Education and Empowerment Through Girls Rock Camp Houston
For seven years, volunteer-based organization Girls Rock Camp Houston has been going above and beyond to empower young girls, aged 8 to 18, through music education.
“We create a safe space for them to express themselves through music,” says program coordinator Muna Javaid. “They don’t need any musical experience. They form bands, practice throughout the week, write their own songs, and at the end of the week, there’s a big showcase at a major music venue where it’s like a real punk rock show. They have T-shirts and logos and merch, so they get the full DIY experience.”
While music is a major part of the program with girls writing, practicing and performing their own original songs, the main takeaway from both counselors and students involves a deeper kind of guidance, one that goes beyond a foray into campers’ musical education.
“What makes Girls Rock Camp so awesome is that we’re more than just a music camp,” founder and executive director Anna Garza says. “We instill self-confidence and life skills that they may not get at home or at school, and we also provide them with a safe space to be able to be creative.”
“It’s a camp to inspire kids to build self-esteem and empowerment, to teach life skills,” says long-time counselor Rachel Hansbro. “Just figuring it out and doing it, not being afraid of somebody looking at you and judging you for what you’re doing, and to encourage them to do that and be creative instead of making them feel scared or nervous. I come back to it every year because it’s fun and it reminds me to be empowered and not to be afraid of things.”
Each year, a number of former campers return as junior volunteers, hoping to continue passing along the knowledge and confidence they gained as a result of the camp and its programs. In terms of the lasting effects of the camp, junior volunteers describe similar experiences in terms of personal growth and finding self-acceptance.
“Girls, especially at this age, they’re very self conscious,” says first-year junior volunteer and four-time camper Rosie. “I try to bring a lot of positivity — body positivity and self positivity — because I know that’s what this camp helped me with when I was that age. It made me who I am today.”
“Since day one, I have real memories in my head of workshops, of band practices, of moments where these women who are still here have taught me ‘This is how you play drums,’ ‘This is how you sing,’ but that’s not the most important part for me about camp,” says junior volunteer Timely Rain, who started attending the camp at age 11. “The most important part was learning how to be okay with who I was and okay with being loud and having a mouth that says whatever I want, and it was totally encouraged. I learned so much about the world, about Houston, about life and myself through camp all these years and it’s totally helped me become who I am today.”
In addition to music classes and band practices, the program also features workshops that go hand-in-hand with the girls’ music education. Workshops discuss topics such as social justice, activism, gender and media literacy, helping build a strong foundation for the campers’ futures and preparing them to deal with any situation they may encounter, specifically in music.
“I think with music, girls aren’t really allowed that space as much as their peers, so there’s a lot of apprehension,” says Javaid. “I think if we give them the resources and the tools to feel empowered, then they’ll be able to enter scenes in music where there’s not really a space for them as much as much as there is for boys. I think confidence, self-esteem, empowerment, those come with education beyond just having band practice. Being on a stage and performing in front of an audience takes a certain amount of confidence, so you’ve got to have them empowered in different ways. It all intersects.”
Show your support for Girls Rock Camp Houston by checking out performances of campers’ original songs at the End of Camp Showcase, taking place on Sunday, July 31 at Fitzgeralds (2706 White Oak). Tickets for the show are $10 with all proceeds benefiting the camp, doors are at 4 pm and the showcase starts at 5 pm.