Girls Rising, a Sea Cliff-based nonprofit, recently secured a $10,000 grant, approved by the Nassau County Legislature on Sept. 27. The grant is funded by the county’s Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax fund.
Girls Rising was created by Sea Cliff natives Nini Camps and Kristen Ellis-Henderson, and Cathy Henderson, of Glen Cove, members of the all-female rock band Antigone Rising, to empower and inspire girls and LGBTQ kids to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.
“I am in awe of how [Girls Rising] inspires girls and women in America and all over the world,” County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, who secured the grant for the group, said. “As a mom of three daughters, I realize how important their message is and deeply admire how they encourage everyone to find their voice and use it to express themselves through their philanthropy.”
The organization frequently partners with school districts and youth centers to create innovative programs that inspire children through live performances, presentations and workshops. This grant from the county will be used to support outreach intended to connect with young women and LGBTQ+ students in particular.
“We are extremely grateful to Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton for directing this grant to Girls Rising,” the band said in a statement. “The funds allow us to move forward after challenging times. It is our mission to continue inspiring, mentoring and empowering young women, LGBTQ and students to confidently work toward achieving their career goals.”
The creation of Girls Rising was set in motion after Antigone Rising was invited by the U.S. State Department to travel throughout the Middle East as cultural ambassadors in 2012. The band spoke around the world about their experiences as women and lesbians in the music industry. Seeing up close how music can bridge cultures and bring people together, Antigone Rising returned inspired to create Girls Rising.
Camps, Henderson and Ellis-Henderson saw a need for girls and LGBTQ kids to see strong role models they could emulate and identify with in positions of leadership. Their outreach workshops aim to bring successful women and queer people of all ethnic backgrounds to their attention, offering role models that are traditionally left out of mainstream media.
The band also presents the annual Girls Rising Music Festival, its main source of funding, now in its seventh year. The festival, held in Morgan Park, showcases female artists the band has mentored, and gives them the chance to perform alongside Grammy-winning artists. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the 2020 and 2021 shows had to be held virtually, and Girls Rising lost much of the funding it usually raised at the in-person event.
“This past year has been incredibly difficult for small not-for-profits, especially those who get their funding from large events, like Girls Rising,” Sea Cliff Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy said. “They put on a concert every year that brings in a majority of their funding. Putting together an event like that through Covid is impossible, so I’m glad the county pulled through and secured that funding for them.”
When it takes place in person, the Girls Rising Music Festival offers a day of family-friendly music and entertainment featuring two music stages and a variety of outreach workshops, with the purpose of inspiring young girls and LGBTQ youth to pursue non-traditional career paths and reminding them that it’s OK to play, think and be different.
“Our goal,” Camps said, “is to provide a complete, fun-filled experience for all families while reinforcing our message of equality, inclusion and empowerment.”
For more than 20 years, Antigone Rising has established a far-reaching reputation for being true to its members’ beliefs. While the North Shore natives’ live shows have earned them fans’ devotion, the group’s social conscience continues to manifest itself in activism.
“I feel now that the music has a greater purpose to help inspire and empower other people, especially kids, more so than I ever imagined,” Henderson said. “We’re making a difference in kids’ lives; you can see that immediately in the reactions of the people we do the workshops for. For me, that’s so gratifying.”
By sharing their own story, the band aims to achieve acceptance, inclusion and equality for all by inspiring and empowering marginalized groups to push beyond the boundaries before them.