Meet the Homegirl: Dancer, Artist, Activist
How do you overcome the unforeseen obstacles of life in an easy way? Do you cry about it and hide from the world, or ignore them and try harder?
The answer is there is no easy way to overcome them, but 18-year old Californian activist Shannon Hafez works hard to use her voice and passion for dancing to improve the world around her. Shannon defies societal norms and empowers girls, the LGBTQ community, and students with her activism for queer folk and against gun violence in schools.
Growing up, Shannon tried to fit in with the mold of the girls around her. She wasn’t very in touch with her femininity or her own Egyptian culture, and she hid most of these insecurities from others. She longed to be part of the world of instant social media gratification as an influencer, commercial hip hop dancer, or prima ballerina.
Shannon joined Serendipity Dance Company, a dance group that inspired her to thrive in her own talent. Her company went to competitions and conventions like most dance studios, but Shannon gained experiences that were so much more valuable than the trophies she got. Through the help of her mentor Chris Jacobson and the love and support around her from her teachers, she was able to tap into her passion and express self-love. This leads her to forever emphasize the ideas of “Life is not a competition” and “Everyone just needs someone to believe in them." These are the truths that have guided her life.
As she entered the California Institute of the Arts, or Calarts, she finally learned to block out the insecurities that typically held her back and thrive as an artist. Her biggest break arrived in the form of an email for an audition to be featured in a “dance film” for the iconic artist Solange Knowles. Right away, Shannon knew that this was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to her and many of her fellow classmates. She wasn't going to take the easy way out.
So she put on her shoes and started to dance.
The audition was musically and mentally exhausting. At one point they had Shannon count certain counts out loud while dancing. Shannon blocked out my anxiety and turned off the voice in her mind that told her she couldn't do it. She was tired of letting her mind get the best of her.
Shannon attended two callbacks after that initial audition, but she kept the entire project under wraps lest she get her hopes up. But when she finally got the email announcing the first rehearsal, Shannon couldn't hold it in any more. She shrieked and texted her dance teacher.
Dancing for Solange was incredibly powerful for Shannon, especially because she had had a rough few months before that, and she was starting to finally gain her voice and relearn how to love herself. She felt such a sense of accomplishment knowing she mentally worked her way up to be able to do something like this. And just like that they rehearsed, fitted, and shot the video over the span of two weeks. It all happened so fast and that felt like Shannon's life was put on hold, but in the best way possible.
Today, Shannon is continuing to use her voice to promote hope for humanity, feminism, and student safety. In light of the recent school shootings across the U.S, Shannon reiterates the fact that “Students SHOULD NOT feel scared and in danger at school." She I would like femmes to be able to freely express their identity and not feel like they have to conform to what society expects out of us! She also believes femmes have healing powers and that they need to support one another in a world that thinks they are incapable and invalid. Lastly, she wants to empower other young voices to restore hope in humanity and continue being themselves.
As a fellow Homegirl, she is a powerhouse for change and overcoming adversity through self-love and peer empowerment. You can see it in the way she dances.