On a day when millions of women around the world were striking to stand up for their rights, a local cafe was taking a stand that may be different but just as powerful.
On International Women's Day, Blackbird Cafe - a favorite community spot on Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso - hosted its first "A Day About Women" event to celebrate and support women around the community and the world.
“Tonight’s event is a pop up show of all women artists,” Blackbird Cafe Owner Mary Koselke said Wednesday night. “Women artists are here showcasing their work on the walls or up at the microphone for our live show.”
Koselke and her staff originally wanted to strike with the millions of other women around the world, but she knew that for some people, including herself, that would prove to be difficult.
“When you’re working in the service industry, it’s almost impossible to take a day off from work,” she said. “So two weeks ago, we decided instead of taking a day off and striking with everyone else, we’re going to celebrate it in a different way.”
All day, people filtering in and out of the cafe were welcomed with a variety of activities like a craft table where people made Frida Kahlo and Ruth Bader Ginsburg puppets, an all day "chick-flick" movie marathon and a silent auction for items all donated by women around the community.
But at the forefront of the event was the art on display around the cafe. Protest signs with Princess Leia and inspiring quotes, intricate drawings and beautiful paintings - all done by women - covered every inch of the wall.
“In light of the national sentiment, there has been so much excitement from the marches around the world,” Roxanne Johnson of Valparaiso said. “So we wanted to capture that energy and excitement locally with this event.”
Support for women around the community didn’t stop with just showcasing their art, however. All day, Blackbird Cafe staff collected tampons, sanitary napkins and bras for homeless shelters in the community. And in another act of solidarity, every penny made Wednesday was donated to Planned Parenthood.
“Anyone can rant on Facebook,” Heather Novak of Valparaiso said. “Instead I am teaching my two young girls and everyone the importance of showing up with your body and actually doing something that matters in the long run.”
Blackbird Cafe's celebration of women lasted all day. A live show held in the evening began with Koselke reading a powerful poem titled "The Mother." It was written by Gwendolyn Brooks, the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Price.
After that, spoken word poetry, essays and heart-tugging songs about women’s struggles and women’s empowerment were performed for a full house, and at the end, each and every attendee was greeted with a round of applause and support from the tight knit community.
“It’s really amazing to see so much support for amazing, strong women and their art. I’m so proud that this is happening in our own backyard,” Johnson proudly said. “Today’s a great opportunity to celebrate being a woman.”