Sisterfire SongTalk: Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, Martha Gonzalez, and Barbara Dane
Musicians spanning six decades of activism will join together in SongTalk to share how cultural expressions can be used to catalyze social justice demands for systemic change.
Produced and presented in collaboration with Roadwork Center, the Sisterfire SongTalk will feature Barbara Dane, Martha Gonzalez (Quetzal), Leyla McCalla, and Amythyst Kiah, joined by Roadwork MC Nicole Barden (Roadwork Center). Performers will address questions such as how they use their music to inspire action.
The SongTalk genre, named by one of Roadwork’s founders, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, is situated in a congregational call-and-response space rooted in the Black church and Southern freedom movement that merged song with prose to call people to action. Join Roadwork’s Sisterfire SongTalk as we mark this moment of uprising!
About the Artists
Provocative and fierce, Amythyst Kiah’s commanding stage presence is matched by her raw and powerful, boundary-crossing vocals—a deeply moving, hypnotic sound that stirs echoes of a distant and restless past. Kiah’s Grammy-nominated song “Black Myself”—the opening track on the collaborative Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways)—is described by NPR as “the simmering defiance of self-respect in the face of racism.”
Digging into her roots to unearth history and explore musical tradition, Leyla McCalla has an entirely unique voice and perspective that is urgently relevant to our times. An alumna of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, her widely acclaimed collaborative album Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways) confronts sanitized views about America’s history of slavery, racisim, and misogyny from a powerful, modern Black female perspective.
Martha Gonzalez is a Chicana artivista (artist/activist), musician, feminist music theorist, associate professor at Scripps/Claremont College, and author of the forthcoming Chican@ Artivistas: Music, Community and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles (UT Austin Press). As a singer-songwriter and percussionist for the Grammy Award-winning band Quetzal, her music and lyrics have had a considerable impact in the Los Angeles Chicano music scene.
Having cut her teeth as a singer on the picket lines in her hometown of Detroit, Barbara Dane was a rising jazz and blues star when her views on race and social justice closed industry doors. Acclaimed as the “voice of the other America,” she started a record label—Paredon Records, now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection—and performed at Freedom Schools in Mississippi, peace rallies, and international protests opposing the Vietnam War.
Nicole Barden is a board member of Roadwork, whose mission is building multiracial coalitions through women’s culture. Roadwork’s signature Sisterfire festival transforms audiences into activist participants in a congregation devoted to fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and other regressive social forces.