It’s hard to know where to start this letter! After 10 years in the larger Girls Rock movement and 5 years at Girls Rock Philly, I’m stepping down as Program Director of GRP (and as Board member of the international Girls Rock Camp Alliance).
I want to start by sharing how excited I am about the future of Girls Rock Philly! We can only see as far as the horizon, and even that is constantly changing. But in this moment on the horizon ahead of me, I see a dynamic GRP community, singing and working together from a place of collective care that celebrates itself in opposition and resistance to alienation, isolation, shame and guilt. On that horizon, I see our Youth Action Council – with the support of our entire community – leading the way to make GRP the youth-centered organization it strives to be. I see more music making, more experimentation, more partnerships around the city, and more leadership that reflects our camper population and centers the experiences of those most deeply impacted by intersectional gender oppression – specifically people of color and trans and gender nonconforming people. These parts of the path forward feel clear, having been set in motion by years of thoughtful and intentional work by many people at GRP.
Also on that horizon, I see challenges not unique to GRP but difficult nonetheless. We must wrestle with and seek to interrupt the racism, transphobia and ableism in the world around us that is also built into our own infrastructure. As Program Director, my work was guided by building a feminist practice that centers racial justice, has a liberatory approach to gender, and supports everyone at GRP, not just participants, in recognizing their ability to transform themselves and the world around them. It is my hope that I have helped shepherd GRP in this direction. This is long haul work however and now more than ever GRP will need to continue to face these challenges fearlessly and head-on. It won’t be easy, but it’s an essential part of accomplishing our mission. And down the line I’m eager to rejoin in that work as a volunteer.
I am so thrilled for everyone to meet Sam Rise, who as our new Program Director will be taking the lead in strengthening and further building our youth and adult programs. We haven’t known each other for long, but in her I see a passion and excitement for the work that is rooted in a powerful and thoughtful presence. It’s inspiring! Thank you, Sam for joining GRP!
Facing the horizon, I turn because behind me I hear hundreds of voices singing loudly – some might hear cacophony and others a beautiful harmony – both important, to me I hear people singing themselves into existence. These are the voices of GRP participants, and they are amplified by the voices of our community. They remind me to pause, reflect and offer gratitude to all those who helped shape my time at GRP and bring us to this moment.
So, in looking back, I see that we have grown tremendously – and at our best, in ways that responded to youth and their demands. Thank you, GRP youth for inspiring me daily with your bravery, joy, and thoughtfulness. Thank you for shaping this organization more than anyone else.
Our programmatic growth has been possible because of our tremendously talented community of educators who have built our programs. Special thanks to Laura, Chris, Dianne, Dorie, Erica, Candy, Cheshire, Mel, Mariah, Chenda, Sophy, Liana, and Mekeva for doing this work.
I was lucky to be joined by a small but mighty office staff who dedicated themselves to the daily work of building our infrastructure and running this organization. Thank you, Chris, Brielle, Winner, Candy and Laura.
Over the last 10 years, the Board of Directors has championed GRP at every turn, always asking itself how it can best serve the organization. Thank you all for your work (and for hiring me!). And in this moment, a huge thank you to Noelle and Alexia. As board co-chairs during this major transition, your commitment and leadership is inspiring.
And of course, all of this GRP magic has only been possible because of the hundreds of GRP volunteers who as a solid foundation make our work possible. Thank you to our social workers, committee members, workshop facilitators, instrument instructors, fundraisers, roadies and all the other folks who showed up and jumped in whenever I needed you!
Over the last two years, I have had the honor to build and share leadership with my co-director, Andrea. From her, I have learned so much about how I want to do this work, how I want to move in the world, as well as so much about myself. I will be reflecting on your words and carrying them with me for a long time. Thank you! I am so thrilled about your new position as Community Organizing Director – you really helped GRP articulate this as a priority. Thank you for guiding us as we continue to find our home in the Philadelphia ecosystem and specifically in the social justice movements that work to make this city a more equitable and nourishing place to live.
As for me, I am still working out my next steps. By the end of summer 2017, while my heart will still beat strongly for and with rock camp, after 10 years, I will no longer hold a leadership position in the movement. It’s an emotional decision for sure, but the right one. I need to make space for new leadership so that the girls rock movement can evolve beyond its early leaders.
And personally, I want to find some healing in my bones, to find the ground beneath my feet, the physical world in my hands, and to take what I’ve learned at GRP and put it into practice in other parts of my life.
Through this work, I have experienced personal transformation and I have also seen that building reflective and caring communities that can hold our grief and our joy is possible here and now, in this moment, and not just something we have to dream about. Thank you, Angela Davis for putting this so clearly into words and affirming that “our work against violence must be done with joy and art and song to prefigure the world we want.”
Though I have to work hard every day to remember, and many times I forget the words, I am taking my own steps forward singing “I am enough, but I am not alone.” Thank you to each and every one of you for teaching me, for inspiring me, for struggling with me and for affirming every day my belief in the promise of song. Let us sing out and go bravely forward.
With immense gratitude,