Q&A: Toshi Reagon on Word*Rock*& Sword, community, flashlights and more



Toshi Reagon - photo by Sharon FarmerOn Saturday, September 20, Word*Rock*&Sword: A Festival Celebration of Women’s Lives returns for its fourth annual music showcase at LPR.
We caught up with Word*Rock*&Sword founder Toshi Reagon via email and asked her a few questions about the eight-day citywide festival, why she started it and what’s in store for this year’s concert.
Check out the Q&A below.

LPR: What inspired you to organize Word*Rock*& Sword?
Toshi Reagon: I really wanted to be with my community, my whole community around the attacks on women by our government following the 2010 elections.
I really feel issues concerning women are important to every human, and the planet herself. When I see politicians try to weaken laws around protecting women from violence, I fear for everyone. When I see politicians create legislation to criminalize women and their decisions around their bodies, I fear for everyone. This country was born and developed out of men stealing humans for over 400 years before this was a country. They did this and once it was a country they legalized it. So I wanted to say to my community of women, come together, and all people, come together, because we are being attacked through the bodies of women.
Do you have some favorite memories from the festival’s previous editions?
The festival is 8 days—and I had no money, and no time for crowd sourcing, so my favorite thing about it is that I ask people what do they want to do, and that is how it is programmed. It is a community event. Every year it is different, but we have made some amazing partnerships. Like we have with Le Poisson Rouge, and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration. Every year we have had an amazing and crazy party at Le Poisson Rouge.
Are there any performers that you’re especially excited about this year?
I love everyone, but I am looking forward to seeing Hanifah Walidah make her WRS Debut and I am glad Alsarah is coming back. Be Steadwell from DC is awesome. Joan As Police Woman has a great new CD out. I am looking forward to hearing the new music live.
You grew up with parents (and godparents) that were very involved in music, activism and civil rights. Was there a moment when you realized you wanted to follow a similar path in life, or did you always know?
I just knew that was who I am—I thought about being a football player for a little while—lol.
I heard that you have a collection of flashlights. What inspired you to start collecting them? Do you have a favorite?
OMG I love flashlights—it probably has something to do with wanting to always be able to have light when I want it. My favorites are a solar-powered one that this company made so that folks who do not have electricity all over the world can have light at night. You stick it in the window and have light for 8 hours. My other fave is one my mother-in-law gave me (she gives me a new one every year for Xmas). It has a tripod, and the head of it is adjustable. I travel with that one. I also have the brightest flash light ever app on my phone.
That’s awesome. Anything else people should know about the festival?
Yes—it’s $20 bucks for the best 3 to 4 hours you can have—it does not matter if you know all the artists. They are on a mission. It is music music music. You will laugh, sing, dance, sweat—and then we go over to Lucky Strike and drink and dance some more. It is like New Years. This show pays for everything we do, so come have fun and support a great community festival. Peace and love.
Go ahead and grab your tickets for Word*Rock*& Sword at LPR on Saturday, September 20th!
photo credit: Sharon Farmer
posted by John