HISTORIC YBOR CITY — The 18 middle school girls arrived each weekday morning for six weeks at the New Place — an old church on 17th Street — for a project called Girlstories Theatre. They attend different schools throughout the county. They come from Brooklyn, the Bahamas, Tampa. Two sisters moved here from Ghana, Africa, two years ago. But their stories are similar and that is why they're here. Being the new kid. Fitting in. Crushes on boys. Rejection. How words can hurt. Eleven-year-old Dominique Hagen remembers a girl who called her ugly. "So I threw the first punch," she said. They learned matriarchal chants, discovered their gifts and honed life lessons to perform for elementary students throughout the year. They recognized that adversity made them stronger and learned to be true to themselves. Fran Powers, creator of Powerstories Theatre, a production company that gives Tampa women a forum to share their life stories through performance, wove the lessons into a play that the girls will perform tonight. The three girls' stories, Page 3
Sydney Harden, 11, North Tampa
It's a new year. A new school. I'm starting fourth grade. When we settled in, I saw a boy named Randy. When I saw him my eyes got as big as ping-pong balls. Then at recess that same day, a friend came up to me and said, "Get away from Randy. He's my man." I knew I was going to have an issue with her. One night she threatened me and said she would beat me down if I talked to Randy. I started getting mad but I wanted to cry as well. I threw the phone at the wall and to my surprise, it didn't break. Two months passed. During those two months, we were fighting and not talking to each other. One day we finally realized that boys come between friendships and we said sorry to each other.
Dynasty Hagen, 12, Clair-Mel
When I was 3 I had a hernia. It made my belly button grow and doctors told my mom I had to get it cut off or I would die. On the day of my surgery, I was shaking and jittery. They put the IV in me and I fell asleep. I woke up and there it was. The scariest thing of my life. I had a bare belly. I had no belly button. My surgery caused a lot of hardships on my family but it was something that needed to be done. Struggles make you strong.
Rachel McKay, 13, Seminole Heights
When I was in seventh grade, I was talking to one of my friends and she said, "Hey Rachel, can I take a picture of you for my anorexia project?" She asked me if she could take a picture of me for her anorexia project. I told her no. She seemed shocked! She called me mean and walked away. I could feel tears swelling up inside me. Later, I told my mom. She said you could either ignore it or you could just talk to her. I went in my bedroom and laid face down on my bed crying and praying. The next time I saw her, I said, "What you asked me the other day hurt my feelings." She said she was sorry and although it still hurt, I felt a lot better knowing I confronted my problems.