photo: LadyFest

It all began with a handful of kindred spirits meeting at a friend’s living room in Miami a few years ago. The one thing they had in common: they were all women of color who faced specific challenges as immigrant, queer, trans, or CIS-gender women, and they all had a passion for women’s rights and empowerment.

They were brought together by Charo Valero, an organizer for a local LGBTQ rights organization Save Dade, to discuss living in a city with one of the highest rates of sex trafficking in the nation, the on-going struggle to uphold reproductive rights in a state where there is no public funding or insurance coverage for abortion, the exclusion of women in male-dominated fields like technology and sports, and the violence targeting marginalized women — especially trans women.

All of these discussions gave Valero the idea to create a woman-centered festival — appropriately named LadyFest — where the ladies of Miami go to find community, feel empowered, and celebrate one another. Especially since at the time no such festival existed and finding fellow feminists in the city was a difficult feat. Charo then invited Lisi Lau, whom she met through Mi Lola, a leadership training for reproductive justice organization. After her first meeting, Lau knew she had to get involved.

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“I was excited to be part of creating an inclusive space for all types of women,” says Lau, who only became more aware of the struggles of women of color, LGBTQ women, and other marginalized folks during her undergrad years at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The result of these meetings is Ladyfest Miami, a 2-day celebration of women featuring workshops, live performances, and exhibitors, which is returning for its second year this weekend on September 25 and 26. Mujeres in Miami will want to register in advance for free admission (or pay $5 at the door). Day 1’s festivities will feature live performances, art on display, and a handful of workshops including one on acupuncture, all happening at at MADE at the Citadel. Day 2 will be held at the LAB in Wynwood and will feature over 20 workshops, a Family Zone for little ones, a Youth Zone targeted to 14-20 year olds, and even free HIV/STI testing.

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If you can make it, you’ll definitely want to make time for are LoveBox MIA radio host Annie Segarra’s body positivity workshop, the social justice focused Advocacy 101 workshop, and the performance-style documentary Latinegras about the experiences of Afro-Latina women.

The female-led grassroots project has even spurred a collective known as PUSH Miami — who plan to continue feminist programming throughout the year — which Lau is the vice-chair of working off the momentum LadyFest created.

“Women are already at the forefront of most social justice movements, they just don’t get the honor and recognition they deserve,” Lau adds. “We can change that together.”

For more information, check out their website