In 2010, Jude Kelly decided to use her role as artistic director at London’s sprawling Southbank Centre to help elevate the stories of women by establishing the Women of the World Festival, a platform to celebrate the achievements of women and girls.
Her reasoning to do so was simple. “I’m a woman in a very senior position in the arts, which is the space where you tell stories about humanity,” said Kelly in a 2016 interview with Makers UK. “But most of those stories are still being told in a way that suggests that boys and men are the protagonists in every way and that women and girls assist or are invisible.”
“And I thought, actually, if I don’t use this position of power to change or try to change it at least to some degree,” she added, “then I’ve really squandered the opportunities that have been given to me as a girl and as a woman.”
Since the Women of the World (WOW) Festival launched, it has spread into a global, interdisciplinary initiative that spans 17 countries. Starting next week, Harlem’s Apollo Theater will bring the festival to New York City for the theater’s third annual celebration of the project.
Presented in partnership with the WOW Foundation, the Apollo’s line-up features programming that specifically calls attention to women of color and includes notable talks and performances from figures such as Angela Davis, Nikki Giovanni, Alice Smith, Suze Orman, April Ryan and Liv Warfield.
“The Apollo Theater is a cultural and civic anchor and we are proud to provide an avenue for meaningful exchanges of ideas,” said Kamilah Forbes, executive producer of the Apollo Theater, in a statement. “It’s a true honor to produce this event again this year, and to be able to provide a forum for important cultural discussions that further amplify the smart and powerful messages of these incredible women.”
The WOW Festival at the Apollo kicks off with a conversation between Giovanni and Johnnetta B. Cole, the president of the National Council of Negro Women, on March 12, and concludes on March 17 with a packed line-up of panels, workshops and conversations that are free and open to the public.
“WOW was built around a number of ‘ThinkIns,’ which consisted of conversations we had with hundreds of woman in our community who suggested topics, ideas and concerns that were of importance to them,” said Jamilla Deria, the Apollo Theater’s program director, in an announcement. “As we honor the contributions of women from around the globe and continue to share the wisdom of these powerhouses, we also aim to cultivate the individuality, strength, creativity and fierceness of the future generations.”
Top Image: Apollo Theater Marquee. Photo: Shahar Azran. Coutesy: Apollo Theater.