If self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde were alive today, you might find her celebrating with the women of “The Revival,” a salon-style poetry tour dedicated to amplifying the voices and experiences of queer women of color.
The tour is the brainchild of Jade Foster, a poet in Brooklyn, N.Y. and founder of Cereus Arts, an artists’ collective. It’s October 2012 outing was immortalized in the documentary, “The Revival: Women and the Word,” making its Northeast Ohio debut this month at the Cleveland International Film Festival. It is the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards community film this year.
“The Revival” women are a mix of 20-to-40something poets, singers and songwriters, all strangers before setting off in a single minivan on an international eight-city tour. There’s Foster, who also goes by Yanni Supreme. Fellow poet T’ai Freedom Ford, a Cave Canem Fellow and New York City high school English teacher, took a break from the classroom to hit the road.
Two of the women were more musically inclined: Be Steadwell, a D.C. native who blends jazz, acapella and folk music to create “queer pop” and Jonquille Rice, who fronts the rock and soul band, The CooLots. Eliza Turner, a music photographer and documentary filmmaker, rounded out the quintet.
Together, they clocked more than 2,500 miles in nine days, setting up shows in living rooms from New York to Toronto to Atlanta. The film is part history lesson, as the women celebrate ancestral connections with women like Lorde at their North Carolina stop.
Sekiya Dorsett, a New York-based filmmaker and writer, came to the project early. She attended one of the gatherings at a Brooklyn brownstone with her partner and once inside, “it was like a scene out of a film,” she said. “Something to me felt very at home there.”
Along with Foster as a producer, the pair set off on capturing the entire tour, fighting fatigue and financial drain to tell the story they envisioned. “It was a really crazy hectic schedule,” Dorsett said. “When you have limited resources you want to get it done as quickly possible.”
The lag between the tour and the film’s debut in 2016 was mostly financial, Dorsett said. They raised $15,000 for the project on Kickstarter, and spent the past three years refining the documentary.
“I wanted to create an authentic experience of what it’s like to be a black queer woman in America,” she said. “People need this film now more than ever.”
Dorsett will answer questions at the two screenings: 8:50 p.m. Thursday, March 30 and 1:10 p.m. Saturday, April 1. Tickets are $14 for film festival members, seniors and students; $16 for others. Moviegoers can receive a $2 discount at the box office, online or ordering on the phone, by using the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards code: ANWO.