The young women at Bishop Maginn badly wanted to start a cheerleading team, so they have and I have agreed to support them by raising money formats and uniforms for the girls without funds.
The school is calling it the “Cheer Team,” not the “Cheerleading Squad,” perhaps as a nod to the fact that cheerleading is considered controversial by some women who believe it is a stereotype that needs to be shed.
As soon as I mentioned the team yesterday, I got a message from Nancy: “I keep hoping that women will manage to evolve beyond the desire to be cheerleaders, and I keep being sadly disappointed.”
I expect some other people will feel the same way.
I am not a woman, obviously, and I understand where Nancy is coming from.
But I can’t agree with her. I won’t judge these children in their desire to cheer their school on and also to find their own voices and sing their songs.
They will cheer for the school, and they will cheer up the school.
It isn’t my job to decide what these inner-city and refugee kids decide is best for them or what they need. I see already the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding this new venture.
The teachers at Bishop Maginn are surprised to see that some of the shyest and quietest young women in the school are the ones the most eager to be on the Cheer Squad. “This will be a great experience for them,” said one.
“I’m afraid to speak up in class sometimes,” one of the girls told me, “my English isn’t good yet, but I’ll have a big and loud voice on the team.” I get that. Many of these children have spent years in refugee camps and seen their homes and families destroyed.
They are often shy and uneasy as they try to acclimate to school and life in America. My own sense is that they need to do some healing before they take on our notions of feminist identity.
Coming to our country might be a powerful experience, but it is neither simple or easy for them.
They don’t come from a computer culture, and many of their families have ideas about women that are not widespread or popular in America. They have a lot of difficult waters to navigate.
They fight bigotry, trauma, hatred, poverty, language and culture barriers every day. I think getting up on a stage, doing some mild acrobatics, singing my song to the world would have been great for me.
I think they know what they need better than I know what they need.
Just looking at this photograph tells me what a good idea this is for Bishop Maginn, these girls intend to bring some joy and pride to the world around them. Bishop Maginn needs some cheering, as we all do.
So next week we’ll put up a new Bishop Maginn Amazon Cheer Squad Wish List. On it will be some exercise mats and maybe a couple of pom-poms.
I ordered a bunch of pom-poms and shipped them to the school.
I’m hoping for Monday or Tuesday for the Wish List.
If anyone doesn’t like to use Amazon or go online and wants to contribute to the cheer squad, you can also send a contribution to me via Paypal, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by check, Jon Katz, Cheer Squad, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Thanks.