August 26th is Women’s Equality Day, a national observance started in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment, giving U.S. women the right to vote. While 94 years may seem like a lifetime, and a lot of progress has certainly been made, there is still work to be done. Women’s Equality Day is great opportunity to call attention to women’s ongoing efforts toward achieving full equality.
Strong women begin as empowered girls, and whether they are rocking the vote or rocking an instrument, everyone benefits from a sense of shared experience, friendship, community and support. That is why I am part of an organization known as Girls Rock! DC. Founded in 2007, Girls Rock! DC is an annual week long music camp designed to empower a diverse collective of female youth between the ages of 8 and 18. Campers from across the Washington, D.C. area participate in themed workshops, instrument lessons, and band rehearsals all leading up to a final showcase at the nationally renowned 9:30 Club.
Girls Rock! DC is an entirely volunteer-run group of female teachers, musicians and artists who use grassroots organizing to run and operate the camp. As a percussion instructor and a member of DEVO (our nickname for the Development Committee), I dedicate my time away from work to building lesson plans, seeking donors, and organizing fundraisers to help raise money for supplies, instruments, food, and our financial aid fund.
And it is not just about the music. My goal during the week is not to teach campers how to play a flawless, jaw-dropping drum solo that will make the crowd beg for an encore; I am not trying to create the next Sheila E. I want each young woman to leave knowing her worth and feeling a change within herself, no matter how big or small that change may be. Maybe she will stand up for an important cause she believes in at her school. Maybe she will tell her friend that she wrote a song called “I Love Me” and wants to share the lyrics. I want her to accept herself for who she is and if I can help to create an environment where a young woman can feel just a tiny bit inspired and empowered to be herself, I am happy with that outcome.
At New Editions, volunteering and community involvement is supported and encouraged. Being an employee here, a woman-owned business that accommodates everyone – including women and workers with disabilities - makes me feel proud to be in an environment that supports equality and embodies what a diverse workplace should be.
For more information about Women’s Equality Day, visit: https://www.nwhm.org/blog/celebrate-equality-day/
To find out more about Girls Rock! DC, visit: http://www.girlsrockdc.org/.
Ebony Smith is a Project Assistant at New Editions working on projects in the areas of health, vocational rehabilitation, and community integration for older adults and people with disabilities. When she is not working, you can find her behind her drum set.