Calling all Crows to celebrate Women’s History Month with music

Ember Duke | Staff Writer

Women’s History Month is a dedicated time to take an intentional look at female history in the face of oppression. One major aspect of women’s history is the role of activism in creating gender equality.

Women’s history has always been marked by activism, said Erin Speese, director of women’s and gender studies at Duquesne University.

“Basically, to advocate for women’s rights is essential to any women’s liberation or feminist project. So much of what we now have, as women’s history, has to do with a lot of advocacy done by women activists and activists more broadly in the feminist movement, as well as academics,” she said.

One national nonprofit organization, Calling all Crows, has a nuanced approach to activism. Their goal is to nurture equity and intersectional feminism in all aspects, but with a specific focus on advocacy in musical and artistic spaces.

Their year-round program, Here for the Music, provides training to musicians, staff and fans at live events to curb gender-based violence and educate people about safety.

Annie Bailey, engagement and operations manager for Calling all Crows, thinks music creates the perfect attitude for people to use their voices and unite in a cause.

“A lot of times, when you’re at a concert, you’re going to a show or a festival, we realized that music lovers and music goers are usually in a really positive mood and are wanting to use their energy for good. So, we like to be willing to meet them where they are…when they’re in those spaces, give people something to take action for to support a cause they believe in,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the organization uses women’s history as context to inform their advocacy. She said they are inspired by historical feminists and musicians like Joan Baez, whom they have named an annual award after.

“Taking the past into consideration while also realizing that we are living in a super fast-paced, ever changing world…we like to find new ways to fight for our rights and energize and engage people and mobilize people around feminist movements. So definitely honor the past but also realize you are the next generation and we are the future,” she said.

While Speese was not familiar with Calling all Crows, she thinks music can be a great platform to spread awareness. Looking to the past, she noted that female musicians and music about women has always been an inspiring force in activism.

“It’s something that can help mainstream feminist advocacy and help sort of uplift women,” she said. “We’re seeing that, again in our more contemporary moment, as we see musicians who are using their art, for advocacy and drawing on that history of music and feminism to continue right in that tradition,” Speese said.

The nonprofit largely functions as an on-ramp for other advocacy organizations to reach wider audiences. On Mar. 19, Calling all Crows partnered with the Resilient Sisterhood Project, a Boston based organization, to hold an informational livestream about the disparities in female reproductive health in the Black community.

Calling all Crows has directed more efforts this year to education on reproductive health. Bailey said the nonprofit looks for experts in the topics they advocate for. The Resilient Sisterhood Project conducts research on numerous aspects of reproductive health and has education programs designed to engage communities.

In the livestream, Lilly Marcelin, founder of Resilient Sisterhood Project, spoke about starting the organization. She gathered testimonies from friends, family and women in her community. She realized how large the health inequality was and wanted to make a change.

“They revealed stories about just open medical contempt and neglect throughout their interactions with health providers. Meanwhile, these women felt that the ailments worsened and because they did not really have the proper diagnosis … many of them felt alone,” she said. “They wondered whether they were just alone dealing with some of those health issues and also they talked about the silence and inaction about these reproductive health issues.”

The Resilient Sisterhood Project conducts research in many different areas of reproductive health like the effects of environmental factors, disproportionate pregnancy risks for Black women and neglect from medical professionals.

Katie Durant, communications and operations director at Resilient Sisterhood Project, hopes the organization’s work empowers Black women and girls to advocate for themselves.

“My biggest motivator for this work is equity — equity for women, equity for Black women,” she said. “Systemic racism and sexism have affected the quality of life for black women for centuries, and it’s still affecting them today, in so many ways.”

Calling all Crows also tours with musicians by setting up informational tables in the lobbies of concert venues. The organization is currently touring with artist Mitski and has plans in the near future to tour with other musicians.

They have several upcoming events, including their Annual Benefit Show fundraiser on March 22 and a service project on March 23 with the organization Reproductive Equity Now, which will focus on increasing access and awareness to reproductive care.