I just discovered this video yesterday, from The Queen Latifah Show, and it absolutely blew my mind. It’s so powerful and strong and brave.
The three girls… women… are (from left) Belissa Escobedo, 16, Zariya Allen, 15, and Rhiannon McGavin, 16. They’re part of a group called Get Lit, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that uses poetry and spoken word to increase teen literacy.
I stumbled in describing them because I generally use age 18 as the cutoff for whether I refer to someone as a child or an adult. If a female is over 18, then they’re a woman; under 18 is still a girl. But these three are so mature, so self-assured, and seem to have been through so much, it doesn’t seem appropriate to call them “girls.”
It’s shocking, and sad, to think about what teenagers go through these days. I honestly have no idea, because high school was such a long time ago for me, and I don’t have human children of my own. I don’t know how today’s high school kids’ experiences compare to mine, especially since I went to a very special high school—but it seems a lot worse. Not that it was all peachy keen for me; there were certainly problems when I was growing up too, but it seems so much more severe now. Is it just that we hear more about the terrible things that happen because news travels so much faster on the Internet, and because (fortunately) more people are willing to speak out about them? Or are there many more incidents than there used to be?
I do know we think about things differently now. We’re slowly realizing that things that are frequently thought of as just human nature, or “boys will be boys,” or even “normal,” really aren’t. It’s not normal to be abusive to someone, whether they’re siblings or friends or total strangers. It shouldn’t be expected for a man to feel entitled to a woman’s body simply because he’s a man, or for a woman to belittle her own self-worth or sense of safety simply because a man shows interest in her. It isn’t normal for police offers to assume that men are guilty because of their color, or for anyone to assume the worst—or the best—about anyone because of their gender, race, class, or social standing.
I certainly don’t think I was as self-aware when I was a kid as these women are. I’m not sure I’m that self-aware now. If I was, I certainly wasn’t brave enough to speak out about it or perform it in front of strangers. I only recently wrote about an experience I had on the subway in high school, which I’m hoping will be published soon on the amazing website I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault (if you’re not familiar with it, please check it out). I never had the courage to tell anyone about it before.
I’m so grateful, and so hugely impressed, that these girls are doing this. More power to them. Please listen, and share, and let’s do something to help them change the world.