I discovered my community among women who sang and rocked their babies to sleep. When we went out looking for jobs in the early seventies there was no line on the application to describe the work that we did. There was no way to put it on a resume. It was by attending Amber Moon concerts featuring the strong voices of women performing songs that spoke to women’s lives that began to reveal to me the power of our words and performing them. And it was by becoming involved with the Amber Moon Collective to produce the concerts and fundraisers that I began to feel the value of women coming together make these events happen. I learned to never pass up an opportunity to perform and carried my writing with me. When the performer for one concert was late and I was asked if I wanted to read some of my poems. I walked on the stage and took the mic. I knew I had something to say. And I knew that lots of women had something to say. I felt the fire of being heard. There was no turning back. Eventually I created the Working Class Kitchen to create opportunities for emerging writers to come to the microphone.
The Working Class Kitchen Manifesto
They tell us to write, the scholars we find on bookshelves, the outspoken women we hear at lectures and conferences and in our own midst. They tell the uneducated, the non-academic, the rural women, the poor women, the inner city women, the stay at home mom, they tell us to write. So we write. We write at the kitchen table and at the stop-lights and between appointments.
We write and we find our hearts aching to spill it out. We find our soul wanting to scream it. We find our life rise up out of the pages. We find rhythm and music in our words. We find stories we’ve told and retold and we discover we have desires we never knew we had and we desire to write more.
We desire to be heard and we want to read it and even when we’re afraid to read it, we want to read it and even when we’re too shy to read it, we wish we weren’t and when we’re ready, when we want someone to hear it, no one is listening, ‘cause there’s nowhere to read it. The academic feminist is too busy making speeches and her publisher wants polished pieces written in penta something meter or in proper English and university classes take time and money we don’t have.
The Working Class Kitchen creates another stage, someone’s home, a local restaurant, a community center. It brings any combination of writers to create an event. We invite six writers from different communities and they invite six friends and we have an audience of 36. The script is left wide open. Read what you want, how you want, wear what you want. And what is read is good, without a jury, without an “A,” without publication because the WCK trusts the process. Only that which one feels good and right creates the desire for it to be heard, creates the determination to ask to be heard, to show up and put it forth.
At the Working Class Kitchen we break down the silencing walls of nowhere to read it and put it back in the kitchen where the world moves to the microphone. The writer’s fear, when she reads her work, sometimes for the first time, gives power to her words. Her strength gives form to her voice. Her anticipation leads you across the page and you listen, intent, and even when you don’t hear, you see. You see her facing fear. You see her dancing naked. You hear the sounds of her voice shaking and the vibrations resonate through you and you be still and you listen because you see the birth of life before your very eyes. You see a revolution.
You don’t have to be working class to read at The Working Class Kitchen, you just have to wish you were. Everyone has The Working Class Kitchen in them somewhere. If you have to race your paycheck to the bank you’re got it in there. The heritage we came from is buried deep. The struggle to survive is The Working Class Kitchen. The desire to not give up, the valuing it—NOW, not waiting for an A, not waiting for publication, not waiting for the check in the mail.
We want to hear it in your words, in your tone, in your voice. We want to see it written the way you spell it, the way your hear it. We want to break down the walls of illusion of false education keeping us silent because we don’t write it their way, see it their way, dream it their way, believe it their way. And everyone has a “their way” in there somewhere. Everyone has a “their way” that tells them what to do. Everyone has a “their way” that they want to break through and the only way out is through your own voice.
So read it at THE WORKING CLASS KITCHEN.