Feb 6, 2017

Seventeen years of impacting and empowering girls

Global Girls outside the Global Studio
Global Girls outside the Global Studio

Global Girls continues to impact hundreds of girls each year and have now expanded programming to impact boys. Our latest initiative, Our Home is NOT in a Warzone” will reframe the stories young people on the south side of Chicago tell themselves as well as reinterpret the stories they hear from beyond the community.  17 years ago, we began this journey with the same commitment - telling our own stories. Way back in 2000, I never imagined we’d be confronting the same issues. However, our tactics are winning with larger and larger groups of youth.  We now have a team that has traveled abroad to five different countries, empowered thousands of girls with performance and presentation skills and staged over 30 original stories reflecting African American teen life. Today, many of those youth are either in college or in the work world as productive members of society. All of them credit their time in Global Girls as part of their solid foundation.

One of the core initiatives is Global Girls Theatre Collaborative (GTC). In “safe space” settings, teams of youth and adults create and stage original theatre that unpacks, challenges and heals. Youth who’ve mastered dance, acting and story crafting perform their shows for audiences at The Global Studio and in various venues around Chicago and throughout state of Illinois. Springing from first person narratives, their shows confront issues of racial injustice, HIV/STI education, domestic and dating violence, adultism, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, social media, street harassment and more with content that some find provocative, but youth believe captures their realities.

Prior to starting Global Girls, Marvinetta Penn, ED, worked 19 years for Chicago Public Schools as an English and Theatre instructor. Combining over 35 years working with African American youth and amassing mounds of knowledge and best practices, she is now expanding Global Girls programs in partnership with schools and other organizations. In addition to Global Girls groups in Mombasa, Grenada and India, we now have groups in East St. Louis and Charleston, Illinois and are planning to start groups in Durham, North Carolina, Jamaica, West Indies and Toronto, Canada.

Here’s a snapshot of our 2016 activities and events:

  • Nine south side of Chicago girls traveled to Grenada and worked with 30 girls on our second John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation arts exchange grant.
  • Four youth and five adults traveled with us to Mombasa, Kenya to work with our 26 Global Girls in community schools in partnership with Mombasa Relief Initiative.
  • Seven of our young actresses will appear in a soon to be released independent film about the aftermath of gun violence in Chicago.
  • 83 girls ages 4 to 14 participated in our Youth Performance Camp this summer.
  • 56 teens including 18 males acted and danced in our Take the Stage, After School Matters program.
  • Youth sang, danced and acted in skits in our most successful Summer Performance Showcase this summer at the beautiful Grand Ballroom. Over 300 parents and friends came out to see them.
  • Over 900 youth participated in our school and community based programs and events.
  • Thanks to our partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, we served 6,500 hot meals in our after school and Saturday programs.
  • Our girls and boys performed in 12 community and Global Girls sponsored public events
  • Twelve Global Girls alums have created the Global Girls alumni team.
  • Our girls are winning academic and performance awards, inspiring and advocating for other youth in their schools.

 Ava Saunders is a great example of our program’s success. She started in our school based program when she was nine and began our Saturday program shortly thereafter. A dedicated dancer and actress, Ava exceled and joined Global Girls Theatre Collaborative, performing in Kenya and India. Ava received a full scholarship to the Chicago Academy for the Performing Arts (high school) and became the first freshman in the school’s history to appear in a senior production. Now, Ava is a freshman at the University of Minnesota on full scholarship in musical theatre. Global Girls, Inc. is proud to have provided her foundation in dance and theatre.

Your contributions help us help more youth and sincerely appreciated.

Supporters enabled "Hidden Figures" outing
Supporters enabled "Hidden Figures" outing


Nov 10, 2016

Grenada girls will come to Chicago

Girls on the first day
Girls on the first day

In a few short weeks, 2016 will come to an end. But what an event-filled year 2016 was for Global Girls as you can see in our attached newsletter! One of the highlights was our john D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation funded arts exchange initiative in Grenada, West Indies. Nine of our girls ages 12 to 18 spent 17 days in Grenada, worked with 30 girls (10 from three different schools in the Telescope region) and showcased a final performance for over 200 students, teachers, school staff, government officials, parents and business and community members at the end of our engagement.

We made lots of friends and connections while there and became known as the “Chicago” dancers. Our Chicago travelers still regularly communicate with many of the Grenada on social media.  We are resuming contact with partners on the ground to make certain the Grenada Global Girls will come to Chicago in March 2017! Each school has been fundraising for the trip.  We expect that at least 10 of the 30 girls will make the trip and perform with us in a series of shows in and around Chicago.

One school in particular is continuing a Global Girls performance group. Because the schools we worked with do not have a performing arts curriculum, I am creating a Global Girls guide complete with detailed lessons, activities, sample skits and even a demonstration video that I can share with the schools to help them continue creating our unique brand of socially conscious, youth driven theatre.

Thanks to your support, girls are learning from one another, stepping outside their comfort zones as they learn new possibilities and using their voices to say what's on their minds and in their hearts. 

The night of the show
The night of the show

Aug 19, 2016

We are making HUGE progress thanks to your support

Making a request of Mayor Emanuel
Making a request of Mayor Emanuel

What a wonderful summer we've had in Global Girls. Over 100 youth participated in our Youth Performance Camp learning dance, acting, social skills and creating truly informatve and entertaining performaces that reflected their experiences and perspectives.

As a result of our outstanding summer program, we are moving to a new and larger location! We haven't found that location as yet, nor do we have funding for it, but we are claiming it right here, right now. Yes, you are indeed a part of a winning program.

  • We only targeted 60 girls, but 80 girls enrolled in our Youth Performance Camp. We had 33 teen boys and girls in our After School Matters program this summer.
  • 350 people attended the summer Showcase at the Grand Ballroom. Over 100 youth performed. Pictures are on Facebook. The 2017 Summer Showcase will be held at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center. We held the After School Matters finale at the Center for Inner City Studies.
  • Over the summer, we performed for Victory Senior Center, State Senator Trotter’s Health Fair and The United Club Owners Association’s annual dinner/dance. A group of us marched in the Bud Billiken day parade for Black United Fund of Illinois.
  • We conducted a workshop for Chicago Sister Cities and University of Illinois Chicago international program working with girls.
  • We have a CAN TV call in show Mondays at 7P. Four youth will be trained Monday, August 22 to man the show.
  • We hired seven youth workers who were big assets to the summer program.
  • The Power Lunch was held once again at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. 43 youth and 12 presenters participated. Pictures are on Facebook.
  • 12 Girls were inducted into the CORE, Saturday, July 9, 2016. The program was held at Calvary Baptist Church thanks to Board Chair Stephanie Brathwaite.
  • We were awarded $2,000 to build audiences for our adult theatre programming.
  • We raised $500 from our clothes drive in July. We will have another one in September. Board support needed.


The youth and staff created a strategic plan for bringing our partners in Grenada to Chicago in early spring 2017. The Grenada girls are out of school until september, but have been in contact with our girls. They are still fundraising and working on our joint performance.

More great news will be announced very soon! Thanks again so very much for your continued support.

Summer Showcase featuring over 100 youth
Summer Showcase featuring over 100 youth
Acting in the Showcase
Acting in the Showcase


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