Friday, December 21, 2012

Jane's Top 12 of 2012

I love Powerful Voices and I love here is my Top 12 List of Powerful Voices moments from this year:

1.  Girlvolution 2012:  ActiveVistas reminded me (and 198 other people) that the revolution has already begun - we just need to listen to their powerful voices.

2.  International Day of the Girl:  Thank you to the 250 people who celebrated the power of girls with us!  And to the State of Washington and King County who declared 10.11.12 the Day of the Girl in honor of Powerful Voices.

3.  Getting emails like this: "...I took part in Powerful Voices the first year it was held at my middle school. Last year! And I wanted to take the time to thank all the beautiful, individuals who had took there time to help us understand how the world and the media and people in general see young women. And how Powerful Voices taught me that my voice matters when it is something important but that my voice isn't always needed when negativity and drama and things I shouldn't get into come along. So thank you, to everyone at Powerful Voices..."

4.  Innovative Program award:  on 6.5.12 the Seattle Human Services Coalition honored us with an Innovative Program Award for Powerful Choices, one of our programs that aims to prevent exploitation of girls and build confidence and leadership in young women.  

5.  Mock interview day:  community volunteers interviewed girls in our DYVAS employment program to help them hone this important pre-employment skill.

6.  Staff flash mob:  it's not unusual to have a dance party in the office, but this took it to a whole other level.

7.  Listening to a PV alumna talk about her first weeks at WWU (my alma mater) and hearing her say how much of a difference PV has made in her life.

8.  Board meetings: do I have to pick just one?  Twelve amazing women revitalized the leadership of our organization.

9.  Hiring Antasia, Raul, Rex and Shavon - smart decisions if I do say so myself.

10.  Reading the DYVAS Zine for the first time.  My favorite line, "we are the chosen generation that will rise to succeed in life."

11.  Listening to Valerie speak at the University Unitarian Church about the impact volunteering at Powerful Voices made in her own life.

12.  Good news about girls:  all the times that Frankie (our case manager) would tell me about a girl getting a job or improving her grades or getting her GED.

I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for Powerful Voices!

Personal Power & The Things That Fuel It...

Imagine the feeling that you get, when you are entrenched in something that you have a great love and appreciation for.  Not just something that you are sometimes in the mood for and only half interested in but something that you live for. Picture this entity as something that provides for and nourishes your various levels of strength, courage and wisdom. This thing fuels the fire inside of you. If that felt warm, fuzzy, emotional, exciting or all of the above, imagine that thing joining forces with something else that you have a great appreciation for.  Something that inspires you to be magical, powerful, and real regardless of nagging suggestions and perceptions from outside sources.

For me, that “thing” is music, it has proven to make magic. When I hear music, I have an urge to jump, shout and tell the world (okay…more like everyone in the office) what it’s all about. Hearing a good tune is what fuels the fire inside for me. I live to experience music that I can connect with. Throughout my journey of living life, I have grown to acknowledge, explore and be still in the realm of my personal power. It took a long time, but I can now confidently claim to trust myself and the things that I am capable of achieving. Trusting my process and believing that I have a right to freely BE, without outside distractions, suggestions and perceptions. I was affirmed in my own findings in 2011, when Jill Scott released The Light of the Sun, an album in which she is celebrating life, owning her experiences and standing strong in her reality. One track in particular, WOMANifesto, is a masterful depiction of Jill and the realm of her own personal power. Within WOMANifesto Jill makes magic. She combines the world of rhythms with what I find to be the depths of her personal power, declaring her strength, courage and wisdom.

What is something in your life that supports your personal power?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Collective Mourning, Collective Healing

by guest blogger (and PV Intern) Jessie Reiff

This week, I am sitting with the heavy reality of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newton, Connecticut this past Friday. The impacts of Friday’s shooting are deep and broad; from the lives of the children, school staff and teachers lost, to their families, networks of friends and loved ones, the grief of the perpetrator’s family and community, as well as those around the country and the world who know intimately the devastation of gun violence.  I want to acknowledge here that the losses from this tragedy are not my losses in the sense that these were not my children, my neighbors, my loved ones, and I cannot know their pain—this tragedy is not a metaphor or a lesson, it is the loss of human life and the grief of those that live in its wake.

Though the lives of those who died in Connecticut do not directly touch mine, I am deeply aware of the interconnectedness our pain and the work we do to heal.  I am made more aware of impact that our choices have on one another individually and collectively.  The work that we do here at Powerful Voices relates directly to healing our communities from violence.  Running programs that focus on girls’ empowerment, self-knowledge, and making change in girls’ communities through art and activism are some of the ways Powerful Voices responds to community violence.  They are forms of collective healing, the effects of which expand beyond the lives of the girls we serve to those in their families and communities.

When I heard that the perpetrator of this crime was living with mental illness, and that that the weapons he used were purchased legally, I knew that mental health and gun control policies were directly related to the violence that took place on Friday.  And I knew that those policies directly related to the fear and grief experienced by the elementary school students in Connecticut and, as they ripple out, to the fear and grief of children going to school this week and their families.  I am reminded that those working for gun control policies through advocacy and youth activism are doing work that shares its root with ours and that our work supports one another.  The work we do is directly related to and in mutual support of those advocating for the expansion of community mental health programs that support folks in our families and communities.

The pain from the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary ripples out, and we are affected.  And in the same way, healing can ripple back when we acknowledge the interconnectedness of our love and pain and life and work toward nonviolence and care for those around us.  I am reminded this week of the strength and transformative power of collective mourning and collective action that remembers that the roots of our pain and our healing are wound together.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Operational Underbelly of Powerful Voices

During 2012, Powerful Voices underwent a behind-the-scenes technology transformation. The economy had been weakening for years at the same time that elements of our technology infrastructure started to need attention and replacement. We decided in late 2011 to forego a costly replacement of our in-house server, and instead made the leap from server-client setup to the cloud. This would both save us money and make our system more sustainable and easier to support.

We decided to switch to Google Apps, since they offer free accounts to nonprofits. We moved our operations and production activities to Google Drive/Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Gmail.

It's been quite a culture shift, and we're sometimes still adjusting to this new paradigm. Our work can now take place anywhere we have internet access. Staff members can borrow a laptop and retreat to a local coffee shop for an opportunity to focus on a special project. Paralyzing winter storms aren't quite as scary, since we can do fully functional work from home or a local library branch. And our system allows us multiple avenues of communication to keep us in touch no matter where we're working.

This culture shift has brought a need for new tools that fit in with our new office set up. I presented some cloud-based tools during a recent leadership team meeting... Here's a sample:

  • Sunrise ( - this tool combines activities from Google Calendar, Facebook (including birthdays!) etc., and sends you a daily summary.
  • Aviary - this is a browser extension (for Chrome) which allows you to easily edit images within your browser. No "legacy" software (download and install) needed.
  • Wordle ( - These are used to give a group of words a visual splash. Enter your own body of text and Wordle will create a "word cloud" that emphasizes repeated words more heavily, etc.
  • Prezi ( - I presented these tools in a Prezi at our meeting; Prezi is a different (and often more dynamic) way of presenting information that would usually be communicated in a PowerPoint.
  • CopyPasteCharacter ( - This is a website that makes it easy to copy characters easily, so you can paste them into emails, documents, etc. Lots of options, like: ñ, ☯, ß, ¶, ©, æ, £, ♫, ✄, ✉, ✔, etc...

These tools are fun, and allow us to free ourselves from old ways of accessing information in geographic- or workstation-specific ways. Thanks to the operational changes we have made this year, we will start 2013 with more flexibility, lower costs, and higher staff satisfaction. It's a win, win, win!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

GIRLVOLUTION planning in process...

The 4th Annual Youth Led Conference
Saturday, April 13th
10 AM-4PM
Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club

Hello new and old followers of the Powerful Voices blog!
             I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself (or reintroduce myself) to the PV community, as well as let you in on the "behind-the-scenes" action of planning for the event I have been hired to help coordinate: (cue the royal trumpets)

(yaay! yippeee! wahooo!)

For those of you who don't know we consider "youth-led" to be the ages of 12-24.  
Here are some scenes from last year:

Let me backtrack a little:
  •  My name is Nicole Aranda and I was the MSW intern from University of Washington School of Social Work and graduated from my program this past June.
  • Since then, I have been working at a lovely female-led catering company (Ravishing Radish) as well as traveling around the country in order to spend time with family and friends whom I had been ignoring whilst in graduate school. 
Sunset on the rolling hills of the Central California coast.

My cousin Kira hitting a home run in Missoula, Montana where her SoCal softball team got 3rd place in the Western Regional Softball Championship.

 So now, fully rejuvenated by my community and ending my Summer/Fall o' travels by attending the amazing Facing Race Conference in Baltimore, Maryland last month I am rip-roaring- ready-to -go! to help the Activistas of 2013 make this a rockin' and rollin' Girlvolution!

 Included in my rejuvenating community are the Powerful Voices rock stars who have been helping me this last week and a half transition into being a "real" employee: getting organized with event production emails and practicalities to live up to the past Girlvolutions, meeting with partners and volunteers that will propel us forward to the future visions of what we want the GIRLVOLUTION conference to be and seeking inspiration from conversations and what is happening in the world today. 

And since this is the time of year for WISH LISTS, here are mine for Girlvolution 2013:
  • nominations from our community for a young Keynote Speaker.  Who do you know who can handle it?
  • tables from local businesses/non-profits who help promote Girlvolutionaries and their male allies. 
  • food from local, women of color owned/run restaurants as well as their presence.
  • more youth of color attending than ever before.
  • volunteers of all ages and industries from Seattle.
  • comedy and story-telling tips from a local, female comedian (sidenote: last week I went to former Seattle immigrant rights organizer Hari Kondabolu's comedy show and he had THREE hilarious and smart women open for him. A lovely model for a male ally.)
  • music from local, powerful women of color such as THEEsatisfaction.

Sigh...a girl can dream can't she?  Whatever you do, don't funk with my groove. ;)

Peace, love and solidarity,
p.s. Please let me know at if you can help me with anything on my wish list!
And also don't forget to "LIKE" us on Facebook

Monday, December 10, 2012

How do we do it?

In December we are celebrating Personal Power.  At Powerful Voices adults work to develop girls' personal strengths so they become powerful advocates for themselves and others.

So how do we do this?  We're pulling back the curtain to give you our top 5 list:
1.  Youth leadership.  If adults are always "in charge" then we're not exactly practicing what we preach.  This requires you to examine your own adultism.  The result?  Powerful.  
2.  Find ways to turn “bad behaviors” into a strength:  i.e. GIRL: “People say I am loud and bossy.” STAFF: “You have a strong voice and are a great leader.”
3. Support girls in identifying their own strengths and power.  What better way than asking the right questions?
4.  Voice and choice.  Youth are given choices to practice healthy decision making and allow them some contro.
5. Get rid of your ego.  Ask for feedback from them on how you can improve in what you do and how you interact with and treat young people.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Recognizing Girls’ Personal Power

by guest blogger and PV Intern, Melissa Tribelhorn

Unless we include a job as part of every citizen's right to autonomy and personal fulfillment, women will continue to be vulnerable to someone else's idea of what need is.
–Gloria Steinem

In October, I attended University of Idaho’s Women’s Leadership Conference, where Gloria Steinem was keynote speaker.  Steinem spoke about the strides women have made for equality during the past forty years, and the work that is still needed in order to achieve true gender parity.  She also spoke about how women’s personal power and the opportunities available for them are inextricably linked.  Her definition of personal power is a person's fundamental sense of influence, fulfillment, and autonomy, the source of which resides inside the person instead of being vested by the position or status she holds within society

Gloria Steinem wrote the above statement in the 1970s, during a time of great changes for American society.  Previously, many women, particularly white women, were not able to continue working after they married a husband.  However, many women, including poor women, African-American women, and women of other races and ethnicities had always worked in our country, because economically they had no choice.  They raised the children of middle and upper class white women, they cleaned homes, and they worked in fields.  The 1970s were a time when women began fighting for their rights to work outside the home, and African Americans and other groups continued to fight for their civil rights.  Discrepancies in “appropriate” work by gender and race continue into 2012, in part because of societal expectations for what girls of color can achieve.  

I would take Steinem’s quote one step farther:  Unless we include the opportunity to do personally meaningful work as part of every citizen’s right to autonomy and personal fulfillment, women will continue to be vulnerable to someone else’s idea of what need is.  Powerful Voices is in the business of helping girls find and access their personal power.  PV provides employment programming to Seattle girls.  In these programs, girls have the opportunity to learn empowerment skills and express themselves through workshops at the annual Girlvolution Conference and poems in a literary magazine. The employment programs also provide the girls with stipends, meant to compensate them for their time and take the place of an after-school job.

One of my favorite posters in PV’s office is the banner from last year’s Girlvolution Conference.  It reads, “A Girlvolution looks like girls becoming not who men tell them to be, not who parents tell them to be, not who partners, peers, or friends tell them to be, but
who they CHOOSE to be themselves.”  

This is personal power, expressed with a powerful voice.