Community, Features

Grassroots group hosts zine release and book fair, fostering feminine empowerment

The Feminine Empowerment Movement celebrates the release of their inaugural zine in Harvard Square Sunday evening. PHOTO COURTESY ZENAIDA ELENA

A quaint wooden walkway led to the entrance of the book fair, adorned with an eye-catching pink t-shirt promoting feminine empowerment. Tables were set up for local artists to showcase and sell their work, ranging from candles to zines to postcards.

Sunday evening, the Feminine Empowerment Movement held “FEMS Book Fair and Zine Release” to celebrate the release of their inaugural zine at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square. Established about a year ago, FEMS is a grassroots initiative based in Boston and Cambridge that aims to provide a safe space for feminine voices in poetry.

Most of the crafts were unique and handmade, and all items promoted the feminine movement in one way or another. There were also craft-making stations for collages and buttons that encouraged attendees to create something of their own.

Next on FEMS’ calendar of programming is a youth slam tournament in October hosted by Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance, which FEMS is helping organize.

“It’s team slam — four to five feminine-identified folks will make a team together and sign up,” said Zenaida Elena, founder of FEMS. “It’s a weekend of workshops, open mics, slams, conversation and folks competing with each other.”

As a collective, FEMS believes that “feminine people and their art deserve to be honored,” according to their Facebook page. Their initiative was launched after its founders noticed that poetry slams around Boston and across the nation were dominated by masculine voices.

Since the group’s conception, their Facebook community has grown to include more than 600 members, and now one of their bigger events includes a slam poetry tournament in October.

“We’re looking to get a regular space to do slams and open mics,” said Sara Mae Henke, another curator for FEMS. “We have a lot of ideas. We have a couple shows booked for the summer, [and] we’re bringing in Lydia Havens.”

As a grassroots initiative, FEMS relies and builds on its own community through team sponsorships and accepts help from anyone in the community. FEMS aims to be accessible and involved by radicalizing inclusion and prioritize providing accommodations to those with limited mobility, such as the deaf and hard of hearing community and wheelchair users.

The group is planning on hosting multiple events in upcoming months.

The organizers will showcase their own work at Aeronaut Brewery Company in Allston on June 1, and FEMS will host a “takeover” at Haley House Cafe in Roxbury on May 16.

Nico Lopez, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, attended the book fair and said he appreciated the creative outlet FEMS provided.

“It’s a great opportunity for people who are looking to not only create, but also share their voices and their art in a place that guarantees their voices to be heard,” Lopez said. “It’s fun to see events like these in Boston, where everyone is so embracing and creative.”

The event ended with open mics for slamming, featuring a performance by Red Maienza, a genderqueer poet who contributed to FEMS’ inaugural zine.

“The slam poetry scene is Boston is really poppin’,” Elena said. “It’s cool, competitive, nourishing and loving.”

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