The Smithsonian Folklife Festival joined Roadwork in celebrating its fortieth anniversary as a D.C.-based multiracial coalition that puts women artists on the road globally. The 2018 Festival closed with two evening concerts featuring Roadwork performers and millennial women artists whose sounds led us into the future. Our daytime stage offerings included poetry, spoken word, and activist reflections on women’s cultures past and future.
Founded in 1978 by women leaders from African American civil rights, women’s, global justice, and lesbian-feminist movements, Roadwork aims at transforming consciousness and creating new movements in global arts and social justice. The organization produced concerts, festivals, tours, and rallies that inspired tens of thousands of people to work for social change. It built coalitions across race, gender, sexual orientation, and economic class—the foundations of intersectional activism today.
Folklife Festival co-founder Ralph Rinzler saw artists as more than entertainers. To him they were leaders of social change. An early Roadwork supporter, Rinzler provided its office on Harvard Street NW and, along with Smithsonian Folkways artist Pete Seeger, remained an unwavering advocate of the organization’s local and global work.
Today Roadwork artists shine on international stages, in college classrooms, and major cultural institutions promoting social justice, and collaborating with new generations of visionary activists.
Sisterfire at the 2018 Folklife Festival was a part of the Roadwork Oral History and Documentary Project. All concerts and narrative sessions were recorded for a feature-length documentary and an online oral history archive featuring dozens of artists, activist, technicians, producers, and audience members who built the coalition.