Being Heard: Zenaida Peterson Founds Movement to Celebrate Feminine Voices
Boston-based Spoken Word Poet and Community Organizer, Zenaida Peterson, founded a radical movement to address the need for more feminine-centered spaces in Boston’s Slam Poetry community. The Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam Tournament (FEMS) will be the first event of its kind to hit Boston.
Zenaida, a competitive Slam Poet of the last five years, has represented Simmons College at the 2015 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational — and returned in 2017 as the team’s coach — as well as competed on the 2017 Haley House National Poetry Slam team.
“Collaborating with other artists is a large part of what I appreciate about Slam. Being on a team allows me to grow and create with others artists in my community,” said Zenaida.
Competitive Slam Poetry relies on five random audience members to judge each performance. As a result, personal biases often influence a judge’s score.
“Other femmes and I began to notice a trend: several of Boston’s NPS teams were predominantly masculine, regardless of gender, including the House Slam. Two poets chose to drop so myself and another feminine poet could compete,” reflected Zenaida. “At that point, it became obvious to me that masculinity was favored in Slam.”
FEMS, as a movement, extends beyond a single tournament. FEMS offers opportunities for feminine people to volunteer and develop skills in grassroots organization and leadership.
“Our team of organizers are mostly feminine people who are taking on leadership roles in social media promotion, fundraising, and even grant writing,” said Zenaida. “We’ve hosted readings centering feminine poets, a body positivity beach day, and our ‘Sometimes Femme’ event which invited poets to dialogue with the ways femininity is experienced at various intersections.”
FEMS also sponsored the release party for Black femme artist Tatiana Johnson’s new book, For the Love of Black Girls.
Zenaida’s drive to uplift the art, talents, and voices of feminine individuals in Boston has been met with an outpouring of success and tremendous community support.
“We learned not too long ago that The Boston Foundation is rewarding us with a grant of $3400 for supplies and other costs,” said Zenaida. “It’s really been a blessing to witness the excitement, energy, and support folks have for FEMS.”
They are also proud to announce that all Finals Stage performances will be accompanied with trained American Sign Language interpreters. FEMS is sincerely committed to ensuring a space for anyone looking to celebrate the diversity and strength within femininity and Spoken Word.
The tireless efforts of the FEMS team will culminate in a three day festival hosted throughout Cambridge, from October 20th through October 22nd. Over the course of the weekend, twelve teams will compete head-to-head for the first ever 2017 FEMS Tournament championship title.
Events to look forward to — aside from the competition itself — include: generative writing workshops lead by Jess Rizkallah, RebeccaLynn Gualtieri, and MASS LEAP youth poet, Andrine Pierresaint; Queer and POC-centered open mics; local music performances from various femme artists; and a Halloween themed open mic and dance party.
Don’t forget to watch Zenaida Peterson and Angelica Maria Aguilera perform their original piece, “FEMMES” on Finals Stage at the 2017 National Poetry Slam in Denver, Colorado!
The Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam Tournament (FEMS) is a grassroots initiative creating radically accessible spaces for feminine people to celebrate community, art, and each other through Slam Poetry.