For Creative Resistance and Damn Good Music, Look No Further Than SHE 4

We talked to the New York concert concept's founder about uniting women of color to highlight camaraderie, creativity and resilience.

When you have a racist and misogynist, oversized-cheeto-person for a president, there are two things you can do. You can either sit in woe, all doom and gloom and cynical—or you can force yourself to actually resist. Enter SHE: a concert concept in NYC run by music industry veteran Solonje Burnett-Loucas and her company Den Entertainment, aiming to unite female artists to highlight camaraderie and creativity amongst women. Although it’s existed for four years now, this year in particular saw the SHE concert concept taking a more activist tone: Solonje curated a lineup composed of women of color, spanning various sounds/genres but ultimately uniting to resist the dialogues inherent in America’s current political climate. It went down a few weeks ago, so we thought we’d talk to Solonje about the concept, the artists and the resistance—while showcasing some pretty sweet photos by Dani Gros.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Solonje. How did the idea for SHE come about?

Solonje Burnett-Loucas: SHE was born out of my need to work with women in the industry who understand the power of collective energies over individual promotion. Women who understand that we are stronger together. I have dealt with the frustration of managing bands and producing showcases with men and being the only woman in the process. The empathy and understanding of everything that goes into producing a show was lacking; the energy of self-promotion and ‘every man for himself’ mentality isn’t what I’m about and I needed a shift.

Why did you go with this mix of artists?

Each of these women are incredible creatives who are diverse in sound. They also command respect from all the hard work they pour into their craft. The positivity that radiates during their individual moments of self-expression put them on my list of “people to collaborate with” and helped unite the vision. For the 4th SHE, I really wanted to shine a light on women of color who inhabit artistic spaces in NYC and add color and uniqueness to the soundscape. Most shows that highlight women feel like they’re for and by us, and that is even more the case when it is one that has people of color. My goal was to create a platform for a mixed audience to appreciate these talents and celebrate each woman.

Dia Luna is a “Bohemian Brujita” who draws you in with a calm, captivating sound. Sandflower is a gritty, glam goddess whose nightlife party pop vibe makes you bounce. I’ve always wanted to work with Anna Morgan, the nonstop energy source who literally keeps you moving while blending everything from jungle and footwork to hip hop and house. Shadenia Shivad marked the first time I brought on a spoken word artist. Her poetry and lyrical talent was the glue that tied everything together: social justice, activism… girl is powerful AF! And lastly, Denitia is a SHE alumna and someone I collaborate with as often as possible because I’m obsessed with her, point blank. I’ll follow her bewitching voice until the end of it. Check out her EP Ceilings!

You say you want to emphasise the feel of collaborative feminine connection. How do you do this specifically at the event?

It actually begins before the event. I make sure upfront that everyone who is participating understands what the SHE show is about. We have a couple in-person meetings, which is really difficult to do given that they are all involved in other projects, tour, and are just trying to live in New York. We source women for all aspects, like photography by Dani Gros and promotional materials/illustrations by Claudine Eriksson of 3xstudio. I also got help this time around from Cayetana Silva Lolas who assisted throughout the process. At the event, as a host I set the tone by restating the goal, intro-ing each of my sisters, introducing how I know them personally, and then letting them shine. The vibe is something you can really feel. There is a respect for the artists that pervades with all eyes on them and so much love extended.

Why do you think it’s important to emphasise female camaraderie, especially in your context where you basically have an oversized cheeto for a president?

HA! The trauma is so real. In this time, especially, it is so important to showcase and be an example of the power of the people coming together. Of course there were moments we talked about the politics and the fact that creatives are at so much risk. Dropped topics like Net Neutrality, healthcare, tax cuts, the Me Too Movement, immigrant struggles and more. Women deserve to be respected for their contributions to our culture and in general. I’m also not here for catty nonsense. Living by building yourself up while tearing others down is crazy and definitely not the culture to which I subscribe. We all have something to teach each other and valuing difference is what America should be about. The country’s foundation is built on diversity of thought, economics, and culture… I wish people knew that and lived it instead of just fighting about their opinions with no history or fact to back it up.

Why did you choose to focus on women of color this year?

Women, and in particular women of color, have always shouldered the burden of being the ultimate minority in many ways. With that comes a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Women are feminists but don’t understand intersectionality and why Lena Dunham was not and will never be my hero. They celebrate Nicky Minaj and Beyonce, but I want them to know it’s okay to keep your clothing on, wear your natural hair/hair color (ie not go blonde to be accepted) and have talent that transcends shaking or showing your ass. The gay movement isn’t truly inclusive of my trans sisters. People need to see women of color for who they are and give them the platform to tell their stories through the art they create. Success should not be limited to one type of woman.

What impact did you want to leave with this event?

We are here and we invite you to hear us. To listen rather than talk over us. To embrace rather than put us down. To see us for who we are and support us as we move through the world.

To what extent is SHE 4 an act of resistance?

To me, being a part of a marginalized community and not just asking to be respected but also creating our own pathways to recognition is resistance. We may not be the voice the entertainment industry wants to hear because it actually has substance and is thoughtful… but despite all this, we persist.

Thanks, Solonje.