You may best know Graciela Cain as GeeXella, a queer biracial hip-pop artist. GeeXella describes herself as a bleeding heart, rainbow fueled, passionate nightingale. She fuses southern hip-hop with bachata, a style of romantic Latin American music that originated in the Dominican Republic. GeeXella uses music to invigorate the souls and stimulate the minds of her audiences. "Gee Things," a 7 track EP, was released by GeeXella in the fall of 2016.
GeeXella has a personal mission to change the world for the better. She knows that she cannot achieve this mission in solitary. It requires a collective effort, sincere bonds, and a tribe of like minded individuals. This is what led GeeXella to become involved with Girls Rock Jacksonville.
Since 2014 GeeXella has served Girls Rock Jacksonville as a co-organizer. The group, which has no defined hierarchy amongst its volunteer staff, organizes and hosts workshops and camps that serve Jacksonville's female, trans*, and gender nonconforming youth. GeeXella and her fellow co-organizers lead by example and exhibit the organization's core values, which include equality, integrity, honesty, respect, resource sharing, cooperation, and collaboration.
Girls Rock Jacksonville's 2017 camp will be held from July 24 through July 28 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville. Campers will showcase their work to the public on July 29. Girls Rock Jacksonville is accepting camper applications for their 2017 camp until June 6. The organization is also accepting volunteer applications until June 16.
10 Questions with Graciella Cain
What is the mission of your organization?
Girls Rock Jacksonville’s mission is to cultivate self-empowerment and positive identity development in girls, trans*, and gender nonconforming youth through music experimentation, DIY media, and peer collaboration.
When was your organization formed and how has it grown?
Girls Rock Jacksonville (GRJ) started 6 years ago, inspired by Girls Rock Charleston (now the Carolina Youth Action Project) and other Girls Rock Camps around the world. Since our conception, we have grown each year with more campers and donations from the community. We have since committed to evolving our programming to reflect the social and emotional needs of our camper and volunteer community. We now have a permanent home where we host camp at Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville (UUCJ) and are looking forward to the years to come.
What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
GRJ is an organization driven by people. Our connections are organic. We engage our extended family primarily through word of mouth, text message, email, and social media.
Our camp takes place during the last week of July. Currently our camp runs over a period of a week. During camp each of the youth campers are a assigned an instrument and they have a week to write a song. We have a huge showcase for them where they perform their songs on the Saturday following camp.
We also offer workshops for the youth. Our programming varies from one year to the next but we have some recurring workshops such as intersectional feminism, self care, and songwriting.
Aside from the recurring workshops, programming is 100% driven by the youth. In the camper applications we ask them what THEY want to learn about or see at camp.
Why is art and culture important?
Art is the soul of humanity and the fingerprint of culture that survives history. Culture is the sum of the parts that make up a society.
Our entire mission is about using art as a medium to affect culture. This is done by empowering girls to use art to take up space in a world that often silences their perspectives. Without a voice, how will their experiences be included in the evolution of the collective self?
What’s your organization’s next major milestone and is this milestone part of a long-term plan?
Our next major milestone is a fundraising campaign aimed at hiring a part-time Program Manager to expand the services we offer to Jacksonville's youth. We need this because currently we are all full-time workers but we are 100% volunteer based. The work that we do is so important but burnout happens often. We want to continue to serve the youth in Jacksonville and this camp is a very special and we want to keep it alive.
What would you like to see in the arts and cultural community in Jacksonville?
We would like to see more inclusion with persons of color (POC) and queer folk. We have a lot of “main” events like the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, PorchFest, Spring Festival, yet most POC and queer folk are invited to perform or show their work at the “after dark” events.
We need more platforms for POC and queer folk in this city. We passed the HRO and it is time to have more visibility and equity.
Does your organization partner with other organization(s)?
Yes! Some of our major partners have been the Jacksonville Public Library. They have lended their space to GRJ to hold workshops. We have also had an amazing partnership with our camp host, UUCJ. We are open to partnerships with anyone who knows our mission and wants to work with us. The more connections we make in the community the better.
Our biggest partnership has been with our campers and their families. We appreciate every relationship we have made.
What is a program offered by your organization that you’d like to highlight? Additionally, what is an organization that you think more people need to know about?
Our youth write their own songs. We do not interfere with what they have to say. Their lyrics reflect their feelings about society, personal struggles, and identity.
The Performers Academy is another amazing organization. They offer similar space to foster youth in Jacksonville and they provide year long programing alongside a summer camp.
How do you stay up to date with the art and cultural happenings both nationally and in Jacksonville?
Girls Rock is an international program. We are also apart of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA). We keep up to date with other camps through social media and the GRCA meets up several times throughout the year.
How can others get involved with your organization?
Currently we are accepting donations for our 6th year of camp. We are also looking for volunteer staff for the week of camp. We need self identified woman, trans and nonbinary folk to lead workshops and also help with music instruction.
We have opportunities for our male allies to help make camp happen too, including key roles in our June 29th showcase. The location has not been set yet. Once we have are location we will let everyone know through social media so connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and please subscribe to our newsletter.