Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Empowering the youth of DC
The youth have a lot to teach us, it’s up to us as adults to listen and figure out ways to give them the tools they need to realize their power. At Girls Rock! DC (GR!DC) that is exactly what we aim to do. As a board member, events coordinator and dj instructor/coach for GR!DC I have been given an opportunity to create, build and support our youth by building positive outlets and encouraging creative spaces for youth. With a base in music education, Girls Rock! DC aims to create a supportive, inclusive, and creative space for girls, and non-binary, and trans youth of varying racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds; abilities; identities; and experiences to develop their self-confidence, build community, stand up, and rock out!
I first discovered GR!DC as a journalist with The Vinyl District. I visited the camp during the 2013 summer and interviewed some of the instructors and the youth. It was in that experience that I really fell in love with the organization and yearned to be a part of it. I joined leadership a year later and feel that I have been able to add my unique voice as a women of color to the table alongside those that started the organization 10 years ago. Which speaking of, this year is our 10th anniversary! While I have not been with GR!DC for all ten years, I am grateful to those that came before me that laid the groundwork for this organization to exist in DC. We meet every other week throughout the year, which can be a thankless and laborious task as it takes a lot to keep such an organization alive. None of us would dedicate our time to this organization if we didn’t feel it was worth it, and what is worth it, are the youth we serve. They are the most amazing little and semi-big humans on this planet! We keep going for them.
The accumulation of their hard work is seen at the showcase at the 9:30 Club every year, which is such an exciting time for everyone involved. Our campers are nervous in the day leading up to their showcase but once they get there and are on stage they are literally professionals. As a dj coach, it is really special to see the djs entertain the crowd with their new skills. I feel like a proud mom on the sidelines! Haha, and every year I cry at their talent. But most of all seeing them become fierce and unafraid is so special. Not only have they mastered their techniques but their self-confidence beams from their faces as they perform. It’s the best experience to see them all feel like stars on the stage and see what everyone else sees in them every day.
OnRae LaTeal of Aflocentric. During her talk with our teen youth, she asked everyone to step in the middle of the room if they felt safe at their schools. Only 2 of the youth stepped forward. She then she asked them to step in the middle of the room if they felt safe at camp and all of them stepped forward. That was chilling moment for me. It’s hard for me to know that so many of our youth feel unsafe in their schools. at the same time, it was extremely moving to know that we create a safe space for them during that week of camp. It makes me emotional to think about it. That’s why no matter how hard the administrative and planning can get, it is always worth it. It’s not about us it is only about the youth.
A brief history of Girls Rock! DC, following in the footsteps of girls rock camps across the United States, Girls Rock! DC was founded in October 2007 by an all-volunteer collective of DC metro area musicians, teachers, artists and community organizers. We build upon our diverse musical backgrounds, connections to local youth, and approaches to grassroots organizing to create a week-long day camp for Washington, D.C. area youth ages 8-18. During the week, campers receive small-group instruction on electric guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, turntables, digital music, or vocals; form bands, and collaborate to write an original song or DJ set, which they perform at a showcase at the end of the week. This year our summer camp runs from June 26 – Friday, June 30 with our FANTASTIC Camper Showcase on Saturday, July 1st! Please be on the lookout for the announcement on our facebook page and website.
A really cool addition to our summer camp and one that I am not sure a lot of people know of is our afterschool program called GR!ASP (Girls Rock! After School Program). It is as equally amazing as our summer camp and there are a few volunteers who basically run it year round. It is typically run at a DC school that hosts it and we then bring our gear and instructors to their school to run it. The GRASP showcase is another tear jerker! June 4th is the date for that showcase at Comet Ping Pong, which we hope to sell out! Our GRASP campers recently had the opportunity to open for the band Diet Cig at the Rock and Roll Hotel last month, so they are more than ready to rock the stage in a couple of weeks!
Laura Irene board member, events coordinator and dj instructor/coach for GR!DC. She can be reached at email@example.com.