#FilmMajorFriday: The Merze Tate Explorers Club Is Empowering Girls Through Writing, Photography, and Videography

Last week, I had the opportunity to be the personal videographer and videographer instructor for the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club‘s 2016 Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy.  IMG_0041The Academy is a program for 4th-12th graders, and is a 6-day residential academy on Kalamazoo College’s campus. The program provides travel opportunities and interaction with women where they work while serving as reporters to capture the adventures through writing, photography, and videography for the annual Girls Can! Magazine. The program was created by Sonya Bernard-Hollins.

I must say, it was one the greatest and most rewarding experiences that I’ve had to date. It was an amazing feeling being around so many girls that were as passionate about traveling and media just as much as I am, and girls who really wanted to advance their skills in writing, photography, and my personal favorite, videography.

IMG_0003Throughout the week, I filmed the events that took place throughout the week. We went to the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan where the girls had the opportunity to meet and interview the CEO. We participated in Youth Day at Bible Baptist Church as part of the Black Arts and Cultural Center’s 2016 Black Arts Festival.  Later in the week, we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and went to the Motown Museum and ate dinner on the Detroit Princess River Boat. We ended the week by traveling to Niagara Falls, Canada where we were able to take a tour and ride the boat through the Falls!

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My favorite part about the Academy was just simply being a positive influence and that person the girls could look up to not just as a videographer, but a mentor as well.IMG_0110 Representation matters, and when you see someone who looks like you, doing what you want to do, and desire to be like, it gives you all the more reason to chase your dreams. If she can do it, so can I.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this fantastic week with girls who are inspired and passionate about traveling, writing, and media. I wish I was a part of a program like this growing up. I think that it’s incredible that these girls are gaining these experiences at such a young age. We need more programs like this that give children the opportunity to learn, explore, and see the world. There’s so much out there and if more children were given opportunities like this, I know that it would give them more hope and motivation to work hard, achieve their greatest aspirations, and reach heights higher than they could ever imagine.

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Published by

Tirrea Billings

Tirrea Billings is a native of Saginaw, Michigan, and is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic with a love for writing and documentary filmmaking. Her life goal is to be the change that the film industry needs: more women and more people of color. She is a keen activist, and writes about issues and social injustice within the Black community. In her spare time, she is a cheer coach, yoga connoisseur, and a believer of supporting organic, locally sourced foods. Motto: Fear the girl with the smell of coffee on her lips, and dresses well on Mondays.

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