Theater collective aims to help young women find their voice through acting and activism

Program aims to empower young women

"CBS This Morning's" A More Perfect Union series aims to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us.    

A theater collective called "Girl Be Heard" is teaching young women and girls around the country to find their own voice through the arts. The program's part-acting part-activism approach comes to communities via a traveling company, and both weekend and after school programs.

GBH's mission is "to develop, amplify and celebrate the voices of girls through socially conscious theater making," according to its artistic director Kim Sykes. She explained that the after school program aims to reach girls "from all walks of life."

"Some come in, they want to be leaders. Some come in, they don't have any idea what they want to do," Sykes said.

The program has already reached audiences from the White House to the United Nations. CBS News' Dana Jacobson spoke to seventh-grade girls who said the program helped them gain more confidence and self-esteem.

"It feels so empowering to be there," said seventh grader Madison Clark. "I think the little exercises have a bigger lesson to it. If you really break it down, you can understand it." She later added that it was important for girls to be heard because "we have such powerful voices."

Asked whether she ever thought art could be so powerful, Clark's fellow student Persephone Loentr brought up GBH's exploration of mental health as an example.

"We were talking about depression, how girls of color are more likely to have, like, depression. When people – like, young girls – speak about that, it'd be like, 'Oh, like, I'm not the only person dealing with this. Somebody else, like, could be dealing with that out there too.'"

The program also creates a safe space for girls to discuss other difficult but important topics, such as the issue of consent.

"There's people who don't understand it, and they cross that line. And if you hear a poem about consent, you realize what consent is – or like, what it can be," another GBH performer, Janiyah Pompey explained. "It makes more sense when you understand what it is and what it isn't."

"It's more than just a girl talking. It's someone who's powerful enough to say how they feel, and make it stick. As long as I'm comfortable with it, and I, like, feel 1,000% with it, nobody can tell me anything. And that's what this group makes me feel like," she said.