“One of these mornin’s you goin’ to rise and singin’, Then you’ll spread yo’ wings an’ you’ll take the sky.” Nina Simone’s powerful voice rang out. Nina Simone, who was a key voice in the civil rights movement, encouraged me to start a girls empowerment group during my senior year of high school. When I was a kid, my father introduced me to older styles of music, and it was then that I discovered my love for singing and music, particularly Nina Simone’s work. Nina Simone’s music transported me back in time to a time when African Americans faced racial discrimination, gender inequity, and the inability to achieve The American Dream, which I admired. We were ridiculed and degraded as an African- American community, yet we still managed to fight for our rights. Nina’s R&B Soul and Jazz style of music allowed her to speak out against racism and other injustices.
I felt empowered after listening to Nina’s songs because I have a natural knack for singing. As I harmonized with Nina and her words, every note and syllable spoke to me. I shared with Nina a message of anguish, resilience, hope, and endurance through her lyrics but from a different lens. There were times when I felt lost as a teen. Living in a world of peer pressure, racial and gender tension, and self-esteem issues, I yearned for a sense of belonging and an emotional outlet. Seeing Nina persevere in the face of adversity inspired me to believe that I, too, can persevere in the face of adversity by inspiring others. This realization motivated me to spread awareness about self-love and confidence to the girls at school by creating a girls empowerment group.
Although I live in a different era than Nina, I was aware of the injustices that people can face. Beyond music, I wanted to create a space where girls like myself could share their stories, abilities, and advice. My group ranged from high school freshmen to seniors. In the beginning, there was a total of 40 girls who attended the meetings. As time progressed the numbers began to dwindle. It wasn’t the number of girls who came to the meetings that inspired me to keep going; it was the prospect of having a positive impact on at least one person. We eventually grew to a group of 12 who met regularly and encouraged one another to embrace sisterhood and self-love. We engaged in self-esteem- building activities such as venting, making vision boards, scheduling self-care days, and expressing academic and career objectives without fear of being judged. I wanted to have the same impression on the young women at my school as Nina had on me.
I may not be an artist or have faced the same challenges as our African American forefathers but I wanted to provide positive reinforcement to our specific injustices.