I never had anything like Girls Rock when I was a child, but I’m so glad it exists. Girls Rock represents everything I hoped my world could be as a young girl, still so unaware of how systems of oppression were (and still are) working against me. It’s everything my soul was calling for when I was young and felt alone and misunderstood, unable to fully wield my voice.
The first time I volunteered for Girls Rock was at the Charleston camp in 2012. It was truly transformative and I gained a whole new perspective. The next year, I volunteered for Columbia’s first ever Girls Rock camp and I again learned so much from the experience. Volunteering for Girls Rock is more than just being a camp counselor or a glorified babysitter. It’s a place for campers and volunteers alike to reclaim their voices and use them to spread positivity and fight against the injustices we face in society—and, of course, to know that we rock!
"It’s a place for campers and volunteers alike to reclaim their voices"
One goal in growing up is to not repeat mistakes, and this applies to what we teach to the youth at Girls Rock. We want to save them from the horrible things we had to deal with. We want them to know that it’s okay, and it will get better, because it did for us. We need to advocate for them because our society deems it unnecessary for them to advocate for themselves, and they are often unheard. Girls Rock is one of the ways in which young people can feel comfortable enough to express themselves with no judgment or punishment. So here are just a few of the many things I’ve learned from Girls Rock:
1. IT’S OKAY TO BE LOUD
While I’m no stranger to playing my music loud, offstage I’m sometimes more mild-mannered and quiet, as was encouraged of me and most young girls growing up. Every now and then, I need to remind myself that it’s okay for me to be loud. It’s okay to scream sometimes and let it all out. This is why at camp we have scream circles, where we each take turns letting out a scream, as loud as we can. It’s a great way to get everyone loosened up and a healthy reminder to release any emotions we might have, rather than to keep them bottled up inside us.
2. ART IS IMPORTANT TO LIFE
I can’t stress this enough. The campers at Girls Rock make art through music and other mediums during various workshops and down-time throughout the day. Being surrounded by so much creativity for a week is rejuvenating, to say the least. Seeing the way it affects the campers and their progress is awe-inspiring. They become more comfortable with themselves and start to trust their instincts. They also learn new ways to express themselves, and do it fearlessly.
3. TAKING RISKS IS EVERYTHING
The campers are taught different instruments for one week (many for the first time ever) and form bands and write songs, which are then performed for a large crowd of people at the end of the week. If that’s not bold and courageous then I don’t know what is. The fact that they are able to work through their nerves and put themselves out there in such a way is extremely inspiring. It reminds me to keep pushing to let go and take those risks I often overthink about.
4. WE ARE MORE THAN OUR PHYSICAL APPEARANCE
So much more. One thing we stress at Girls Rock is to refrain from physical compliments. This is because even positive physical compliments reinforce the notion that we are valued by our physical appearance, another idea that is virtually inescapable for young girls in our society. Instead we try to give compliments about people’s strengths and personal achievements, which empowers them so much more.
"even positive physical compliments reinforce the notion that we are valued by our physical appearance..."
5. WE HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN FROM YOUNG PEOPLE
I’m always floored by the level of competence and sheer fierceness our campers exude. Not only are they capable of learning so much in so little time, they perform so gracefully under pressure. Being young is hard enough when you are taught to be “seen and not heard,” like most kids are. This is why it’s important to advocate for the youth. As soon as we are able to recognize their ability to teach us, we will be able learn from them.