River Meetings: Lives of Women in the Delta (1981-1982)
Suzanne Lacy with Jean Nathan, Laverne Dunn, Marilee Snedeker and Betty Constant
The Women’s Caucus for the Arts was faced with a dilemma when its parent organization, the College Art Association, was planning the annual conference in New Orleans—a state that had refused to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment for women. National boycotts against these states contrasted with a desire to support Southern women artists. Lacy was invited by the WCA planning commit- tee to create an expanded political intervention, including a boycott on businesses, support of women-owned alternatives, and a news campaign on the ERA. The project included organizing with cross-racial groups of women, behind-the- scenes strategic luncheons with the governor, a performance by Lacy and Laverne Dunn illustrating the boycott events through a full-page feature in the local newspaper, and Lacy’s keystone performance that kicked off the conference.
Six weeks of intensive person-to-person organizing was accomplished by a series of small “chain letter” dinners (each guest hosting her own sub- sequent dinner). A giant potluck—with 500 women from different racial, social, religious and occupational backgrounds—served as a formal device to perform a celebration of Southern diversity in an unprecedented coalition. An incredible array of different women attended the final event in the elegant Old U.S. Mint: professionals and house- wives, “old family” dowagers and working waitresses, black nuns and radical lesbians, and women immigrants from Latin America. They played jazz, gospels, Cajun, and historical popular music; poets read from their works; and twelve costumed actresses performed the lives of women of various ethnicities important in the region’s history.
Produced by the Women’s Caucus for the Arts Conference as an intervention into the College Art Association’s annual conference, and featuring an exhibition on performance art by Lacy, Moira Roth, and Mary Jane Jacob, New Orleans, Louisiana.