist group Black Lives Matter facing severe backlash by many white people and media outlets.
She spoke on the horrifying nature of police brutality in the US, which has been amplified by the hate rhetoric perpetrated by the Trump administration.
The set was rich with passion, and Diercks ended her set with a poem about loving one’s neighbor. It was inspired by conversations she had with a pastor in a coffee shop earlier in her career.
“What if we did what God asked of us?” Diercks said, and continued to describe the ways in which humanity could and should come together.
The second performer of the evening was musician Teri Quinn, who delivered a self-reflective, dark take on modern folk.
Her lyrics were inspiring yet melancholic. She sang about how to process the trauma of leaving behind an abusive relationship, how to manage social anxiety and a piece on how women have had to conquer inequality and take back their autonomy throughout all of history.
“Spread the salt of every woman whose ever gone up in flames,” Quinn sang. “On the fields of every man whose ever raised a hand up in the Lord’s name.”
Quinn sang to the girls who were told from a young age that they were not allowed to be wild and told the audience that women should be allowed to take up more space.
“Don’t be afraid of the darkness, oh girl, that’s where you’ll find your lungs.”
Quinn’s voice was piercing and moody, switching off between her banjo and guitar to create an atmosphere of openness, and a resolution that things will change.
The final performer of the evening was Jen Harris, a nationally acclaimed poet. She’s a published author and is notable for her activist work as well as using poetry as a means for mental health.
On the night of “Curses and Charms,” she gave the audience her true self with 10 vulnerable and vibrant poems.
“To be a woman is to recognize that we will always raise the conscious of humanity,” Harris said to the audience, her voice strong and resolute. “We are not indebted to our oppressors for taking up room at the table.”
By the end of the performance, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst the crowd as if everyone had just been on a great journey together.
That’s the magic of Harris, Quinn and Diercks.