Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The power of words

If you've ever wondered why you write, or whether words really makes a difference, read Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" blog entry in today's New York Times, Rewriting Rap to Empower Teens. I don't care what you think about rap or other forms of popular poetry set to music - this is a vivid example of the power of words. A group of Atlanta teens who are part of HOTGIRLS, (Helping Our Teen Girls in Real Life Situations), got tired of being hassled by guys on the streets. So they wrote their own rap as part of an exercise in learning what's appropriate, testing their power to speak out and change the way things are:
Imma give you yo number back
Cause I don’t like you and yo game is whack
You see these boys just don’t know how to act
I try to walk away but they talk smack
Take it to the streets
Parker-Pope writes:
Rewriting song lyrics helps girls “critically analyze the messages they encounter in the media and in their daily lives,’’ said HOTGIRLS founder Carla E. Stokes. “Girls are using hip hop as a vehicle to reach their peers and raise awareness about issues that affect their lives.’’
The program also takes the teens into a recording studio to create their own versions of popular songs, putting their words onto CDs, telling their version of how the world is, what it feels like to be a teen girl in the city, a girl pressured to be sexy too young, seen as a ho if she does it and a bitch if she doesn't.

You may not like their language, or their rap. But you've got to cheer the fact that these teen girls are finding their voices and using them to turn a genre of popular music into a way to speak out and change the way their world sees them.

Sending our words out
Telling our stories
Telling the world
our world
we matter
That's why we write.


Janet Grace Riehl said...

This is a great news story. Re-writing the song lyrics is all about the power of self-definition. THat's important for girls as they mature and change into young women.

Susan J Tweit said...

Hi, Janet,

Isn't that true! It's important for any of us, at any age, to make sure that the words we're defining ourselves with - and the words that others are using to define us with - are ones that help us stretch and grow, not confine or hurt us.