- Photo courtesy of Kristina Myers
- Brittney Chantele
Iris knows the importance of safe spaces.
As a dancer at a Pittsburgh gentleman’s club, “we’re all there for sale,” she says, while admitting that she very much likes the job that she’s been doing for five years. But even in a strip club, she can feel safe, supported and even empowered.
“In our dressing room, I experience a level of sisterhood and camaraderie that I don’t always find in real life,” says Iris (who asked that her stage name be used to protect her safety). “It’s a bunch of women who exploit themselves for a living, supporting one another. ... True sisterhood exists there.”
Iris wants to bring that feeling of community and sisterhood to the rest of her city. On Sat., Nov. 11, Iris and hip-hop artist Miss Money’s outfit, Rich Chickz, are holding a “Lay-Day Par-Tay” from 8 p.m.-midnight, at 3101 Penn Ave., in the Strip District. The event, which has a cover charge of $5, is geared toward female-identifying people, but all ages and identities are welcome. There will be a mix of art, poetry, music and dance, all in the name of “celebrating she-power and lady vibes.”
“This is an outlet and safe space for those who identify as ‘she’ to express themselves in any manner they choose,” Iris says. “But it’s not just an event — it’s part of a movement that’s already ongoing. It’s a chance for people to come out and live and experience empowerment; to feel the strength of what we’re all fucking talking about anyway.”
While the space will be set up for women, Iris says men are welcome, but they need to realize that “nobody is coming here to participate in their bullshit.” It’s an “all-ages” event, but Iris says that doesn’t mean it’s just for under-21. For example, the artists range in age from the early 20s to 60s, and that’s also how diverse Iris says the crowd should be. “This is a generational celebration,” she says. “I think sometimes youth is put on an unnecessary pedestal, and I want to remind people that the celebration of she-power spans many years and layers of life.”
The artists will be displaying and selling their work, and in addition to musical performances, there will be a poetry reading from 9-10 p.m. Artists expected to participate include: poet Dani Janae, of Garfield, whose writing deals with “discovery, sex/sexuality, trauma, womanhood and horror”; Josselyn Crane, the creative force behind Falkora Jewlery; DJ Xuliana O, who is also a producer and singer, and who will warm up the crowd with throwback tunes mixed with new artists; and singer/songwriter, visual artist, poet and activist Brittney Chantele. Chantele, who recently released a new EP, Labels, tells City Paper that as an artist she aspires for her “music and poetry to inspire people emotionally, mentally and physically.” She calls her style of music “movement music,” meaning that “it can begin or carry a social movement.” Her visual art is currently showcased at BOOM Concepts through the end of the month.
Other artists include fiber artist and doll-maker Booski Brown, who creates 18-inch cloth dolls in a customer’s image; storyteller and singer Genevieve Houck, who returned to Pittsburgh earlier this year after spending the winter protesting in Standing Rock, S.D., and who will sing songs and share stories about that experience; illustrator Xiola Jensen, a media-arts student at Chatham who draws “simple portraits of women and femininity”; photographer Terri San, whose work deals with reflections of light on water and themes of life, death, nature, movement and dance; and Sabine Aston, a painter and environmentalist who makes natural home décor out of dried and pressed wildflowers and other foliage.
While this event is something new, Iris says it’s just an extension of what she already does as a dancer. Cool, confident and seemingly fearless, Iris uses her job to talk to those who are willing to listen. In most cases, she has no trouble getting people to listen, even if they’re not there to talk about the bullshit facing the world and its people today.
“It’s almost a means of seduction,” she says. “I give people a level of comfortability to listen and hear what I have to say, even if I’m only reaching them in their unconscious. You can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, but when you do reach people, it’s a gift; it shows a level of trust. Getting through to people about the issues facing women is why I am here. And I’m able to get people to listen, because I really do give a shit.”