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Reclaiming Their Word


Diva performers gather for all-women jazz concert

(Photo Left) Khadijah Renee. Photo courtesy of Khadijah Renee.

“All Women, All Jazz” was more than a concert of all female performers and composers.

It was a battle cry; an effort to reclaim the tone of respectability and artistic excellence when it comes to the word “diva.”

“I’ve been a performing artist for 30-plus years, and I have seen the negative connotation of the word diva, and it doesn’t facilitate a positive view of what it takes to actually be a diva,” says Chester-born jazz vocalist Khadijah Renee. “Because really, a diva is a very talented woman. She may possess beauty, but she has a lot of talent, and shares that talent with the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a ‘B’ or a troublesome character.  And that’s the connotation it has currently.”

On Sept. 15, at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, “All Women, All Jazz” featured a jazz vocalist collective called DivaNation Philly. The collective was backed by the night’s headliner, jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler.

“The founding concept of DivaNation was to re-invent the context of the word diva to a definition of an outstanding talented, smart, dynamic female, who contributes to the bank of jazz music and cares and supports her sister artists,” says Renee, a master’s level social worker who is also the co-director of DivaNation.

 “We are dedicated to enhancing the presence of the creative divine feminine spirit in the genre of jazz music,” she proclaims.

The DivaNation vocalists featured at the concert along with Renee were Carol Harris, Sherry Wilson Butler, Gretchen Elise, and 14-year-old Haley Joyner.

Sudler, who is from Philadelphia, has performed in Europe, Japan, South Africa, Jamaica and throughout the U.S. She was backed by her Ladies Night Out Combo comprised of Camille Thurman (tenor sax), Noriko Kamo (piano), Kim Clarke (bass), and Lucianna Padmore (drums).

Says Renee, “Our headliner is not a member of DivaNation, but she is a diva – an internationally renowned female jazz guitarist. She personifies what we would like to see when it relates to the jazz genre.”

DivaNation is fiscally sponsored by The Culture Trust, and is a sponsored project of The Community Education and Action Project.

Renee was inspired by the ancient Mayan calendar in explaining the importance of the concert.

The Mayan civilization, said to have a fascination with cycles of time, created separate, corresponding, cyclical calendars: the Long Count calendar, the Tzolkin (divine) calendar and Haab (civil) calendar. So, All Women, All Jazz, “married DivaNation with the shift towards the ‘divine feminine’ brought on by the recent end of the Mayan Calendar.”

 “That’s why I pointed to the Mayan calendar. The female energy is nurturing…,” she said. “It’s time for woman to rise up and take leadership.”

 

Reclaiming Their Word
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.

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