C.C. Carter, an award-winning slam poet, traveled the country, performing mostly in commercial, straight or male-dominated venues.
"When I was on tour, what I found was a lot of the women would do their watered-down work that was more appealing to the audience at hand, and I felt there was so much work that was deeper to these women. There was no space for that," said Carter.
In response, Carter started POW-WOW, a safe space performing arts community for women. Every Tuesday for nine years, women have gathered at a bar for an open mic night, kicked off by a featured performer.
Carter boasts that top acts stop in Chicago to perform at POW-WOW for free. Most recently, the group hosted Virginia Grisea director, performer, poet and authorwho was in town for an artist's residency at DePaul University.
"Spaces like these are part of how I began writing, because there was open space to work. So I think it is important to keep these spaces alive. And I really love how queer-centered, how woman-centered POW-WOW is. It's a very loving space," said Grise, who read selections from Blu, a play about a Chicana lesbian couple and their children.
While POW-WOW focuses on providing a performance space for women, the organization also serves the broader LGBT community with its She Speaks mentoring program in the juvenile detention center.
"We found that over 70 percent of the women incarcerated were LGBTQ," said Carter. "Most of them had their parents throw them out once they found out their [child's] identity, and then committed survival crimes. Whether it's prostitution, robbery, burglary or whatever, they ended up having to commit crimes to sustain their livelihood as a homeless teen."
The organization also strives to engage seniors in the LGBT community and include men as allies.
"Gay men really don't have to be advocates for women. Even gay men can be sexist … So, we really worked hard to start a gay men's alliance at POW-WOW," said Carter.
However, Carter credits the attendees with the uplifting, benevolent spirit of POW-WOW.
"Many of the women here are survivors, in the many different aspects of what you call a survivor, whether it is a survivor of discrimination, a survivor of sexual assault, a survivor of domestic abuse," said Carter.
POW-WOW gathers at Jeffrey Pub, 7104 S. Jeffrey Blvd., every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.