Low riders, thumping beats, and curious bystanders set the scene for a music video filmed Saturday starring three Mission girls.
Sarahi Yannacone, 11, Eliseana Hernández, 13, and Ana Diosdado, 15, perform in the video that will accompany a song that they and other Mission Girls have composed and produced with the help of hip-hop artist A-Plus to counter negative messages they see in mainstream media. The Mission Girls are young participants in a nonprofit program of the same name that gives girls growing up in the neighborhood a safe place to spend time off the streets and explore new skills.
“My lyrics are about how women aren’t really shown to be successful,” says Ana. “Women are also innovative!”
Eliseana helped compose the chorus, which is supposed to be a little less heavy and complex than the rest of the lyrics. The song is mostly a rap, but the chorus is sung, and meant to be more positive and encouraging.
“They do the really deep stuff,” she says. “I’m supposed to be the uplifter.”
On an overcast San Francsico morning, they’re waiting for the shoot to start. Particularly Sarahi, who is bent on riding in the low-rider provided and driven by neighborhood organizer Roberto Hernández.
“I wanna sit in the low rider. Right behind the seat, like they do in they do in the movies!” Sarahi says.
And that’s exactly what she does. Hernández takes the girls for a spin around the block, with two videographers in the front seat and another following in a second lowrider following close behind as the girls recite their lyrics.
“I’ve met a lot of famous people, and I’m like…so star struck right now,” says filmmaker and animator Justin Herman to a bystander as the girls come back around in the car. Herman will add animations that react to the girls to the final video.
“It used to be, ‘rap music is putting down women.’ It’s so much more, it’s a media wide problem,” Herman says. “It has nothing to do with rap. It has everything to do with the mall, and with mall culture.”
Dawn Rosales, a firefighter, joins the small crowd of almost exclusively women who volunteered to join the girls in the video, dressed in her firefighting gear.
“We’re stronger than just who the media makes us out to be,” she says. “And we can cook and bring home money.”
“It’s about empowerment,” says Shikha Prasad, another volunteer. “We’re so bombarded with what’s out there and what’s supposed to be normal that we forget that it’s not normal.”
Gloria Romero, the youth services director at Mission Neighborhood Centers, says the song and video are the girls’ own words and their chance to send their own message.
“I’ve seen the girls, and how powerful they felt,” she says. “They’ve been able to develop a sense of power, sharing their voices.”
The video will be released October 24.