Alicia Olatuja's brilliant "Intuition: Songs From the Minds of Women" includes a Joni Mitchell composition I had not heard before, "Cherokee Louise.'
The song is about a young woman who ends up living on the streets after suffering racism and sexual abuse. Themes so agonizing that, in introducing "Cherokee Louise" during a performance I was lucky enough to catch in Denver, Olatjua said she had been hesitant to record it. She decided to go ahead after asking herself, If she couldn't sing it, how could she encourage others to tell their truths?
By coincidence, the day after hearing Olatuja at Dazzle I sat down to interview Julie Duffy, the founding director of The Delores Project.
The Delores Project has been a haven for women and transgender individuals since Julie helped found it in Denver in 2000. The shelter was named for Delores Big Boy, a Lakota woman who was friend of Julie. Delores Big Boy, who had suffered sexual abuse, died in homelessness on Denver's streets in 1999.
Julie has walked alongside so many women, supporting them as they lived their truths.
Delores Big Boy attended a support group that Julie established for women experiencing homelessness. That was before The Delores Project, when Julie was a social worker at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Julie calls The Delores Project "the shelter of last resort" because it welcomes women who have been barred from other places because of their behavior. People who are hurting can be hard to be around. Perhaps those who are hardest to be around need a place to rest -- or to hide -- the most.
Julie abhors romanticizing homelessness and people experiencing it. That doesn't mean she doesn't recognize and try to learn from the grace and grit that some of the folks living on the streets bring to getting through their days.
I asked Julie whether she knew "Cherokee Louise," which is far from a romantic song. Of course she did. I teared up a little as I described Alicia Olatuja's introduction. Julie said she wished she had caught the show.