In front of a packed gymnasium last Friday night, the girls of El Puente Academy showed everyone what a Fly Girl really is.
The third annual Fly Girl Fest celebrated the female spirit with dance, spoken word, and musical performances from the students that had both the men and women on their feet and in good spirits throughout the night.
“To me, a Fly Girl is a woman who’s independent and can take care of herself,” said senior Francesca Sanks, one of the performers in the event. “She holds it down and doesn’t let little things upset her.”
Although the Fly Girl Fest has been taking place for three years, the concept itself was born eight years ago as a means of conflict resolution.
“We had about 13 girls who just couldn’t get along with each other, so we had them all collaborate on projects that would force them to work together and end the conflict,” said Wanda Vasquez, coordinator of Fly Girl Fest and Assistant Principal at El Puente Academy. “We talked about some of the issues we all go through as women, and they all realized that no matter how different they may have felt from one another, they all shared common ground.”
After several years of coordinating similar projects, Fly Girl Fest finally kicked off in 2008. The event became an all-day affair, with numerous programs held during the day including six workshops related to women’s issues, a community lunch, and boisterous physical challenges that pit male students against the ladies.
In addition, an elective class is offered to students at El Puente Academy to help put on Fly Girl Fest. Out of the nearly 200 students enrolled at El Puente Academy, over 40 percent of them were involved with the event to some capacity. The stage design, performance roster and lighting, among other elements, were entirely student run.
“The event has become ingrained in the school culture,” said Vasquez. “A lot of the seniors have become skilled in areas like sound or lighting after doing this for so many years, so they’ve been training and mentoring the younger students in these areas as they transition out.”
The performances about femininity and the trials and tribulations of womanhood were, perhaps not surprisingly, almost entirely from women. However, one lone male student went up and performed for the third year in a row, to the delight of the crowd.
After spoken word performances about a then current girlfriend and his mother in previous years, junior Eric Acevedo did a similar piece about his grandmother.
“The women in my life have inspired me to do this,” said Acevedo. “I thought about my grandmother and realized that if you want to pay homage to someone, it’s important to do it while they’re still alive and still there to see how you feel about them.”
In addition to the student performances about femininity and the struggles of being a woman, several other artists outside of the school offered their services for the night, with actress Kibibi Dillon introducing the show and DJ Chela providing live beats, as well as a special performance from ASE Dance Theater Collective.
“This event has definitely changed the way students view women at the school,” said Sanks. “People see just how strong we are. When women can get together and collaborate, we can accomplish anything.”