By Aunye S.A., Age 19
I was not completely thrilled to be spending four hours on my Saturday with a bunch of strangers when I first joined WriteGirl. I was in 8th grade and was already fed up with the programs my mother enrolled me in, and I was just sure I would hate this one like all the others.
We battled the notoriously retched LA traffic until we reached Ramon C. Cortines High School Number 9, where I was greeted with blue and green balloons and extremely jovial white women inviting me in and directing me where to go. I turned back to my mother as she waved goodbye and promised to pick me up on time. “Here we go,” I thought to myself as I began what turned out to be the most enriching writing experience of my youth.
Coming from a predominately African American and Hispanic school and neighborhood, entering a room full of ethnically diverse women was a complete culture shock. I was accustomed to a rainbow of brown flesh laced in rhythm and blues, the echo of Ebonics in the air decorated with cornrow braids and black cotton candy hair kissing the sky. I was used to the faint sound of bass rattling the skeleton of a rap song from a speaker rigged in a car trunk.
I had never spoken to a white person other than my teachers before my first WriteGirl meeting. I was welcomed into a wide and open writing space decorated with large sheets of paper along the walls, props for writing exercises, and alternative rock music playing at a respectful listening volume. Upon entering and signing in, I was invited to take a journal and was immediately linked with a group of three teen girls ranging in age, race, and socioeconomic status. I was incredibly nervous.
All I could see was the contrast of my dark brown skin against the other girls’. I watched what I said. I regretted the highlighter pink skinny jeans I decided to wear. I did not want to contribute ideas, because I was self-conscious about how I would appear to others.
Two hours into the workshop, there was what is called the “Soap Box,” a time for people to step up and say what’s on their mind about anything. Girls were encouraged to “rant” or “rave” about topics of their choice and really let loose about it. I watched young ladies excitedly run up to the “Soap Box” line eager to share their opinions on politics, television shows, boys, and their love for WriteGirl.
That’s when I realized how insignificant my fears were about my appearance and cultural differences as compared to the other girls in the program. We are all human, we all loved writing, and we were all extremely talented artists with grand passions and great spunk.
By the end of that first day, I decided I would return to WriteGirl the following month for the workshop.
Five years later, I was still participating in WriteGirl events and even submitting my writing for the anthologies. WriteGirl was a diverse atmosphere that prepared me for my final year of high school at University High School. Unlike my middle school and previous high school that were predominately Black schools in Black communities, University High was a racially diverse school in a predominately white neighborhood.
The diverse atmosphere at WriteGirl also propelled me to feel comfortable at Kalamazoo College, where I am in constant contact with people of a variety of races, sexual orientations, nationalities, and socioeconomic statuses.
WriteGirl helped me conquer my discomfort with people of different backgrounds and improved my overall confidence as a Black Woman and African American writer in a white dominated world.