Women of Substance
Two weeks ago, a group of women from Sarah’s and I went to a Lizzo concert at St. Catherine’s University during their Women of Substance Festival which seeks to bring empowering and inspirational women to campus for a beautiful week of events.
It was a beautiful spring night and the ladies of Sarah’s were dressed to impress in each of her own ways varying from our sister from Kenya in her habit to our younger resident in ripped jeans and Nike’s. Going to a concert is a rare occasion for the women of Sarah’s let alone a hip hop concert, so needless to say this was a big event. I mean, Lizzo is famous.
In my endeavor to round up concert-goers, I learned that the women of Sarah’s love experience. When our sister in-residence came to me asking if she could go see Lizzo, I honestly laughed. The image of risque lyrics referencing butts shaking and the dance moves on stage to match in front of her very eyes made me anxious and giddy all at once. Since when do sisters like hip hop I thought? So, I reminded her “It’s a hip hop concert, Sister. Very loud and very…different”. And all she replied with was, “I know, so can I go”? I was floored. How ready she was! By the end of the day, we had two of your youngest residents, a woman who is highly religious in practice but loves to get down, and a sister all excited to attend the concert.
In our mini-van, we drove off to St. Kate’s double-checking we all had our tickets and talking about who the opener for Lizzo would be. I gave the women a “pep-talk” in case I was still right about being hesitant to bring some to the concert. I explained that there would be a lot of singing about butts and cussing accompanied by dancing, bodysuits, and all. “Anyone want to turn back now?” I thought in my head.
It wasn’t long after hustling through busy crowds and long aisles that we found our seats and prepared ourselves for a wonderful show. Walking into a concert venue followed by a nun and three other African women is probably the most amusing moment as a 22 year old white American women. Watching people gazing and most likely wondering how we were all connected. Wondering what our purpose is being at this concert. How did I get to this moment of attending a Lizzo concert with a group of refugee and asylum-seeking women through a Catholic program? Seven months into the St. Joseph Worker program, and I still am surprised every day and amazed at the things I do, hear, and see. I find myself in experiences I never imagined to have.
This night was a beautiful example of such unexpected experiences I will cherish from a year of service at Sarah’s. The opening performances were delightful and with much applause we welcomed Lizzo on stage to a spectacular show. All that was expected happened. Speeches about body empowerment, female empowerment, black empowerment, people empowerment. Beautiful singing that carried through the auditorium and dancing ladies doing splits on stage happened. Twerking happened. And I tightened my fists before glancing over at the residents to my right. What were they thinking? Did they hate it?
After the song finished and there was a moment of quiet, I turned to the women to hear their opinions. Our sister from Kenya only said, “We should do that at Sarah’s”! “…..What?! Really?” I replied. “You want to “twerk” at Sarah’s”? The women laughed and nodded. I played along and suggested we should have one of our many volunteers come and teach us sometime. And what was the response you might ask? The most perfect answer of all that told me this night was truly special and I had only assumed the worst: “In Africa, we don’t need someone to teach us this. Because this is how we dance.” We all laughed and settled in to see Lizzo and her beautiful body empowerment, body suits, and…twerking…as I thought about all the assumptions I had made that day to only be taught different.
written by Lindsay Schaefer, 2016-17 St. Joseph Worker