What exactly is a fly girl?
“A fly girl is someone who is able to call on her courage, to face her fears in order to manifest her dreams,” said Miss Ammo, a beat poet who traveled from New Mexico with her performance partner, a beat boxer named Say Wut, to visit the El Puente Academy. “She is able to honor beauty in others, and in herself. She is able to be the queen that she is.”
And queens they all were last Friday night at the El Puente’s 2nd annual Fly Girl Fest, a celebration of the female spirit, mind, body and soul, featuring performances from the El Puente Academy students and participants in many of El Puente’s special after school programs. Fly Girl Fest is an all-day affair, beginning with a variety of workshops and culminating in an evening performance, which included poetry, dance—hip-hop, ballet and interpretive, to name a few—musical acts and more.
“Today, we celebrate women of all shapes, sizes and colors,” said the Fest’s emcee, taking center stage. “Women are warriors, women are amazing. Women are, and have always been, the strongest creatures on earth.”
The women of El Puente are no exception. In fact, they are perfect examples. Fly Girl Fest, which originated in an unofficial form seven years ago, provides young women with the opportunity to express themselves artistically and emotionally in an environment that fosters and empowers strong, savvy independent individuals.
“We work so hard, we deserve to take one day off to celebrate our ancestors and ourselves, and how powerful we are,” said Wanda Luz-Vazquez, coordinator of Fly Girl Fest.
“It’s a metaphor, really. We are creating a venue for young women to understand their beauty and power, mind body and spirit,” said Francis Lucerna, community organizer, educator, co-founder of El Puente and ultimate fly girl. “Fly girls are powerful—they soar, and they do it as a community. El Puente is a positive, powerful place for young women to grow up, and I’m so proud to be here.”
Though Fly Girl Fest has only existed as such for two years, the concept was born roughly seven years ago, as a means of conflict resolution: to put young women from the El Puente Academy who were feuding and fighting into workshops together, to discuss issues pertaining to femininity and womanhood in modern life. Bonds were formed, friendships were born, and the seeds for Fly Girl Fest were planted.
“A fly girl is a free girl, to look and be however she wants,” said Blaze Reyes, an El Puente student and Fly Girl performer who will graduate in June. “We are so often put into boxes, but when you come out of that box you become a fly girl, and it’s beautiful.”
The majority of participants—in fact, 99.9 per cent—are women at Fly Girl Fest, creating and performing pieces about femininity, womanhood and the difficulties and triumphs of being female. However, one El Puente sophomore, Eric Acevedo, performed at Fly Girl Fest this year, for a second time.
“As a young man, I was raised by all women: my mother, my aunt, my grandmother and my sister,” Acevedo said. He read a poem he had written in honor of Mother’s Day, an ode to his mother. “These women mean the world to me, and there should be more men who respect women for who they are, and not just for their bodies. A fly girl is a woman who is independent, respectful and beautiful, and I believe every woman is beautiful, so every woman can be a fly girl.”
Among the raucous audience, which was made up of young men and young women; students and teachers; administrators and neighborhood residents; were a host of El Puente alumni and former Fly Girl Fest participants, many of whom credit their experiences at El Puente for the women they are today.
“Watching these performances makes me remember what it is to be a woman,” said Francis Sanchez, who graduated from the El Puente last year. “This is my church. I’m not religious, and I don’t go to church. I come to El Puente instead.”