We’re just ending our first week of this year’s Girls Raks Bellydance and Body Image Program and wow what a full week! From discarding the labels and criticisms that others place on us, to identifying our own terms of self-definition, to an historical overview of the origins of bellydance and the varied styles, to conversations with Bay Area bellydance luminaries Ahava and Hala, to a discussion on safe posture with chiropractor, Dr. Virginia Frederick, to mindful eating and body meditations, to a night out at Tanjia Moroccan Restaurant, and of course, to lots and lots of powerful shimmies. This week has been both exhausting and energizing.
This year, Tammy and I outreached to Oakland high schools, youth programs and our own networks to recruit for Girls Raks. We met a lot of young women who expressed interest and completed applications on the spot. We felt energy around our outreach efforts and we were anticipating that the program would be at our capacity of ten students with a waiting list. In our phone calls to girls and their families to confirm their participation, a sharp reality surfaced. For the population we want to work with, low-income girls of color, we cannot compete with the financial magnet of a summer job. We lost six girls from the program because they were able to secure summer employment. A free two-week summer program where you walk away with lifelong tools of empowerment and resistance, a costume, a bellydance choreography and more is no match for that feeling a young person has when she has money in her pocket. And for the girls we work with, that money is not just for herself, but it is also helping to support the survival of her family.
So what does that mean for Girls Raks this year? We have three wonderfully dynamic, fierce young women, Audea, Jazzmine and Ternisha. We are lucky to have them. The three girls travel to our North Oakland site from East Oakland. These girls are fabulous and bring so much heart, curiosity and energy every day. They have other options this summer and have committed to Girls Raks. We have decided to accept girls to join us until the end of the day on Monday, July 23rd, for the 2nd and final week of the Girls Raks. The program is Monday, July 23rd through Friday, July 27th, 12noon – 4pm each day on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland. The program closes on Saturday, July 28th with a performance recital, Hotter Than July Bellydance Extravaganza at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. The second week of Girls Raks will be just as amazing! We will have Yay! Scale® making with fat activist Marilyn Wann, a panel of size diverse and culturally diverse women reflecting on their body acceptance journeys, waist-bead making, mask making and lots of dancing! If you have a young woman in your life that could benefit from the body positivity of Girls Raks, please contact us immediately at (510) 229-0539.
Keep up with us daily on Facebook, “like” our page, Your Body Raks and check out our Girls Raks Bellydance & Body Image 2012 photo album!