A whole day of women's programming is being added to this year's Gay8 Festival, a Latino LGBT music, food and arts fest taking place Sunday, Feb. 18. in Little Havana.

Sponsored by the Miami Book Fair, ImpactOUT International Initiative and the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center, the Women's Tertulia is a free event for people to ponder poetry, write short stories, admire artwork and share ideas. The women-identified literary and creative arts event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center, 1465 SW Eighth St.

Popular in Spain, Portugal and Latin America, Tertulia's are social gatherings with literary or artistic overtones for people to share their recent creations such as poetry, short stories, other writings and artwork or songs.

Lynare Robbins, who is running the Women's Tertulia and serves on the Gay8 host committee, said while the event is geared towards women, specifically lesbian women, everyone is welcomed to attend.

There will be a poetry reading by Cuban-American published author, Caridad Moro-Gronlier, the author of Visionware (Finishing Line Press). She is also the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry and a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

"Afterwards we plan to have a female artist perform an Afro-Cuban drum session during intermission and then have a creative writing exercise, called First Draft, sponsored by the Miami Book Fair," Robbins said. "Lissette Mendez and Marci Cancio-Bello from the Miami Book Fair are both so wonderful and have been putting in so much of their time to be supportive of this event for the LGBTQ community."

There will also be performance art, a boutique lounge environment surrounded by art, free tapas for people to enjoy, and registrants will receive a free beverage, compliments of CubaOcho Museum and Performing Arts Center.

Following the Tertulia, the OutShine Film Festival, with the support of the Miami International Film Festival, will be screening a free women's film from 3-5 p.m. at the Tower Theater. In addition, the Girl Central party, run by Lynn Bove and iCandee Events, will be going strong all day from 2:30-8:30 p.m.

"So this year there will be arts and culture-focused events along with an exhilarating Girl Central party," Robbins said.

Bove has been producing events and has been active in the women's community with Aqua Girl, Outshine Film Festival, Miami Beach Gay Pride and Winter Party for more than 19 years. She said she was first suggested to the Gay8 team to help create a women's area and market to the women's community.

"When Damian [Pardo, head organizer of Gay8] approached me about this unique festival, I did not hesitate," Bove said. "I loved that we were celebrating the LGBT community and celebrating all cultures by making it a diverse cultural festival."

Bove said Girl Central, a party where women can mix, mingle and dance, was intended to give women their own area but all were welcomed.

"Every year it has grown and it's one of the more popular areas of the festival," she said. "A lot of the guys love dancing with us and we love to see them support us, as well."

Bove says the event keeps the music upbeat and fun so that all ages can enjoy.

"Last year we hung colorful bras and panties from clothes lines. Everyone was trying to grab them," Bove said. "This year we will have that again, only higher, and add festival colors and add additional entertainment with sexy go-go girls and special surprises."

Having been involved with the LGBT community in Miami for many years, Robbins said there was a demand for women's programing at Gay8, "as there is at events and women's spaces everywhere."

"Feedback is always given that a lot of people in women-identified spaces enjoy art and cultural activities with opportunities to converse," she said.

Robbins said when Pardo approached her to help program an event for women, in addition to the popular Girl Central event that Bove produces, she "of course said yes."

"What is amazing is that there are other women involved in addition to myself and Lynn," Robbins said.

There is Olga Golik, a board member who writes all of the grants pro bono for Gay8; Ines Molleda, a founding supporter, who ran all the concessions for the festival in its first year and continues her work as a key volunteer; and Amy Bloom, co-chair of the host committee for the Pa'lante Awards, who is "working hard to make sure that people are aware of the Pa'lante Awards and the fact that a diverse group of honorees who share a common thread with work and experiences related to immigration will be honored at the event."

Then, there is Cindy Brown of Lambda Living, who is creating an air-conditioned rest area for LGBT seniors during the Gay8 Festival.

"There has been amazing support from women like Raquel Matas, Liebe Gadinsky, Joan Schaeffer and Jennifer Kriz, who are all on the host committee for the Gay8 Pa'lante Awards," Robbins said. "So there is a women-led effort in various capacities this year."

Pardo said Gay8 has always had much more participation from women than other events in the community.

"We have had women’s programming from day one, and we have tried to empower and support people who understand the market better than we do," Pardo said. "We recognized after our first year that we were well-attended in our opinion by the women’s community. Because we wanted to continue seeing that level of interest and participation, we made a commitment to both Lynn and Lynare to provide resources and funds to continue building our programming. In my mind, this kind of engagement has been very successful."

When asked about the lack of lesbian-related content and events in the South Florida LGBT community, Robbins said she doesn't think the "L" in LGBT is intentionally underrepresented.

"What I think is that as a society people are learning how to dismantle patriarchy and it's a process in learning how to do it," Robbins said. "We haven't had an abundance of examples in history where someone who is benefiting from patriarchy the most will stop themselves and ask who is not sitting at the table with them and being included in decision-making."

Robbins said most women can attest that they have experienced "some form of disempowerment from the historical and social structure of patriarchy in our world."

"It's not only related to special events," Robbins said. "It's when you turn on the news and hear people making decisions for women about their bodies and their health with no women in the room. It's the #MeToo movement founded by Tarana Burke that opened up a flood gate of women recounting stories, some for the very first time, and breaking the silence on a societal problem. It's the horrific amount of numbers of trans women, especially trans women of color, who feel the brunt of patriarchy the most."

Robbins said if you have all of these "disparaging scenarios happening to women with crucial issues, it's obvious that when it comes to events, those who are at the helm of them have to be socially conscious in a society that often does not reinforce values of empowerment for women."

"I think that when event producers also have a role in activism, they are inclined to think about people outside of their own lens of experience," Robbins said. "And then they realize that not only does there need to be a women-identified space, but it has to be created by women-identified people because we are the ones who live with the experience of what it is like to live in the world as a woman. And even that experience is going to vary according to factors such as race, ethnicity, religious identity, economics, etc."

Gay8 shares a close relationship with Survivors Pathway, a sponsoring organization. There is also a high number of transgender women who live and work in the Little Havana area who participate in Gay8.

"I, as a cisgender woman, even though we both occupy marginalized categories, my trans sisters will feel that marginalization even more so that will manifest in additional ways," Robbins said. "The challenge for everyone is always to challenge your privilege. On a positive note, more people are becoming conscientious of this as a respectful and humane way to engage in life."

Bove, on the other hand, thinks the "L" in LGBT has been underrepresented simply because of money.

"Gay men spend more money. Look at the ticketing prices the men will pay for at an event as opposed to an event for women. There is a huge financial difference," Bove said. "Since the gay men bring in more money and most of these events are led by mostly male committees, then the women are an after-thought. It has been proven that women spend money with successful yearly events such as Dinah and Aqua Girl."

Bove, however, has never felt that the women's programming has been an after-thought for Pardo and the Gay8 team.

"Having women attend the festival was just as important as having the men attend," she said. "They have shown nothing but enthusiasm and a willingness to help us be successful. For me, that in itself set them a part from other community events. I really respect them and it makes me feel very proud to be part of this team."

Bove agrees with Robbins, along with the #MeToo movement and women's overall empowerment, "things are going to change."

"As Lynare also mentioned, even more women have signed up to be part of the growth of the festival," Bove said. "I am thrilled to support the Women's Tertulia. I think it's going to be a very successful event."

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