“Who rules the world?!!!” The question, which was more of a rallying cry, rang out loud and proud across Peckham Levels, booming from the mic of Radio 1 Xtra DJ Melody Kane. It was rapidly answered by everyone in the audience – girls, women, men and boys: “Girls!!!!”. And for that day, it truly felt like something historical was going down in South London.
The day was 15th February, 2018, the event, the #OuttheBox Festival, created by the amazing girls’ empowerment charity, BelEve. This was the culmination of months of hard work, bringing together DJs, dancers, singers, spoken word artists, bloggers, vloggers, stall holders, parents and children, to celebrate the message that within every girl, there is a leader and within every girl’s world, anything is possible.
This was a special day for BelEve founders, Chyloe and Marsha Powell, whose mother’s sudden death in 2011 made them realise the importance of having a positive role model in their life and inspired them to create an organisation which empowers girls to realise their dreams. This would have been her 60th birthday.
As I gazed out across the sea of happy, friendly faces, I realised that every person in that room was in some way connected and that everyone was engaged in an act of leadership. From DJ Melody Kane and sound technician Will Fenton, who donated their time to bring music and pizazz to the whole day; to the all-girl Twiin Dance Company, whose fierce attitude and energetic moves really got the party started; to punk, feminist, female wrestling promoter, Emily Reed, who showed us how to stand in your power if under attack; to 11 year old presentation skills expert, Inspiring Vanessa, who got us all to laugh at how silly it was to fear public speaking more than death.
One of the most modest leaders there was Karen Campbell, event organiser and BelEve trustee, who pulled strings, called in favours, persuaded, cajoled and down-right nagged the best of her contacts to create the festival vibe and make the day a success.
It was also an act of sisterhood, with members of the women’s networking club SisterSnog, out in force, sharing their wisdom on stage, capturing the event on camera, forming incredible balloons creations, running stalls, to designing the logo, donating prizes and promoting the event.
But the real stars of the show were the mini leaders: the little girl who right at the beginning, when things were still a little quiet, got up on stage and just started to dance, the boy who took the mic and started rapping, completely unprompted, showing us all how to celebrate the moment and just be happy in the positive glow of the gathered community.
As I reflect back, I remember Oprah Winfrey’s rallying cry at the end of her Golden Globes acceptance speech last month. “I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
“Who rules the world?!!!”. Oprah would have been proud.
With thanks to everyone who made the #Outthebox Girls’ Festival a success:
Remel London @Remel_london
Debbie Shasanya – @memyfaithandfashion
Inspiring vanessa @inspiringv10
Twiin Dance @Twiimdance
Brooke Baili @brookbaili
Natalie Fashion Blags @fashionblag
Tenee Edwards @teneedwards
Emily Reed @prowrestlingeve
Melody Kane @djmelodykane
Dr Claudia Brown
Imahra – BelEve Graduate
Anne Timpany @ontaptweets
Sofia Olins -@sopfiaolinsfilms
HOLM – @houseofladymuck
Rachel Barclay – @rachel99mua
Dr Dube – Science @madsciencegroup
Ms Balloniverse @msballooniverse
Ms J and Kiki @Uktalenttrain
Antoinette Dale Henderson is chair of trustees for BelEve UK: empowering girls to become leaders of their world. To make a donation, go to: https://beleveuk.org/product/donate-to-beleve/