As a young woman, martial arts instructor Michelle Correa was attacked.
“I was a victim,” she said, during her self-defense demonstration at the Women’s Art and Music Festival on May 6. “And I was embarrassed, insecure after that — I couldn’t look up, developed a terrible shyness where I couldn’t even speak in public.”
“And as that went along, it opened doors for me to be taken advantage of again,” Correa said.
After Correa’s mother signed her brothers up for martial arts classes, Correa practiced with them at home until her brothers’ instructor asked her to join the classes.
“So when I joined the class, I sat in the very back, where no one could see me,” she said. “And I learned martial arts — I learned to kick and punch like most martials arts teach you. It was not until my instructor taught me how to get up in front of class and start teaching, did I finally develop the confidence to be an empowered woman.”
Correa was one of 76 women artists, musicians, dancers, and poets who participated in the Women’s Art and Music Festival at the Tower Theatre. Scores of people turned out for the festival.
Other artists who were exhibited at the grassroots organized event were Laura Ibarra, Yvone Shipley, Naomi Marie, Lubna Suboh and Akiki Work. There were 66 women in total who performed or contributed to the festival, said Stephanie Canales, who coordinated the event.
The festival is intended to shine a light on sexual and other violence that women face all over the world, Canales said.
“What we want to celebrate and provide is a healing space for survivors and for members of the community,” Canales said. “And to create a conversation about it.”
Additionally, the festival was organized to raise money for paid internships at Rape Counseling Service of Fresno (RCS Fresno).
“It’s for women at Fresno State University who are interested in becoming advocates at the Rape Counseling Services,” Canales said. “Usually internships are not paid and this is a struggle for many students because we have families to feed, sometimes we have to work two jobs to go to school.
“So we decided we want to fundraise for paid internships,” Canales said.
RCS Fresno was started by Fresno State Women’s Studies students over 40 years ago. It provides a 24-hour crisis telephone line for women who are victims of sexual assault, said Diana Hernandez, who was at the festival on behalf of RCS Fresno.
Over $10,000 was raised for paid internships at RCS Fresno, Canales said.