It’s 12-12-12. Some of us think today is a lucky day. Some of us think the world will end. People are getting married and having parties and generally trying to find ways to live up to this auspicious date. Like humans do better than any other life form on the planet, we are making meaning. Good. We should be. I suggest making today the day that you step out – bold, brave, and authentic – and tell the world your story. If you need a bit more explanation and inspiration, as always, we should turn to our youth.
Danielle Banks and Richard “Big Rich” Bougere, have become my “new best friends.” They are the founders of a San Francisco-based non-profit called Project Level. Based on their experience in and success with the music industry (hip hop specifically), Rich and Danielle founded Project Level this year to mentor and support urban young people to make positive changes in their lives though serious involvement in arts such as Studio Recording, Live Performance, Graphic Design, Photography, and Video Production. They also expose and train youth in many of the key business skills crucial to success in the music industry such as money management, Marketing, and Writing. Although our programs look quite different, our hearts and souls and passion for our work with youth and communities are in the exact same place. We have been getting together a lot recently – working on a partnership between their program and Go Girls!. The stuff we are coming up with is really blowing our minds. I can’t wait to share it with you…in due time…
Last week, I got to meet their students/artists for the first time. I was a guest at rehearsal. I was honored to witness this room full of teenage girls and boys, almost 100% kids of color, take a mic and stand up in front of their peers, alone, and perform songs they had written and recorded themselves. While my hand bobbed to the beat, my mouth dropped to the floor…it was incredible…the level of boldness and bravery these young people exuded in a world that quite often proves to not be on their side.
One young woman, with a voice that kinda reminded me of Mary J. Blige, sang a song that she wrote about her big feelings in the wake of a bad break up. After she sang, she started to practice her intro, attempting to connect to the audience by explaining the real life facts and feelings that prompted her to write this song. It was funny because, when she was singing, she was larger than life. A presence to be reckoned with. But, when she started to speak, she stumbled. Her actions reminded me that, oh right, this is a young girl. She wasn’t as confident. She wasn’t sure what to say, which feelings to share. She felt comfortable behind her big singing voice but speaking her truth, telling her authentic story, was too vulnerable…too intimidating. This is when Big Rich stepped in…
Tell YOUR story. Right now, you are saying things because I told you to say them. That is not your story. YOUR story can’t be what someone else tells you is your story. YOUR story has to be yours. And the only way to connect with the audience is to tell YOUR story. YOUR story. I don’t even think we need to work on the song anymore. We need to help you practice telling YOUR story.
We can hide behind our jobs or our gifts or our possessions…whatever we makes us feel comfortable and confident, but, in the end, the main thing we have is our stories. Telling our authentic stories means sharing our truth with the world. We often don’t do it because we think no one will care. We imagine that no one will like us after they hear what we have to say. We fear that we will make someone mad. We may even fear for our lives. There is nothing more difficult than the act of telling YOUR story. Yet, there is also nothing more powerful. If we all learned to take the mic, step out bold and brave, and share our authentic selves, imagine what could happen.
You know what, today might be the end of the world. What are you waiting for?