Spotlight on Mollie Williamson and Girls Rock

inthejasperspotlight_MollieWilliamsonBy Erika Ryan

Girls Rock is perhaps one of the most empowering and educational outlets for young girls in Columbia, and Mollie Williamson is just one of the many ladies that makes it as powerful as it is.

If you’re not familiar with Girls Rock, it’s a camp that uses music education as a platform to celebrate diversity, knock down gender stereotypes, create positive and supportive female relationships, and boost self-confidence in girls ages 8 to 17. Campers start a session with little-to-no musical experience, but, by the end of the week, they’ve learned the basics to an instrument, have a band with a logo, and perform music of their own in front of a cheering crowd.

“Girls Rock was started to not only make a space for women in music, but to also use music as a vessel for empowerment,” said Williamson, executive director of Girls Rock Columbia. “So, it’s teaching girls, ‘Hey, what you have to say is worth hearing’ and that it’s okay to be loud, it’s okay to be angry — it’s okay to be heard.”

Coming from a family that values advocacy, there’s no hiding the fact that Williamson has a passion for helping others. After she began working with Girls Rock, it inspired her to go back to school to earn a graduate degree in social work.

“Having a community of peers who were so committed to social justice and grassroots community organizing was really inspiring. I’m so lucky that this group of women allowed me to work with them to build something so powerful in this city,” she said. “[Girls Rock] actually gave me direction in my life where I didn’t have any before.”

According to Williamson, the thing Girls Rock volunteers say again and again is “I wish that Girls Rock was around when I was a kid” — that’s what inspired the Volunteer and Supporter Showcase. On March 28, the New Brookland Tavern is hosting a family friendly Girls Rock Columbia Volunteer / Supporter Showcase, and Williamson’s band Pony Play is one of 11 bands made up of women performing on stage after going through the same process Girls Rock campers do.

“We have all these instruments and only one week of camp, so we’re like, ‘what can we do in the meantime?’” she said. “We put this together because it’s one thing to say, ‘just be brave’ or ‘just do it’ but it’s another thing to go in, as a woman who has never played an instrument, and say, ‘oh, wait — this is super scary.’”

With a cover charge of $10, all proceeds from the showcase will benefit Girls Rock Columbia, by creating more scholarships for campers and more.

Aside from raising money for the camp, the adult showcase bridges the gap between campers and the volunteers that work the camp. Williamson explained that during camp sessions, it can be hard to relate to what the girls are going through, but hosting this showcase creates a connection between supporters and campers. Every woman participating in the Volunteer Showcase can bring what she learned back to camp and use their experience to help campers.

The experience counselors and volunteers like Mollie Williamson gained from working with Girls Rock have impacted them in more ways than one. Girls Rock was started to boost confidence in adolescent girls, but it also off handedly created a diverse network of women in Columbia that has spread awareness of broader feminist issues.

“The week of camp is kind of like a metaphor,” Williamson said. “You didn’t think you could learn this instrument, and then you learned an instrument, made these friends, together you made this creative thing, and then everyone had to listen to what you had to say. So, what other things in your life did you think you couldn’t do? You realize, ‘I can totally do that. I deserve to do this, and people deserve to see what I create and put out there.’”

Comments are closed.