Interview with Samera Paz

Samera Paz is a photographer, visual artist and student at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. As the Founder of the Young Women's Movement Girl Power Meetups, creator of digital platform Locals Only and upcoming black empowerment movement Chocolate MLK she inspirers, motivates and help women from different backgrounds, places and in different stages of life to feel empowered, beautiful and unique. Therefore we decided to ask for an interview with her to find out more about what Girl Power Meetups are all about and how she works to inspire and empower.

     Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Samera Paz. I recently turned 23 years old and I’m an artist. I started out as a photographer in high school and I’m really interested in photojournalism. My dream job is to be a war photographer / photojournalist who specializes in capturing conflict. I create visual art and dabble in performance art as well. I love social activism and using art to create change within my community. I like visiting museums, traveling, reading and writing in my journal.

   What are girl power meet-ups and why did you start them? 

 Girl Power Meetups is a young women’s movement that I founded in 2015. I host meetups that are open to anyone who identifies as girl in the community. We come together to create, express ourselves and empower one another. We have meetups / field trips / events throughout the year and give people the platform to discuss topics that affect them and find support within each other. 

   Can you explain what usually happens during a meet-up?

At a GPM we have discussions on anything and everything that affects our lives. We have a lot of discussions on mental health, self love, relationships, problems or insecurities we may face. There’s a lot of laughs and sometimes tears but the interactions we have with each other are unbelievable and fascinating to experience. Friendships are created, advice is given and overall it’s a judgment free-zone and we’re all about listening and being that helping hand for someone.

Are there any particular experiences or events that inspired you to start gpm?

Girl Power Meetups was inspired by Women-Only events that I attended with my mentor. In those events, I saw the importance of celebrating and honoring women. I felt that amazing feeling of what it feels like when you uplift the women around you. I wanted to bring that feeling into my own city and community.

When you were younger, was there ever a time when you wished to be a part of a community like the one you have created?  

I wish I had Girl Power Meetups around when I was in middle school and high school. Those were really difficult times for me. Life was a roller coaster. I was struggling with mental health issues, school, relationships and sometimes I didn't have anyone to talk to about what I was going through. Having Girl Power Meetups would of made a great difference in my life at that age but I'm glad it's here now for other young women. Everything I went through made me who I am now and if it wasn't for those experiences, this organization would not exist. 

     Any particular memories from one of your girl power meet-ups that has made an impact on you?

The most recent eye-opening experience I had with Girl Power Meetups is when I went to Paris in May and held a GPM. The discussions we had revolved around mental health, catcalling, relationships and emotions. These topics are very similar to the discussions I’ve heard from previous meetups in the U.S. I realized that girls all over the world face very similar problems and experiences despite where they live. I was once again reminded that young women need  safe spaces like Girl Power Meetups and this organization has a strong purpose that could really benefit the world by bringing together and connecting young women. 

    What do you love most about this community?

My favorite thing about Girl Power Meetups is how comfortable and natural it is. There's genuine support and love all around. At every meetup we have girls who've never attended before and at first I can imagine how intimidating it is to speak about certain topics in front of a group of strangers but our community is all about being ourselves and accepting others. That feeling of intimidation or nervousness fades instantly once we begin our meetup. Our safe space and community was created naturally and overtime and that’s not something you can come across everyday. 

     What is the main message you want to share?

Through Girl Power Meetups, I want women all over the world to know that they have a voice, that they matter and they have every right to express themselves. Our community is about spending quality time, having fun and listening to each other’s thoughts and opinions and coming together to make change in our community and more importantly within ourselves and the world.

   How has the girl power movement evolved since you started?

We’ve evolved in many ways so far and it continues to evolve with every meetup. GPM started out as a simple idea that grew into a movement that’s impacted my life and the lives of others. The concept of sisterhood became a reality and the need for spaces like GPM were apparent at our first ever meetup. We’ve evolved in the way that we host meetups and learned the importance of change and flexibility. 

     What can people do in order to empower themselves if they don’t have the ability to attend your meet-ups?

It’s a dream to have Girl Power Meetups all over the world so that every girl can experience the magic that happens within our movement. Girl Power Meetups mission can be practiced by yourself or with your own group of friends. It can be a mindset that’s incorporated within your daily lives. We believe in coming together to create, express our thoughts and emotions and discuss social issues that affect our lives. We believe in believing in ourselves and others and using positive thinking and being proactive to overcome challenges we may face in our lives. We also believe in the importance of being honest with ourselves and emotions. 

     Do you have anything to say to anybody who might be too afraid to come to your meet ups?

Attending your first Girl Power Meetup can be nerve-wracking. We completely understand. If you are interested in attending but have no one to go with, don’t hesitate to reach out to the organization for accommodations. We’d be more than happy to meet with you beforehand and introduce ourselves, our mission and give you a sense of what to expect before a meetup. At all of our meetups there have been girls who show up that never attended a meetup before. They hear about us through their friends or through social media and it’s really great that we always have a group of girls who know what to expect and others who are new to GPM. If you’re interested in attending but still on the fence about it look through our social media and watch videos and view pictures from our previous meetups and see if that’s something you would like to be part of.

  Any tips for people who want to start their own girl power meet-ups?

As of now, any Girl Power Meetups expansions are on hold but there will be a time, soon enough, where we can expand and spread GPM all over the world. It’s definitely needed but it’s a process!

  There is a lot of prejudice towards the feminism movement and community. There are parents, family members and friends who are skeptical towards anything that includes “girl empowerment” and the word feminism. How can we make people more open-minded and make them realize the importance of this movement?

There are many labels and sometimes negative feelings whenever women come together to create change. Girl Power Meetups isn’t about proving anyone wrong, we’re motivated by our own need for change within ourselves and the world. It is extremely rare for women to have a safe space where they can be their truest self and be vulnerable. We come together because it’s our right and we promote things that the world needs. Acceptance, friendship, love, support, kindness, positivity, creativity and so much more. No one should be threatened by a person’s need to grow and be the best version of themselves. 

Photos by Samera Paz

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