Recently, a group (Sisterhood) from West Side Community House in Cleveland's Sisterhood program visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum during one of the Museum's education programs. Here, Allison McClain, youth services director at the West Side Community House, explains how music and education come together in the Sisterhood program, and how a special visit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum made for an exciting experience for the girls in the program.
Sisterhood is an after school and summer program at West Side Community House for girls ages 10-15, and girls ages 16-18 can apply to the program as mentors. Sisterhood began as a pilot program in 2008 with a Call to Prayer grant from United Methodist Women. The mission of Sisterhood is to prepare girls for womanhood and their life beyond. Since 2008, the Sisterhood program has served hundreds of girls from the east and west side of Cleveland, providing girls with a safe space to talk about real issues and process ways to learn and grow from those issues.
The school year curriculum is divided into five cycles: Social Skills and Self Esteem, Family Support and Outreach, Education and Arts & Creativity, Financial Literacy and Health & Wellness. Each cycle includes hands-on activities, field trips and discussions with speakers from the community who share their knowledge and expertise as it relates to each cycle. Our summer program (Summer of Sisterhood) is an eight-week creative and performing arts camp. A range of teaching artists, including musicians, singers, dancers, actresses, songwriters, visual artists and poets work with the girls on creating original songs and poetry. The girls go to a professional studio to record and create an album. Summer of Sisterhood concludes with a live performance.
The Sisterhood program's first album, Sisterhood is Amazing, explores the value of friendship, love and respect. The program's second album, Just Wait and See, is a concept album that explores what it means to be a girl growing up in Cleveland. On February 15, 2012, as part of the program’s cycle three (Education and Arts & Creativity), girls in the Sisterhood program had the opportunity to meet Spinderella from Salt-N-Pepa at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Spinderella was at the Rock Hall as part of the Museum's Legends Series, which invites artists to speak and perform at the Rock Hall. Over the course of the evening, Spinderella told the audience about her experiences as a young artist and wrapped up the evening with a DJ demonstration. Spinderella’s story was a big inspiration to the girls of the Sisterhood program, who were particularly inspired by Spinderella's success as a teenager. Girls in the Sisterhood program learned the importance of working hard and not being afraid to chase after something – even if you are the only girl doing it.
It was very empowering for Sisterhood to meet a real life “shero” they could relate to and hold a meaningful conversation with. The girls were completely shocked when Spinderella requested a song from their Just Wait and See album. To top it off, Spinderella danced to their voices and told them the song “Tylenol and Tissue” was "hot!" Enthusiasm filled the room as the girls finished singing, and Spinderella asked, “Who wrote that?” Proudly, the girls responded, “We did!” Spinderella told Sisterhood it was great that they were writing their own songs because of the many opportunities in the music industry as a songwriter (talk about motivation for improving literacy skills!) As Tieara Dawson, 14, stated: “I like how [Spinderella] kept answering our questions and took time to sign autographs. She could’ve have told us no, but [Spinderella] was real down-to-earth.”