At 11, 13, and 15 years old, Sarahi Yannacone, Eliseana Hernandez and Ana Diosdado didn’t expect to be releasing a single, let alone star in a visionary music video condemning popular music’s degradation of women. Sarahi’s musical experience ended with her practice of the violin in fourth grade. Eliseana’s singing experience was limited to the shower. Ana just “doesn’t rap.”
But here they are. Ana and Sarahi are spitting verse alongside pro hip hop artist Adam “A-Plus” Carter (of Hieroglyphics fame), carried by Eliseana’s smooth vocals. They come together in “We Are the Women,” a song Alejandra Rodriguez, a veteran Mission Girl, co-produced. No matter that, by her account, she doesn’t write or sing, and doesn’t even talk unless she can avoid it.
“We’re giving a voice to young girls who never ever had any kind of studio experience but they have a lot to say,” said Mission Girls director Susana Rojas.
The track is a collaboration between the nonprofit program Mission Girls and Future Youth Records, a label that produces and promotes songs with a message. Sarahi, Eliseana and Ana were coached through the experience by professional recording studio staff, but also by A-Plus and former American Idol competitor Thia Megia.
When it came time for the “agony” of picking a handful of the dozens of young women the nonprofit serves every day, Rojas said these girls stood out.
Sarahi, Rojas said, came to her after the release of Nicki Minaj’s highly suggestive music video for the song “Anaconda”. The 11-year-old was appalled.
“What happened to her? She’s talented. Did she forget that she’s a woman too?” Rojas remembered Sarahi asking.
So the focus of the Mission Girls song came together around the reactions that the Mission Girls had to mainstream songs and videos.
“We’re not asking people to stop listening to music. We’re asking people to be conscious of what they’re hearing,” Rojas said.
Though the girls were recorded and filmed professionally, they weren’t airbrushed. They came to the shoot in their own makeup or lack thereof, the clothes they felt comfortable in, on a set that consisted of the block of 24th Street that houses Mission Girls. The music video, which includes some animations that interact with the girls, was originally intended to turn the girls themselves into cartoons. Justin Herman, who produced the video, said he scrapped that idea in favor of letting the girls stand for themselves.
Though the murals that served as the backdrop for the video take on a life of their own in the animated world of “We Are the Women,” Herman said it was the neighborhood coming alive that brought the video together.
“This community, the Mission, is a rare, rare thing,” he said. “This is the life that needs to show up on screen.”
Not just on screen – the girls’ influence was evident behind the scenes too. Jason Wall, Executive Director of Future Youth Records, said he and others working on the project had originally presented one idea for the project to the girls, only to be soundly rejected.
To educator and Mission neighbor Patricia Barraza, that was part of the key. She emphasized the significance of co-producer and mentor Alejandra Rodriguez “to be able to tell professionals to go back to the drawing board, and to have them respect that.”
“I’m speechless” said audience member Stacey Flathers. “I wish there had been something like this when I was growing up.”
Barraza said seeing the success of the girls and their project made her look ahead to her next day with new enthusiasm.
“I better kick ass in the morning,” she said.
The video and song are available at missiongirls.media.