by Heather Nannery
Communications Manager, YWCA New York City
Who is the 21st Century Girl? How can we support her aspirations? What happens when 200 girls and women unite to find out?
The YWCA of the City of New York (YW) took on these questions and more on June 2 at the First Annual Potential to Power Girls Symposium. The YW convened over 200 girls and 50 influential women to engage in important discussions about racial and gender equity in New York City.
The event kicked off with girls and women walking into the room to the sound of musical empowerment by DJ Abby, 17, on the turntables and then a special step performance by the youth from The Door.
The day featured a blend of fun and enlightening discussion between the girls and women. Young women were able to let their voices be heard as the event featured a Youth Keynote by Mehar Gujral followed by two panel discussions. CEO Dr. Danielle Moss Lee facilitated the panel discussions, which featured two high school girls and two college aged young women who expressed the challenges that arise for teenage girls and young women.
After the youth speakers, the floor was opened for discussion at each individual table between the girls and the influential women. Influential women guests included author of Orange is the New Black Piper Kerman, MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry, and Political Analyst Zerlina Maxwell and model and activist Christy Turlington-Burns. To see the full list of influential female guests, click here.
After the discussions, 2014 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana silenced the crowd with an original poem written for the symposium (read it here) and a special reading of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” to commemorate Angelou’s passing.
Following Ramana, the YW’s Board Chair announced that the Mayor’s Office had issued a Proclamation stating the Mayor’s commitment to women and girls and declaring June 2, 2014 “YWCA’s Potential to Power Symposium Day.”
— Dr. Danielle Lee (@DrDanielleLee) June 2, 2014
The energy in the room was electric and erupted into celebration as #yw21cg trended on Twitter. Women and girls alike were posting their thoughts and reactions to the event! Here are some examples below:
— Christina Greer (@Dr_CMGreer) June 2, 2014
— Girl Be Heard (@GirlBeHeard) June 2, 2014
— Alondra Nelson (@alondra) June 2, 2014
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 2, 2014
— Mehar Gujral (@Mehar_Gujral) June 2, 2014
After an inspirational morning, the girls broke out into groups facilitated by Global Kids where they began to lay the foundation of policy recommendations for the New York City Girls Agenda before they returned to the main space for a moment of reflection.
Girls queued up to the microphone and shared their thoughts and impressions of the event discussions. It was a powerful moment of sharing and excitement for a new movement of feminism.
Dr. Danielle Moss Lee said, “We made it clear to girls in New York City, you are valid now, you matter now, and you have power now – in essence, you are power… not potential.”
The First Annual Potential to Power Symposium was the start of a movement – join us in changing New York City for women and girls.
We got now, New York City.