Clockwise from center, Electric Lady organizer Sofiya Ballin with co-organizers Melissa Lam Ly, Alexis Mercado, Keturah Benson and Lara Witt. (PhoByMo)

Now in its second year, Philadelphia's Electric Lady Series is a week of programming centered around women empowerment, particularly for women of color. From a Shark Tank-style pitch contest for women entrepreneurs, to panels featuring insights from creative women and events designed to educate young men and women on rape culture, the Electric Lady Series is as informative as it is inspiring.

 

Organizer Sofiya Ballin, a former features reporter at the Inquirer and is known for her award-winning journalism and sharp cultural commentary, but it’s her passion for empowering women of color that led her to create the Electric Lady series.

 

“Empowerment is the number one thing that our whole team wants people to leave with," Ballin said. "To stand in the African American Museum of Philadelphia last year and see a majority of young women of color having access to women entrepreneurs and information they usually wouldn’t have access to was important. That event showed me how important a level of access is, especially when we’re talking about women of color because when we talk about entrepreneurship it can very much be a white man’s club."

 

Ballin also wanted to open up more inclusive dialogue about other subjects, like sexuality.

 

"When you look at a conversation about sex positivity, most of the faces are white, so it’s important that we create the spaces for women of color so that they can have access to these conversations, people and resources," she said.

 

In the wake of Hollywood’s recent #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment, Ballin believes the Electric Lady Series has an added incentive in educating people on the dangers of rape culture.

“I feel like it would be negligent to be a women empowerment series and not talk about rape culture when it’s all around us and they’re so many people who don’t necessarily understand what’s going on,” says Ballin. “Here are the many ways you may be contributing to a system of rape culture whether you’re a man or woman that you don’t realize. It’s opening people’s minds to realize that they do something to contribute to a negative environment.”

As one of Ballin’s colleagues in organizing the Electric Lady Series, educator Alexis Mercado is equally committed to women empowerment and wants women to recognize the power that they have.

“It’s great that men recognize women are powerful, but I want women to walk away feeling powerful,” says Mercado. “What we do is not in any way, shape or form for men. It’s literally women of color doing things for women of color.”

Mercado is also proud of the organic diversity of the Electric Lady team and how it’s shaped the series’ events. “We are all different women. We all have different backgrounds. Lara [Witt] is a wife, I’m a mom. Keturah [Benson] is an artist. Sofiya [Ballin] is a writer.  All of us are children of immigrants, so we are very intentional about the work we do, the women we serve and that all of our panels are diverse, making sure that we are asking questions that other women want to hear.”

If you go

March 26 – Enough: Enough is a free conversation open to young adults about rape culture.

March 27 – BBHMM: BBHMM is an event featuring a panel of successful, creative women entrepreneurs and a Shark Tank-style opportunity for attendees to pitch them on ideas.

March 29 – “O”: “O” is an event centering on sex positivity and exploring sexual pleasure for women.

March 31 – Self-Care: Issa Art Form – Self-Care: Issa Art Form is an interactive art event for designed for attendees to explore different forms of self-care and find what works best for them.

April 1 – Hustle & Flow: Hustle & Flow is a City Fit Girls Bootcamp workout and yoga-inspired cooling down session.

Events will be held at various locations. "Enough" on March 26 will be held at 6 p.m. at the William Way Community Center. Check @electricladyPHL on Twitter for the latest.