GIRLS WRITE NOW: I HAVE A VOICE
BY PRISCILLA GUO
This story is part of the CHIME FOR CHANGE – Girls Write Now partnership:
Project Description: Four years ago, I joined Girls Write Now as a mentee in the program. Since then, I have learned new genres and processes of writing. One of those genres — spoken word — has allowed me to break through and find my voice.
Bio: Priscilla Guo is a freshman at Harvard University. She is a representative on the Harvard Freshman Public Service Council. In 2014, Priscilla was named one of Business Insider’s “Most Impressive High School Graduates”. She was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to serve as a youth representative on the New York City Youth Board and is tasked with advising the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development on growing youth programming. An impassioned champion for girls’ education, Priscilla served as a National Teen Advisor to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that empowers American teens to raise awareness and funds for U.N. programs that aid some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. She worked with Congresswoman Grace Meng on the Girls Count Act, which ensures girls receive birth certificates, documentation that is critical for accessing education, health and social services, and career opportunities. As a writing fellow for NYCAN, she wrote and researched articles for education reform. Priscilla was a mentee and Poetry Ambassador at Girls Write Now for four years. She says of Girls Write Now, “It has been my sisterhood of the traveling pens.”
I HAVE A VOICE
“No matter what language I use. I speak. You listen. And you understand with your heart: She has a voice.” I practiced these words over and over in my head as my lungs swelled with deep breaths. I pinched myself for a reality check: I was performing in the first ever — and my first ever
— Poetry Slam at Lincoln Center.
Even as a native New Yorker, I never had the chance to go to Lincoln Center, much less perform there. I felt a heightened sense of awareness as I looked around the hall. I was awkward in these new surroundings. I saw eyes darting between the stage and me, trying to reconcile the two. Their thoughts about where I should
be and what I should
be doing were deafening.
Their assumptions engulfed me until the emcee announced: “Everyone give a big round of applause for our next performer, Priscilla Guo!” I swallowed the last bit of doubt that I had in myself, and as I stood up, I felt myself tear apart from the crowd. Now, I was representing Girls Write Now as a poetry ambassador. As a performer, I was supposed to change their minds with my poetry.
Each stride across the stage to the center made me feel stronger. I adjusted the mike stand to my height but just as I was about to start, it wobbled, nearly falling from its stand — an auspicious start. In the silence, I thrived. I stopped the microphone from tipping over and held it firm to my lips. The words began to flow up and out of me — words that stood not only as a testament to their content but to my continuity to thrive. They carried with them, the rhythm of my life.
I delivered three poems, my confidence rising with each. For my last poem, I started by clicking my tongue against the roof of my mouth. The audience stared back at me in confusion.
I had written the poem nearly a month after Malala Yousafzai’s attack. The contorted faces of the audience began to smooth as they realized the singular sound symbolized the push of a finger on a gun that had threatened a young girl’s life. As a spark, I wanted to inspire other girls to be change-makers. Clicks aren’t commonplace at poetry slams but neither was I. I will move and shake the world.
“Ode to the voice that has left me with choices. I rejoice. I rejoice. For I have a voice.”
Applause greeted me from all sides of the atrium hall. And before me, I could see the future audiences that will look back at me and hear my words — a strong, everlasting expression of my story. I have a voice and the world is listening.
This story is part of the CHIME FOR CHANGE – Girls Write Now partnership. Click here to learn more.
Opinions shared are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of views of CHIME FOR CHANGE, Gucci or any partners of the campaign.