This Sunday’s event at Hotel Revival showcases local women in the arts and other professions
Cheyanne Zadia is encouraging women to speak louder. The 27-year-old is a curator from West Baltimore, a painter whose latest works have been organically produced without an initial intent. “They all seem to tell a story of my heritage and my roots by the time I am done,” Zadia tells me. “That’s where my head’s been at lately.”
In her studio, we’re sitting across from one another on a gold sofa. Her kind eyes are tired, though she still manages a shy but welcoming smile. She is wearing a palette of soft gray, mint and forest green that go together like your favorite couple. The room is busy—she’s in the process of interviewing women for her upcoming event, the Alpha Female Show, “a celebration of feminine energy, strength, and skill” highlighting women in various professions, including art, music, and design.
In 2008, when Zadia was still in high school, she started making clothes and named the line Wvrdrobe, a concept that stemmed from a conversation with her friends in class. “The focus was on the thought of war, speaking on the notion that we are constantly at war with our society, our educational systems, our peers and oftentimes ourselves,” she says. She started creating events to promote her clothing line, which eventually led to her curating events that connect artists and the public, like the Alpha Female Show.
Baltimore is home to Black people with all kinds of style—street, hippie, punk, prep—who dwell in different areas, rarely crossing paths. But Zadia has the gift of finding things we all love and bringing us together under one roof. She acknowledges the women in her life for this gift. “Women are the foundation that has carried my family for as long as I can remember,” she says. “My mother, aunts, cousins, my best friend’s mother, her daughters are all independent and nurturing women. They’re all able to provide and, in some cases, bounce back.”
The Alpha Female Show is a reflection of the women Zadia grew up around, honoring women’s work—Black women especially for their willingness to build names, businesses, families, and lives in a society that is made to break them. “I hope to send the message that women are just as capable of accomplishing as much as, if not more than, any other maker on this planet,” she says. “Black women are the most disenfranchised people to walk this earth. It is amazing how we stand firm in who we are, our gifts and abilities.”
I remember the first Alpha Female Show, in 2016, like it was yesterday. It was an important time for me as an artist and a woman in the process of unlearning and redefining herself. What I remember best about the event is the mix of subtlety and boldness in the space—the dim light from candles and antique lamps, the air of badass, hardcore, sensual, wild women. Nude portraits of an unknown lady dressed the venue walls, soft and complex just like us.
The next Alpha Female Show takes place at Hotel Revival on March 24. The hotel will be filled with some of the best Black women producers, designers, poets, doctors, and teachers that Baltimore has to offer. This evening is a prelude to the Alpha Female Festival (the date is TBD) but you can expect to see singer/songwriter MovaKween and spoken word artist Heavy, sculptor Murjoni Merriweather, DJ DamnKham, and the list goes on.
“Unity is the most important part of the work that I want to display,” Zadia tells me. “The more women connect, the greater they grow.” Zadia is an alpha female because she believes in her power so deeply that she makes her ideas tangible. What she creates plays a part in giving black women more voice, freedom, self-actualization, and the right to simply be.
“I am a student of life and love, I study all types of connections, who we relate to and why and how I can build on these connections more,” she says.
When I asked Zadia what keeps her together, her matter-of-fact answer was prayer. “Finding time to talk to God keeps my ideas flowing and focused on the bigger picture.”
Bobbi Rush is an artist and writer from Baltimore, Maryland. She has traveled as a performance artist for 17 years and has been writing for 12 years. The study of black women writers has been her leading example as a voice and a feeling. As a solo artist, she has released several music projects and two books. Always creating, Bobbi hopes to keep sharing what feels right. More of her writing can be found on her site, bobbiblueface.wordpress.com.
Image credit: Asia Kenney