Female artists share stories, community
Saturday night, Nov. 3 was a night of inspiring poetry, music, and comedy with the Hello Sunshine x Together Live Tour event at the Wang Theatre. But more importantly, it was an opportunity to gather together and engage in community.
The live event, which made its first stop in Boston as part of a 10-city tour across the U.S. and Canada, is a partnership between Reese Witherspoon’s media brand Hello Sunshine and the annual speaking tour Together Live.
Together Live was founded in 2016 by Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Head of Worldwide Literacy, Lectures and Conference Divisions for William Morris Endeavor. This is the third year it has toured the country, providing a space for a diverse and inclusive group of women to connect, to communicate and to create change together.
According to Together Live’s website, the idea behind the collaboration is to highlight “authentic storytelling and to amplify diverse and inclusive female voices worldwide.” The tour features authors, thought leaders, musicians, comedians, celebrities and ordinary people alike who share raw, real stories from their own lives.
Event emcee Jennifer Rudolph Walsh gathered the participants on stage in a comfortable living-room setting, where her invited guests shared stories and life experiences. The evening featured actress and activist Yara Shahidi (ABC’s “black-ish” and its spin-off series “grown-ish”), the New York Times best-selling author Cheryl Strayed (“Wild”), poet and activist Cleo Wade, actor and comedian Nicole Byer (MTV’s “Girl Code”) and singer/songwriter MILCK.
Cleo Wade read her poem “I’ve Been Thinking about Love” from her new book “Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for A Better Life,” which touched upon the gift of love and knowing ourselves and our barriers.
In between the performances, Rudolph Walsh moderated conversations with both Wade and Shahidi, posing questions such as “Who was your teacher?” and “What is home to you?” Responding thoughtfully and with intention, Wade said, “If you’re paying attention, you will find a teacher wherever you go.” For Shahidi, “home is wherever her family is.”
Shahidi, who garnered the most applause and was definitely the star attraction of the night, was poised and profound, yet relatable. The 18-year-old actress and activist touched upon being a role model, as well as being authentic and of service. She mentioned her love of history and reading, which led her to become “a storyteller of all mediums.”
Providing comic relief was comedian and writer Nicole Byer, who commanded the stage and was real and honest as she addressed the issues of race witnessed during her travels across the country and of being overweight in a way that was amusing, light and powerful. Singer and songwriter MILCK shared her truth with the audience through her songs “Black Sheep” and “Quiet.”
The beautifully written and haunting songs revealed some of her struggles and vulnerability, as well as being a survivor of domestic abuse. On “Quiet,” the chorus of “I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh” punctuated the air, and it was as if time stood still for a moment as each audience member allowed those words to sink in.
Author Cheryl Strayed rounded out the evening with a brief talk on claiming power as women. She suggested three steps to take: Trust your clarity, or, trust your gut; cultivate courage by engaging in life and asking the question “What kind of person do you want to be?”; and harness your power by “knowing that you’re strong, that you’re brave and being open to your own revolution.”
Touching upon her childhood as one of three siblings in a family where her father abused her mother beginning on the third day of their marriage, Strayed talked about the impact of witnessing the abuse and how her own journey began with her mother walking away from her father. “We’re here to make our lives bigger, not smaller,” she said.
As the event was winding down, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh took to the mic to thank the audience and the guests, and in closing, summed up the evening with two sentences: “We can’t keep quiet anymore. Together we rise.”