Through music, artist speaks out

Musician Camae Ayewa aims to keep Philadelphia concerts diverse with social activism.

Camae Ayewa runs ROCKERS!, a monthly showcase for diversity in the arts. | Jenny Kerrigan TTN
Camae Ayewa runs ROCKERS!, a monthly showcase for diversity in the arts. | Jenny Kerrigan TTN

Musician Camae Ayewa just played the worst show of her career.

A concert-goer kept blowing smoke in Ayewa’s face after she asked the audience member to stop. Threatening messages were scribbled in spray paint on the venue’s wall. But these issues just pushed her forward.

As the founder of monthly music showcase ROCKERS!, which aims to create opportunities for females and minorities in punk, Ayewa felt the bad show was a reminder of why ROCKERS! is so important.

Music and activism have always gone hand in hand for the Philly musician. Growing up, Ayewa “liked a lot of political music” and the soul music she listened to as a child “spoke about issues in the world.”

“I could see myself in the music,” Ayewa said.

Ayewa, who performs in group Mighty Paradocs and solo as Moor Mother Goddess, noticed there were no opportunities for female musicians in punk and the majority of bands were not of color.

To help bring together these groups who felt like “outcasts,” Ayewa created ROCKERS! in 2007 to showcase diverse musicians and artists.

As ROCKERS! developed, Ayewa decided to create a weekend festival named Rockers BBQ Weekend to thank people for their years of support. It began as a four-day festival that included music, yoga, film showcases and poetry readings at local venues like Boot and Saddle.

Ayewa tries to innovate further with the event every year, but describes her sentiment as “jaded.”

“It’s all of this hard work with no salary, but it is all about what is important to you and what you choose to sacrifice,” Ayewa said.

Sustaining ROCKERS! over the years has been difficult, she said. But with the help of her friends, like alumna Rasheedah Phillips, she has been able to continue.

Phillips is the creator of AfroFuturist Affair, a community organization created to promote Afrofuturism through creative writing and events.

Afrofuturism is a literary and cultural concept that focuses on science fiction and afrocentricity to present current issues people of color face. Ayewa is the organization’s coordinator.

“Her ability to synthesize all these different topics and find a connection between Afrofuturism and present it in both a literary and musical sense has been really valuable to my creative practice,” said Phillips, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in criminal justice.

To keep up her own creativity, Ayewa began her solo project under the moniker Moor Mother Goddess two years ago.

“It’s a lot of things. It’s electronic, hip-hop, poetry, Afrofuturist sounds,” Ayewa said. “So since it has been so many things, I’ve had trouble getting across what it is I do.”

She has released 24 EP’s since she began performing solo, and her upcoming album will feature some of her live music.

“I am an obsessive maker of things,” Ayewa said. “I have to make music and get this message out right now.”

The messages behind Moor Mother Goddess are not always political. In some instances, she said she wants to take the listener places through memory.

“It’s kind of nostalgia,” Ayewa said. “I am trying to take you places without having to go there naturally. My music is a collage of everything: life sounds, your neighborhood, the sounds of people tap dancing.”

Ayewa hopes to complete her new album once she can take a break from touring.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to create something,” Ayewa said. “It took me so long to be in a band. I’ve been thinking about this stuff for so long, but never had the access or materials. I just got my first laptop in December.”

“After this album drops, everything is going to be a lot angrier, about the system and what women are going through,” Ayewa added. “I know that’s a lot of pressure, but I have been waiting my whole life for this record.”

Emily Scott can be reached at

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