Posts Tagged ‘girls’ empowerment’

As ALAG continues to expand, we’ve been asked to explain some of our “operating procedures” for new folks who may want to bring ALAG to their community.


One of my self-imposed rules since the beginning of Act Like a GRRRL (ALAG) has been


GRRRLS and Vali at ALAG 2015

that I try not to talk to parents.


(And, let me express my deep gratitude all the ALAG parents/guardians of the last 13 years for their understanding.)


It’s not that I don’t like parents. If you’re a new ALAG parent reading this, let me say I KNOW you’re undoubtedly cool if you’re sending your daughter to ALAG. I am sure you’re “my people.” 


It’s just that I’m trying to stay as transparent as I can with the GRRRLS. Every year, the first norm the GRRRLS create for their work together is “what’s said in the circle stays in the circle.” I want to avoid even the slightest appearance that I might have occasion to slip and repeat something to a parent that a GRRRL said in confidence in that circle.*


Another norm that always makes its way onto the GRRRLS’ list is “no parents in the space.” It’s important that Act Like a GRRRL belong to your daughter. It’s something she doesn’t need to share with you.



GRRRL Tribe:Co-leaders Kamilah, Vali, Dylan

This is her space. We are her people. She is finding her tribe. This is a time when her search for independence and identity may be at an all-time high. ALAG is giving her the space to develop those things in a supportive, intentional community. But, it stops being about growing independence and self-agency when parents join in.



I recently read that the great question of adolescence is “Who Am I?” and the great fear of adolescence is “Am I Normal?” The best answers to those questions come through independent self-discovery. It’s essentially what we are doing 24/7 at ALAG. Being told who you are is nice, but it’s not as powerful as recognizing it for yourself.


ALAG is a positive risk-taking activity. Performing your own material is terrifying. When that material is deeply personal autobiographical narrative, the stakes go up exponentially. To be publicly known for who you are and what you stand for builds character, charisma and confidence.


It’s work that demands parents take a step back. It’s the first of many steps you’ll make


Kamilah introducing the GRRRLS

to let your daughter assume her own space in the world. She can expand because you give her the room to do so or because she steals the space by distancing herself emotionally, physically and mentally. (It’s important to also cultivate a space where families celebrate togetherness.)



In my experience watching GRRRLS and parents navigate these years, the strongest familial relationships are where parents willingly step back and let their daughters take this time and space to grow, even when parents don’t like what they see/hear initially.


My mother, who was the greatest mother ever, did not always agree with the things my brothers and I believed. But, she always respected us. She was famous for saying, “that’s what happens when you raise your children to think. They don’t always think what you want them to.” She always kept an open mind and even allowed her thinking to be persuaded by our best arguments.



Mom presenting her Nobel Prizes

My mother referred to her children as her “Nobel Prizes,” explaining that she never got around to saving the world herself because she was too busy raising my brothers and me. “But, that’s okay because they’re going to do it for me.”





Your daughters are our Nobel Prizes. I have no doubt that they are going to save the world, one corner at a time. They are building amazing skills by learning to articulate their values, negotiate differences, take up space and give it to others as they serve as witness to each other. They give me confidence that the future is indeed brighter than the past. And, you are an award-winning parent for having the foresight to let your daughter have her own #RRRevolution. 

*Obviously, I have a reporting responsibility if I think a GRRRL is being hurt or may be a threat to herself or others.



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Dylan’s first summer at ALAG

By the time I joined Act Like a GRRRL at 13 years old, I was a first class bully: I was convinced that friendship was a complicated series of manipulations and competition and backstabbing. Throughout my childhood, I had learned from painful embarrassment and keen observation that weakness shown was future ammunition to be used against you. I had been surrounded by toxic groups of girls that were just plain mean, cutting each other down and passing mean notes behind each others backs. I had learned fairly quickly that my early-sprouting breasts and growing baby fat were prime targets for grade school ridicule but a childhood of reading had given me a sharp wit. I could make people laugh; I found it was harder to be cut down when you were the one doing the cutting. It was fun to throw a zing and know I was safe from anyone else’s cruel words in the giggles of my friends. It was nice to have a weaker, common enemy to focus on. Sometimes it makes me really sad to remember mean things I’ve said or done in the past, considering the people I was mean to then are likely the adults I’m friends with now. Sometimes I want to grab myself by the shoulders at 9 or 13 or even 17, give myself a shake and tell myself that it’s OK to stand up to the popular girls at school, it’s okay to be interested in books and writing stories and listening to the Ramones. It’s okay to be kind and vulnerable and defenseless.


Co-leaders Dylan and Kamilah with Vali, June 2013

Act Like a GRRRL was a fresh start. The year after my first summer I began the surprising habit of squashing gossip in its tracks. Physically removing myself from places where I would be tempted to gossip, stopping myself mid-sentence and apologizing for whatever mean thing had began to come out of my mouth. I began writing. I had always been writing; my entire life, but Act Like a Grrrl was the first time my writing had been encouraged beyond just a hobby I scribbled away at when I was alone in my room. For the first time I was a Writer with a capital W. I was so invigorated with my writing that I began a personal journal and I haven’t quit since. The more I believed myself to be a writer, the more I wrote, the more I wrote, the better writer I became. Out of all the beautiful gifts ALAG has given me, the confidence to pursue my writing is the most important. I am currently working toward my BA in Creative Writing and hope to continue my education with an MFA in the future. Act Like a Grrrl was a gift to me. I spent four years as a participant and have worked as a co-leader for the past three, and it has been a true joy to pass that gift onto other girls. I love to see the transformation from the small, shy girls that enter the program at the beginning of the month to the bold, gorgeous young women that take their final bow at the end. There aren’t many places in our society that make space for girls or their stories. We need more people to say, “Wait! Everybody listen, this girls got something to say! This is important.” Before I had someone do that for me, I thought I had nothing to say. The less power I thought I had, the less I believed in myself. It was so simple yet so deeply complicated. I feel honored to help girls recognize their potential through Act Like a GRRRL, it is a program that I hold very close to my heart.

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