What is Sista Grrrl’s Riot? Punk Music, Collaboration and Revolution

Photo: Kate Milford. Punk musician Tamar-kali Brown, founder of Sista Grrrl Riots, performs at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in 2010.

Vice’s new vertical, Broadly, is off to a strong start with reporting like Gaby Bess’ “Alternatives to Alternatives: the Black Grrrls Riot Ignored.” Tamar-kali Brown, Maya Glick, Simi Stone, and Honeychild Coleman founded Sista Grrrl Riots, an alternative safe space for black women punks to rock out and revolutionize. The founders continue to support each other and other women making music to this day.

On their first flyer:

“It was a lipstick heart with our silhouettes in it, likeĀ Charlie’s Angels, and we had weapons. I brought my father’s machetes and BB guns for our shoot.” But unlike the flyer’s silhouetted BB guns and machetes would suggest, the riot’s real ammunitions were electric violins, bass guitars, and the raging voices of women who were lifelong punk outsiders. On this momentous night at Brownies, a now-defunct rock club on Avenue A, these four women had found their place, playing to a packed crowd who could finally see versions of themselves onstage.

If you bore passing witness to this night, you might have casually referred to Brown, Glick, Stone, and Coleman as Riot Grrrls, if you didn’t know any better. They were girls. They were angry. They were tired of playing shitty gigs and taking a backseat to the boys. But these women would scoff at the thought of designating themselves “Riot Grrrls,” or just plain correct you. “You had Riot Grrrl,” Brown explained, “and this was a Sista Grrrl’s Riot.”

Their dedication to visibility and representation, in addition to sisterhood and killer musicianship, should not be underestimated:

The Riot Grrrl box may have been decidedly off-limits in the eyes of Brown and other black women who couldn’t see themselves in the movement, but as [Rhonda] Davis points out, these women shirked boxes, created their own wave, and reclaimed rock for black women. After all, rock music is black music. While the Sista Grrrls didn’t see themselves in Riot Grrrl or in the men they had been playing with in bands, they saw themselves in each other. “I got what Riot Grrrl was about. I didn’t think it was exclusive, but it didn’t feel inclusive to me,” said Brown. “I didn’t see myself or my story, and so that’s why Sista Grrrl came about later on–out of other women of color that I knew who were punk rock and navigated that scene and had similar feelings about it. Sista Grrrl was my response to Riot Grrrl because it just felt super white.”

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