This week I had the privilege of volunteering with one of the best, coolest groups I’ve ever found. It’s called Girls Rock! DC, and it’s all about encouraging girls in all sorts of wonderful ways, especially to take the stage and play music.

Girls run the world.

A poster made by one of the campers, hanging on the wall just outside of the Hall of Sisterhood at Girls Rock camp.

There’s actually a week long summer camp for girls between the ages of 8 and 18. They meet each other on the first day and have a sort of “speed dating” to pick out their bands. Then in a week they form bands, come up with names, learn to play instruments, write a song, and perform at a really big, well known music venue in DC. (Here are some pictures of the event from the Washington Post.) And there are workshops to talk about everything from healthy relationships to how to build a guitar out of a pizza box to gender and sexuality to owning the stage. And the whole time, girls are working together with strong women leading the workshops and teaching them instruments, offering an incredible positive example for them. (Even the gym where everyone gathers in the morning and the evening is called the Hall of Sisterhood.) This was my first year volunteering so I helped with a lot of different odds and ends, but I also got a chance to participate in the “volunteer band” — a band for volunteers that meets in the morning before camp. And I started to learn guitar!

Riot GrrrlEveryone got together, picked out instruments, and then starting helping each other. The girl that was best at guitar starting teaching me how to tune and how to play power chords. The girl that played drums picked up a bass. It was incredible and wonderful and encouraging. It sends all the right messages to young girls, and I really wish it had existed when I was a kid and that it would start up in places like Phoenix. I’ve wanted to learn guitar and play in a band for some time, but have always felt so intimidated, or like I had to learn and practice for a long time before I could try it or play in front of other people. And this was exactly the boost I needed to feel confident and to push myself to actually do it. Those 8 year old girls did it in a week, fearlessly. And I should too.

Here are some other pictures of awesome things at Rock Camp.

Shout Out Wall

Girls at Rock Camp writing messages on the “Shout Out Wall.”

Sleater-Kinney Room

All of the rooms where campers meet are named after awesome female musicians and bands. This practice room is named after the amazing Sleater-Kinney.

Gender Poster

One of the posters up in the Hall of Sisterhood at GR!DC.

And while this week meant about only 4 – 5 hours of sleep a night, it was so worth it. To top everything off, I saw Loretta Lynn play the night before the Girls Rock! showcase on the same stage, and my wonderful partner played at a legendary summer punk series in NW DC, called Fort Reno.

Loretta Lynn

A little blurry, but here’s the incredibly talented Loretta Lynn. Still going strong at 81 years young.

Fort Reno

My partner’s band Southern Problems playing at Fort Reno. The little peanut taking a picture of them is my friend Rasheedah’s son, visiting from Turkey. Photo by Ron Akins.

And I think it’s only appropriate to close with the lyrics of the Girls Rock! DC camp song. Inspiring and endlessly joyful.

This I <3.

Sitting alone in my room,
I sing all of my favorite tunes.
But I dream about playing a show,
I can almost hear the crowd scream GO! GO! GO!

We’re the girls of DC and we’re ready to rock!
We’re the girls of DC yeah the beat’s gonna drop!
We’re the girls of DC and we’re not gonna stop!
Whoa oh oh ohhhh, oh!

Now I’m heading off to rock camp,
Gonna practice and turn up my amp.
Make some friends and join an awesome band,
Do whatever we want, yeah that’s the plan!

We’re the girls of DC and we’re ready to rock!
We’re the girls of DC yeah the beat’s gonna drop!
We’re the girls of DC and we’re not gonna stop!
Whoa oh oh ohhhh, oh!

I wake up everyday!
Something is always in my way!
But I will never stop!
Cause I know that I’m here to rock!

Now I know I can do anything,
I can DJ or play drums or sing!
Come on everyone, get up and dance,
Cause the future of rock is in our hands!

We’re the girls of DC and we’re ready to rock!
We’re the girls of DC yeah the beat’s gonna drop!
We’re the girls of DC and we’re not gonna stop!
Whoa oh oh ohhhh, oh!