“Necesito gritar!” bellows Adele Nieves in response to the question she poses with her spoken word piece entitled “Why Do You Speak?”, which is the first track on the album. Through the unrestrained strength and rage smoldering behind every word, Adele provides a call to action against the overwhelming powers of erasure, invisibility, and silence that is exhaustively pushed upon women of color for centuries. Speak!, an explosive powerhouse of an album created by the Speak! Radical Women of Color Media Collective, uses spoken word, song, and poetry to detail the ins and outs of oppression and intersecting injustices, personal and collective struggle, and the redeeming powers of love, conviction, and pride.
Each piece pulses with vitality and pure unbridled emotion, whether somber or tempestuous in tone and content. The album in its entirety promotes the importance and the force of women’s voices, elaborate and concealed histories, and personal and collaborative forms of resistance. The individual artists weave together testimonies on their personal experiences with discrimination and hate, the dissolution of their intricate identities in favor of assimilation, and their reclamations of self and radicalization in a way that further illuminates the falsehood of the 'American Dream', as well as the continued necessity for political mobilization.
Pieces like “Slip” reveal the relationship between language and violence, showing the ways words embody hate and act as catalysts to brutality. Furthermore, many of the works analyze the ways the lives of women of color are invalidated statistically, in academic and political arenas, and in the day-to-day interactions with other people. Not only are there clear and poignant narratives on cultural genocide and racist and sexist hypocrisy, there is also a spirited display of hope, inspiration, and community in the face of the often crippling effects of adversity.
Ultimately, the passionate messages of beauty, love, and a constant determination to survive and prosper resound throughout the album. Coming out, the listener is motivated to assume their right to organize and to treat their illustrious identities as personal and political sustenance.
SPEAK is having a listening party in Brooklyn tonight. Wanna go?