When I came across the documentary Very Young Girls the title immediately made me cringe. I wanted to veer away from it but I felt the nagging feeling that usually strikes people when they come across anything about the unfortunate; "They've experienced it, the least we can do is listen to their plight, witness their struggle and try to affect change." The documentary features the young women who are served by the Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), an organization, based in New York City, whose mission is to empower young women, ages 12-21, who have survived commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking, are trying to free themselves from "the life" and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth. One of the reasons that I was hesitant to to watch was because I didn't want to be voyeur watching from afar and continue as if I'd seen nothing. We often feel helpless in the face of societal scourge, "The problem is so large, where does one begin? And we can't save them all." But we can help one, or two, or 10. Their stories were told straight forward, into the camera and left an indelible mark. The question, "What can I do?," was beating my at conscience. Being a spoken word poet, having organized fundraisers before I knew that there was something I could do to help spread the word and raise a little money to help GEMS and that it would build community and strengthen bonds at the same time.
The evening was intimate (translation = less that 20 people) as I managed to plan the event on the same night as the Celtics/Lakers playoff, another popular poetry event AND the night before a Capicu event. With all the events going down my odds weren't good but I hoped for the best and was not disappointed. As each person trickled in the power, love and promise of something beautiful happening increased exponentially. Our location, Perk's nestled amongst the Harlem brownstones has a warm jazzy, artful, air, and was mellow despite the blaring basketball game and cheering going on, on the other side of the swinging door. Every poet in the room was there with their hearts on the table and supporting one another to the fullest, we were kinda falling in love with each other. Did we raise some money? A lil bit, but what we gained was pretty awesome and a check is going toward helping these young girls so I'm feeling pretty good.
It was a pleasure to meet Bianca Baquierizo, a representative of GEMS who came through to support and share with us the best way to represent the organization. Special thanks to the manager of our venue, Perk's on 123rd and Manhattan Ave., Corrine Harriot , for opening their doors and welcoming us. I'm thankful for our archivist, good friend and photographer, Sandra Guzman, who was the first warm face and confidence booster. And finally, a huge GRACIAS to the friends, family and fellow poets who came to learn and listen to the words and message that matter to us.
Blessings to my poets:
Mi Gente, te quiero mucho. Hasta la proxima.
Love, Power & Poetry