04 May It’s a Girl! The Birth of G Day Toronto Part. 1
A few minutes before the first girls arrived at G Day Toronto, I was running around Daniels Spectrum, a community cultural hub in Regent Park, in my glittery gold sneakers and sequined skirt attending to last-minute details and preparing to MC the event. Melissa, our Volunteer Coordinator, looked me up and down and said, “Wow, you look great for someone who just had a baby!” I quickly corrected her, thinking she must be talking about Irene, with her month-old baby in attendance.
“No, no,” she shook her head, and made a sweeping gesture around the room “look what you just gave birth to!” I have not yet had the honour of being a mother in the biological sense, but I certainly felt like a proud mama as I watched the G Day Toronto dream come true.
It was a bright April morning, and the symbolism of the season of rebirth was hard to miss, as close to one hundred girls in the bloom of adolescence, along with their adult Champions, entered the sunlit foyer at Daniels Spectrum. They looked nervous, and so did the Champions – but this soon subsided as the attendees started decorating their workbooks and expressing their creative energy in a collaborative art piece facilitated by arts educators Christine Pensa and Jessica Levman.
Uncertainty soon gave way to giggles and hugs, the squeak of sneakers on the theatre floor as girls ran and danced around the room, and a jumble of colourful cushions that made the room look like the world’s best slumber party.
Whether you were part of our “village” and want to re-live this transformational day, or were unable to attend this year and want to know what you missed, let me share a few highlights of the day…
With the last chords of Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” theme song blasting through the hallways, I took the stage and invited the crowd of close to 250 people to come with me on a journey. To explain the narrative arc of the day, I told a story outlining the timeless universality of a Rite of Passage and its three stages: separation, initiation, and return. G Day’s visionary co-founder, Madeleine Shaw, set the tone, encouraging participants to “let go of whatever fears or judgements that you may have about yourself and others.”
G Day Toronto leadership team member Irene Whittaker-Cumming then took the stage, with a background slide in big bold letters reading “Girls Everywhere are Powerful.” Irene’s work through Mother Nature Partnership in Cameroon highlights G Day’s global impact: part of the proceeds of ticket sales fund the cost of reuseable AFRIPads menstrual kits to be distributed to girls in Uganda to support their school attendance.
Our full day of workshops united and inspired the girls, and taught them skills and lessons that will carry over long after this special day. Art of Living practitioners Nayna Trehan and Julia Arbuckle made ancient yogic breathwork techniques relevant, getting girls and adults laughing, moving, and breathing in unity.
Tanya Geisler, the charismatic “Empress of Empowerment’” facilitated one of the day’s most touching moments, where Girls and Champions joined G Day volunteers in small intergenerational circles to share their experiences with the “firsts” that come at this age, and to discuss their hopes and dreams for one other. (Stay tuned for a post from Tanya on the lessons she learned at G Day!)
If any of the girls were still unsure about their power to turn dreams into reality, Kasha Slavner did away with any lingering doubt! The 16 year-old social entrepreneur and filmmaker shared her story, which began when she was only 8. Kasha recently came back from a six month journey with her mother Marla, capturing stories of positive social change from around the world for her inspiring Global Sunrise Project.
The time had come for the Champions and Girls to go off on their separate journeys, to be reunited at the end of the day in our closing ritual. I spent most of my day with the girls, so I’m leaving it to one of our presenters, Conscious Parenting educator Vivek Patel, to share his impressions of the Champions program (coming soon).
Once the girls were on their own, the divine Roula Said introduced her Seven Waves system, and the girls let their feminine energy flow and shimmy in a bellydance lesson. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘high-fiving with your hips’ becomes the hottest new schoolyard greeting! (On a personal note, I have been dancing with Roula for more than a decade, and I credit her in a big part to awakening me to the feminine mind-body-soul connection that started me on the journey that led to G Day. Thank you Roula!)
We took a break for lunch, and I’ll take a break from this post to let you digest all the awesomeness of the morning sessions. Stay tuned for Part 2, to hear about the afternoon sessions plus our closing ceremony and dessert reception!