Miami's (F)empower Artist Collective Aims to "Elevate Female Energy"

Miami's (F)empower collective.
Miami's (F)empower collective. Photo by Nicole Combeau
With her ferocious creative collective (F)empower, Miami's Helen Peña has spent close to a year and a half uniting some of the 305's most talented and passionate female and femme-identifying artists. Her collective's goal: elevating female energy.

"We believe the world is heavily imbalanced," Peña says. "This is our only hope for the future."

(F)empower is home to 35 emerging femme creatives comprised of everyone from photographers to poets, stylists, DJs, visual artists, landscape architects, and beyond. The collective was founded by Peña in June 2017, originating as a blog post that featured a photo shoot in which she envisioned "a post-apocalyptic Miami being run by this black female girl gang" called Empower. Later, it evolved into a zine that highlighted topics from female empowerment to social issues that weren't getting mainstream media coverage. After the zine's positive response, Peña decided to take it to the next level.

Peña explains, "[(F)empower] was definitely a response to Trump being elected and just my realization of the underappreciation of black women. Also, being young and a femme and queer and in Miami, [I was] just realizing that we didn't have enough of a community." She reminisces, "Everyone would complain, myself included, that there weren't enough spaces for people like us and that it was kind of like a toxic energy among young creatives in Miami where it was very competitive, especially among women."

You might recognize some of (F)empower's members, including producer and songwriter Suzi Analogue; DJ Loka, who's set to play III Points next February; Internet Friends founder DJ Gami; and photographer Nicole Combeau, whose work explores "love, vulnerability, and a sense of connection through intimate portraiture and still life."

Aside from recruiting members and managing the collective's programming, Peña aims to build solidarity and a sense of community among femmes. Through her organization, she works to identify areas in Miami where she feels there's a void. Through the collective, the creatives find solutions that can meet those needs. "When I say recruiting femmes, it's like every person that joins the collective is an asset and is someone that will eventually share their skills for the greater good," Peña says.

Since the collective's inception, the group has hosted various community events, from FemGaze, the (F)empower's launch party that challenged sexist representations of women in media and culture, to their wildly successful eight-week Girls Can Spin 2 DJ Academy in collaboration with Art Cortex.

"[The] DJ courses [were] designed to empower femme music lovers by breaking down some of the barriers of entering this historically male-dominated field and teaching them the basics of the craft, ensuring femme perspectives are heard in nightlife spaces," Peña explains. These events, she says, keep her motivated to continue the collective. "The energy in the room [at (F)empower events] is like no other... You can see how empowered and free and liberated they are. There's love in the center of the room that just pours over us. That feeling will forever inspire me."

The collective's site features an online directory of its members for those who want to work and collaborate with an all-femme team. "We're stronger together," Peña says. "One person's success does not mean you have less opportunity for success; it's actually the opposite. If one of us succeeds, we can all succeed." The collective works to support each member and expose more Miamians to its work.

Some of the collective's regular programming includes Liberation Book Club, facilitated by community organizers/poets Niki Franco and Zaina Alsous, which meets every Thursday. The community gardening club, Femme Fairy Garden, meets every Thursday and Sunday morning at Peña's home in Little Haiti led by landscape architect Ashley Varela.

Want to be a part of (F)empower? To join, interested applicants can fill out this form. But Peña says the public can also be a part of the (F)empower community by partaking in the organization's events without having to join the collective. "Joining the collective, I think, is an amazing way to interact with the city you're living in... There's something really powerful about sharing your skills and talents with people around you and people that need it."

She adds, "As Adrienne Maree Brown tweeted, 'We are currently living in someone else's imagination in the way that we are existing'... A lot of what (F)empower aims to do is imagine our own reality that is coming from our perspective and our imagination and creativity, and we're doing that through art."
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