As a child, Ease "the Architect” Claiborne liked to make believe that she became so famous as a DJ that she’d be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.
If she were to be questioned by the Queen of All Media today, she’d have many professions to discuss. The DJ and MC also works as an artist, curator, chef, designer, and founded Alleviative Productions, an audio/visual company.
As a queer woman of color, Claiborne says there weren’t many people willing to help her become a DJ; instead, she taught herself. While she once enjoyed the party scene, Claiborne considers herself more of an “activist DJ” these days, performing at and helping stage community-focused events.
Her skill at spinning records led her to play events for former Gov. Ralph Northam among others; she was the first queer woman of color to DJ at the Executive Mansion, which she did as part of Pride Month.
“I just want to make people feel good,” she says about her approach to being a DJ. “I want to see people dancing and having a good time.”
Claiborne’s focus on staging events for the community led to her ongoing collaboration with For the Fem in You, a local nonprofit that aims to create safe spaces for women through live performances and pop-up markets.
“It is based around events that create a safe space for women of color and women in general, whether they be trans, queer — it doesn’t matter,” says Claiborne, who adds that many performance and public venue spaces are male-dominated. “We’re trying to change that narrative.”
Tonight, For the Fem in You will begin its biweekly series WCWednesdays at The Len in Shockoe Bottom. The event will feature live music and poetry readings by women – the “WC” stands for “Woman Crush” – as well as mocktails and vegan food options. Claiborne will DJ and produce the show, which will occur on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.
“We want to show the world what they have to offer,” says Claiborne of the artists in the lineup. “We want to bring in the next generation of amazing artists.”
Andrea Daughtry, the founder and executive director of For the Fem in You, says she created the nonprofit because of her experience as a singer and songwriter in the music industry.
“I felt like women in general don’t have safe spaces to create without this pressing notion to be sexualized in studio and work settings. I experienced that a lot,” says Daughtry. “There’s an expectation for women that’s disgusting. Unfortunately, it’s gone on for far too long.”
For the Fem in You officially launched in 2019, gaining 501c3 status the following year. So far, the nonprofit’s events have been well received. Last August, Daughtry was expecting roughly 50 to 75 people to attend the Afro-Vegan Social the nonprofit cohosted at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. Roughly 300 showed up; they ran out of food within an hour.
For the Fem in You holds that event, which includes a fashion show of local designers who have created handmade pieces with an African theme, a few times a year.
“It’s a moment to not only normalize vegan food, but normalize vegan food in this Afro-futuristic, Afro-centric way,” says Daughtry, who’s also an artist, stylist, fashion designer, and owns an organic skincare line called Buttah Babez. “The community gets to taste all these amazing vegan foods from different African countries, or that have African history or lineage related to them.”
The next Afro-Vegan Social will take place at the ICA on July 14 and feature a South African theme to coincide with this summer’s Afrikana Film Festival.
On First Fridays in July, August and September, the nonprofit will hold Last Stop, a female DJ showcase, at the ICA, as well the Black Woman Flea, a pop-up fair that promotes women of color. The nonprofit also hosts the For the Fem in You Fest, a ceremony honoring the women behind the scenes in the fields of education, arts, music, wellness and maternal health.
There’s also Black AF, a quarterly event that features performances by local Black artists and Black-owned businesses. On June 25, For the Fem in You will hold “Black AF – The Juneteenth Edition” at Tang & Biscuit in Scott’s Addition. All of For the Fem in You’s events serve partially as fundraisers so that it can eventually purchase its own space.
“I hope women feel empowered and uplifted and celebrated,” says Daughtry of her nonprofit’s events. “For the Fem in You is all about celebrating ordinary women in an extraordinary way.”
For the Fem in You’s WCWednesdays will begin tonight at The Len, 15 N. 17th St. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, visit forthefeminyou.com.