04 May It’s a Girl! The Birth of G Day Toronto Part. 2
In my last post, I told you all about the morning sessions at G Day Toronto. From breathwork to bellydance, our morning workshops awakened the girls’ expressive energy, created a safe space, and prepared the girls to continue their journey. New friendships were already budding, and during lunch the girls had an opportunity to socialize, contribute to the G Day Banner, chill out in the Yoga Lounge, and write their “Girlfesto” in their workbooks. In anticipation of their after-lunch concert/dance party, the Mini Pops girls hung out in the lounge signing autographs and meeting their fans.
In the afternoon, our women in STEM panel, Kathryn Barrett, Brittney Oberfeld and Amanda McCusker from Girls Learning Code talked to the girls about their experiences using technology as a force for creating positive change in the world. After their panel, girls eagerly raised their hands to declare that they are inspired to start their own blogs, design games, and create YouTube channels to teach people about their passions – from Harry Potter to gaming tips.
Amidst all the high energy activities, we took a moment of introspection as Jamie Ridler led the girls through journaling activities to help them express their heart’s voice. The girls openly shared their wisdom, thoughts, and worries with each other. Jamie’s inspiring facilitation provided a safe environment for the girls to reflect, because there is no way you can do it wrong! She left them with an array of creative techniques to capture their innermost feelings through journaling.
As soon as FearlesslyGIRL’s Kate Whitfield took the stage to talk about the challenges of navigating ‘girl world,’ I saw deep recognition in the girls’ faces. Kate connected with the girls by sharing the struggles that she went through at their age, and inspired them to support each other in sisterhood, rather than tearing each other down through bullying and competition.
G Day is about the lived emotional experience that occurs during adolescence. Whether or not these girls had reached menarche, Zahra Haji’s introduction to the shifts in mood and energy that occur throughout every woman’s cycle helped to explain and normalize some of the feelings that girls are confronting during the transition into womanhood. From yoga poses to relieve cramps to a meditation on the divine feminine, Zahra helped to find the goddess in every girl.
The very last presentation of the day featured a special guest all the way from Vancouver. Theresa ‘Tree’ Walsh’s session was a highlight of the previous G Day events, and we could not imagine G Day without her groove adventure. This fun and fearless session had everyone jumping around like monkeys, surfing an imaginary wave, and doing fancy bows to one another, all the while just being their most courageous, expressive, silly selves.
With the girls in an eyes-closed meditation after Tree’s workshop, our ‘Village Elder,’ Erica Ross, silently led the Champions back into the room. An atmosphere of sacredness pervaded as the Champions scattered paper hearts around the room, each with a unique blessing that they had written for the girls with simple but powerful phrases beginning with “I am…” Erica led the girls through a series of affirmations to which the Champions responded, “I love you for who you are.”
Finally, the girls picked up one of the hearts, and read it out loud while the Champions, surrounding them in a circle, delivered a roaring standing ovation. And so, with each girl smiling from ear to ear as she took in the village’s resounding praise, we welcomed them into their adolescence and pledged to support them through this time of transition.
G Day also featured fabulous performances by local stars. Lola Bunz, a spoken word and hip hop artist and activist in the Jane and Finch community got us bouncing along with her Real Hip Hop, and her poetry taught us to capitalize the U and I in UnIty and CommUnIty!
Cathy Petch discussed her struggles as a queer woman who, as a kid, “dressed like a guy” and told the girls about her triumph over school bullies and a speech impediment in her humorous and honest spoken word performance.
Avery, Raina, Vivian, Victoria and Cheryl from the Mini Pop Kids gave us all goosebumps with their heartfelt performance of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and got everyone dancing in an after-lunch set of their high energy hits.
In a finale performance, our stage manager Alison Smyth transformed into the sequined diva we recognize from her roles in “Jersey Boys” and other hit musicals, closing the day with a throwback to Mariah Carey’s “Hero” – leaving girls and Champions with the timeless message that “the hero lies in you.”
After thanks and closing remarks, the G Day Toronto village marked the close of our journey. After all, no rite of passage is complete without a celebration. Our catering volunteers, led by Simmie Antflick (my mother!), set up a delicious dessert reception. Girls got each others’ autographs, Champions networked…nobody wanted to go home!
I am as in love (and as exhausted) as a new mother watching this new creation take its place in the world. I am grateful to all of my midwives: Susan Gibson, Lunapads and our community partners whose generosity made G Day possible; Artscape and the Daniels Spectrum who created the perfect container for the event; the 30+ volunteers who attended to every detail to make sure the day ran smoothly; the presenters who shared their talents and wisdom with our village; my sisters on the steering committee – Alison, Kim, Amy, Zahra, Tanya and Irene – who supported me with compassion and focus; and the G Day Central team – Madeleine, Suzanne, Hilary, Tiffany, Kitty (and Gigi) who trusted me to give new life to your dream.
I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2016! Who’s in?