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Our Her-Story

GBH Unplugged Participants

Our HerstoryGBH started in 2008 with only 12 participants and $300 in the bank. Today, we are a thriving Brooklyn-based non-profit.

Instead of writing and directing a “girl power” show at the EstroGenius Theater Festival in NYC as commissioned, Founding Artistic Director Ashley Marinaccio invited the cast of twelve young women from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to tell their own stories. The result was transformative.

One year later, Ashley invited Jessica Greer Morris to get involved with the GirlPower ensemble. Inspired by Ashley, co-director Elizabeth Koke, and the growing theater ensemble of young women aged 12-21, Jessica soon gave up all of her theater commitments to fully support the work of this new theater collective, Project Girl Performance Collective.

At the time, bake sales were the revenue stream, street theater was the norm. It was a struggle to cover the cost of workshops/rehearsal space and fees to enter festivals such as The New York International Fringe Festival. Yet the theater performances dramatically and positively impacted the performers by increasing self-esteem, healthier relationships, and decreasing self-harm, bullying, and depression.

Soon the theatre collective began taking on global issues impacting women and girls abroad in partnership with youth advocates from the Man Up Campaign, which Jessica helped to launch at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Jessica brought Congolese activists to do teach-ins and share the stories of girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the cast. Our theatre company’s healing aspect and political relevance, in partnership with activists from the DRC, could not be denied after this first “across borders” show raised awareness about the rape epidemic in Congo. This show went to the White House, toured the Holocaust Museum in Richmond, VA, and was featured at the United Nations.

Jessica and Ashley were so inspired by and committed to the work that they created a nonprofit organization to adequately fund and expand the workshops and performances beyond the EstroGenius Festival. Ashley became the Founding Artistic Director, and Jessica became the Founding Executive Director. Founding Board Chair Jackie Shapiro, a United Nations Representative, helped make the work possible in the early days by funding rehearsal space and opening doors at the UN. In 2011, the ensemble attained a 501c3 nonprofit status. Still, due to the recession and limited bandwidth, the Co-Founders went on the payroll on July 1, 2013, the same year the organization was rebranded as Girl Be Heard. (Another nonprofit owned the name Project Girl). This same year, Girl Be Heard’s program was taken “out of Ashley’s and Jessica’s heads” and into a formal curriculum, thanks to Founding Director of Education Dena Adriance.

GBH has expanded to encompass so much more than the founders dreamed.

Over the years, we have grown into a dynamic, multi-faceted organization that reaches over 700 youth annually across multiple Title-1 schools and community-based sites citywide and engages 30,000+ in audiences via MainStage, our annual show, and community-based performances. Our company members have been invited to perform at The White House, United Nations, US State Department, TED Talks, the Women’s March, CBS This Morning national broadcast, and Girls, Inc, among others.

Our presence has also expanded internationally, with global tours taking place in Denmark, London, Switzerland, Sarajevo, and Trinidad and Tobago. In 2017, Girl Be Heard’s Trinidad and Tobago program launched with support from the United States State Department/US Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago. Today, it is a thriving program serving the local and migrant communities.

We are a thriving Brooklyn-based nonprofit, all thanks to our generous funders, incredible community partners, and dedicated staff members.

  • 700 Young women and gender-expansive youth enrolled per year in all of our programs, some of whom have gone on to win awards, including the British Academy Film Awards and being named NYC and National Youth Poet Laureates.
  • 90 %+ Over 90% of seniors who joined our programs graduated high school and matriculated into college, with recent alumni attending University of Chicago, Harvard, Yale University, Smith College, Stony Brook, and NYU.
  • 30 K+ We have reached thousands of people through our NYC stage and global performances, and performances at the United Nations, the White House and many more.

Timeline Learn how Girl Be Heard has evolved

  • 2008

    Girl Be Heard Founded

    We began at the Estrogenius Theater Festival with 12 participants and Founding Artistic Director Ashley Marinaccio.

  • 2011

    501c3 Status Granted

    Formally became a non-profit, with Jessica Greer Morris as Founding Executive Director

  • 2015

    Girl be Heard sees the world

    Participants went on a global tour.

  • 2016

    Launched school partnership programs

  • 2017

    Launched Trinidad and Tobago program

  • 2021

    Expanded into new program areas and added 4 programs with Chiwoniso Kaitano as Executive Director

  • 2021

    Girl Be Heard celebrates 10 years

  • A group of students poses and smiles
  • A group of performers stand onstage wearing all black. The stage is decorated in peeling paper and lit orange.