Girls Rock Charleston (GRC) is a lot of things. We learned that this morning at Creative Mornings Charleston. Today’s speaker, Micah Blaise, one of GRC’s leaders began her talk by acknowledging the organization’s other leaders and stating that GRC is “horizontally organized.” “I’m not the boss,” she laughed. The idea of unity was a sticking point throughout her 20-minute speech.

Girls need to stick together, right? That’s the first thing that comes to mind when scanning GRC’s mission statement. Beginning with “we envision a Charleston in which girls and transgender youth trust and support each other, are celebrated in their states of being, are safe and encouraged to explore their identities,” and much more. It’s a big mission statement, reflecting a very big mission: to empower girls and trans youth. 

Blaise laid out some of the ways in which GRC empowers girls — through a summer camp and an after-school program, girls and trans youth can learn how to play instruments, discuss important social concerns, and most importantly, make friends.

Delaney, a high school senior who’s been going to Girls Rock camps for the past four years, stood up to share her story. She says she’s made lifelong friends at GRC. “It helped me realize I had a voice,” she said. It also helped her guitar playing, leading to the formation of a band outside of Girls Rock (currently called Dolphinately, which is an awesome name; sadly, there’s a new name is in the works). The audience clapped loudly for Delaney; she was the proof in the pudding.

GRC is working on starting a new program, inspired by Community Connections for Youth, a Bronx-based nonprofit that works to keep kids out of juvenile detention. Blaise shared some startling facts — South Carolina is one of a shrinking number of states that locks teenagers up for “status offenses,” i.e. running away from home and truancy. Of those being detained for status offenses, 64 percent are girls. There are currently no community alternatives to being put in juvi in Charleston County, so GRC hopes to serve as a safe place for these youths. 

GRC wants to help girls and trans youth find a voice, but they’re also looking to help other oppressed groups be heard. That’s the thing — oppression. It’s very clearly an inspiration for the mission statement. Blaise even went so far as to say that GRC is working against the patriarchy, which, according to GRC, prevents girls from building necessary skills. 

GRC wants to build coalitions with other organizations; they co-sponsored the March for Black Lives held days after the Emanuel AME shooting. They also want to address what Blaise calls “the white-washing of the LGBTQ movement,” pointing to the upcoming film, Stonewall, as an example (the film, about 1969 LGBT riots in New York, stars a mostly white cast).

Girls Rock has cast a big net of concerns, and girls like Delaney are an example of how effective the program can be. Still, the motive to help give a voice to as many oppressed communities as possible is very ambitious, even for the most determined of groups.

Blaise said Girls Rock needs volunteers, equipment, and donations. As they move into supporting more low-income youth, they need the funds to pay the tuition of kids who can’t afford it themselves. Head to their website to learn more about how you can help.

Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention City Paper‘s own shout-out at this mornings talk. When asked if Girls Rock Charleston has faced any obstacles, Blaise talked about a lack of volunteers and funding and the tweets of our very own Editor-in-Chief Chris Haire. “There are people in the community, like the editor of the City Paper, who attack us on Twitter without ever having met us,” she said. “But we dealt with that.” 

[Editor’s note: This Haire of the Dog blog post sheds more like on the incidents mentioned above.]

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