Poet Azure Antoinette had a strong message Thursday for a group of young girls: Be confident in yourself. See the world brilliantly.
She encouraged members of Girls Inc., the Girl Scouts and Completely Kids to speak loudly, hold their heads high and show pride in themselves.
“You can look down about everything else in your life, but never look down about who you are,” Antoinette said. “When you stand in front of people and when you tell them what your name is, you look them in the face, because that is something to be proud of.”
The two-hour workshop for about 20 high school girls was held at TD Ameritrade, which sponsored the event along with the Institute for Career Advancement Needs, an Omaha nonprofit women's leadership group.
Antoinette has been called “the Maya Angelou of the millennial generation” by Forbes magazine. She has published three books and also works as an arts education consultant.
The workshop began with an icebreaking activity and ended with Antoinette reading some of her poems. In between, Antoinette got the girls giggling and talking. She asked them to write about themselves, inviting volunteers to read.
The handful that did were rewarded. Compliments such as “You're a rock star” and “You have amazing character” fed group members' confidence and eased their public speaking anxiety.
One girl opened up about her abusive past, revealing it to a group of unfamiliar faces. She embraced the silver lining, focusing on her hopes for the future.
Alivia Garza, 15, reached her arms out to Antoinette and said, “I love you.”
“People like her give me hope that I can go anywhere,” Alivia said.
Antoinette also appeared at a pair of screenings of the documentary “Girl Rising'' at Film Streams, one of which was a private showing for Omaha Central High School students.