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Soul Sistah's Kitchen

A collection of female songstresses, poetesses, musicians and other creative beings are gathered at The Jahva House, a popular local coffee joint around the lake, for Soul Sistah's Kitchen. A monthly gathering that's been taking place in Oakland for over a year, Soul Sistah's Kitchen bills itself as a place for both soul food and soulful grooves.

The open mic is the brainchild of the Herstory crew -- a group of about eight DJs, poets and visual artists who have been working together over the last four years to create spaces where women could speak their peace in comfort, wherever they were coming from.

Only women are allowed on the mic to perform, and the women here are comfortable claiming the space as their own. Artists make use of the entire space, moving around the entire length of the Jahvah House to create an intimate feeling in the already-cozy coffeehouse.

The vibe tonight is low-key and welcoming, and women of color and queer women are celebrated. The women on the mic are strong, fierce, creative presences -- the kind of role models girls could only hope for. The audience "oohs" and "aahs" when a poet performs erotic poetry and laughs when another writer shares observations about the neighborhood from a child's point of view.

Shanta M, the host for the evening, alludes to Soul Sistah's Kitchen being like Sunday after church, when everyone hangs out with the aunties in the kitchen, and that's just what it feels like.

The Jahva House is a good home for the open mic because of its warm and friendly atmosphere. It has become a locus for artists from the community, hosting events like the regular Wednesday-night Speakeasy Open Mic, regular film screenings and music nights. Art by local artists also adorn the walls.

Every month, female chefs serving up cuisine from all around the world also bless the Jahvah House so that the whole atmosphere is like being in someone's kitchen, trading stories over comfort food and cookies.

Adding DJ Black to the mix gives the night a little twist -- like mixing up Mom's good home cooking and storytelling with your best friend's phat new beats. Just the kind of place you would want to call home.

Soul Sistah's Kitchen
The Jahva House
3306 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510.836.5282
First Monday of every month; show at 8 pm
no cover but donations requested