GIVING GIRLS A VOICE
BY MARIANE PEARL
What do we mean by giving girls a voice?
Based in New York City, Girls Write Now*, is a program that pairs promising young women writers from underprivileged background with professional women in writing and media.
A report published last year by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund revealed that in the American school system, African-American girls are more likely than any other group of girls to be suspended, expelled or held back entirely. Their suspension rates are almost six times that of their white counterparts and more than most boys of color as well. These and other daunting educational obstacles prevent thousands of young African-American girls from fulfilling their dreams.
Danni Green, who wrote and performed “Dear Kanye Jan 14th,” spent her school years growing up in poverty in Brooklyn, New York. Her childhood exposed her to many harsh lessons and forced her to grow up fast. She worked on her writing with mentor Kathleen Scheiner**. The two met at least once a week and exchanged emails between sessions digging into Danni’s writing. They discussed everything from the big life themes in her work to the nuance of one word over another.
Seanna Viechweg, who wrote and performed “Mother Dearest,” grew up in Brooklyn and went to school in the Bronx. Of her mentor Katie Gemmil***, she writes: “My mentor Katie may be small, but she has a big personality. As a person, I consider myself reserved, as I cannot always find the courage to speak up. Katie, experienced and daring as she is, could be considered the opposite of me. (…) I am grateful for this difference, as her voice has inspired me to raise my own.”
Author Maya Angelou once wrote “The bird doesn’t sing because he has an answer, he sings because he has a song.”
Both Danni and Seanna are 18 years old
Danni Green – “Dear Kanye, Jan 14th
Seanna Viechweg – “Mother Dearest”
*Girls Write now is an award-winning organization that helps underserved teen girls write and find their voices (and confidence) by pairing them with women writing professionals as their personal mentors. To date, 100% of our girls have gone on to college.
**Kathleen Scheiner is an editor and writer with more than fifteen years experience in book, newspaper, educational, and magazine publishing. She is the author of “Collectors” and “Memoirs of Meanness.”
***Katie Gemmill is a writer and a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.