Baltimore's Beast Grrls

About a year ago, I stumbled into my first experience with zines. Downtown Baltimore, in the Terrault Contemporary Art Gallery, the gals and pals of "Beast Grrl" were celebrating the release of their fifth zine. A few people performed poems, a local teen rapper collaborated with a homeless man who had been standing on the street outside, and everyone shared their favorite works from the new issue. Recently, I was able to interview Kory, Emeline, & Haley, the high school editors of "Beast Grrl".

What is Beast Grrl? Beast Grrl is a collective of youth feminist activists who publish a zine and organize events and projects in Baltimore.

How did you choose the name? Beast Grrl’s name was kind of pierced together, because we knew we liked the word “beast”, and the “grrl” was added as a homage to Riot Grrrl, the movement that inspired us to make a zine! Our favorite story about the name is this time that we were at Artscape (see Beast Grrl selling their zine at Artscape here), Baltimore’s arts festival. We were selling the first issue of Beast Grrl guerilla-style on a curb and these guys came up to us and said, kind of mockingly, “what’s a grrl”? And we said “Beast Grrrrl!” with this crazy growl that felt really fierce and aggressive. Beast Grrl grew out of this frustration that we were not being heard and this “grrrrl” was an expression of all that. We also like to think of “grrl” as a gender-neutral term - you do not to have to be a “girl” to be a “Beast Grrl”.

Does Beast Grrl have any idols or inspirations? We have so many idols! Our eighth issue is actually devoted completely to this topic. To name a few of our biggest hero(ines): Art Hoe Collective (Beast Grrl was featured on their instagram here), Miranda July, Balti-Gurls, Riot Grrrl Movement, Michelle Dwyer, Hannah, Brancato and FORCE, Tavi Gevinson, & Frida Kahlo.

If Beast Grrl was a playlist, what would be on it? “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill. We’ve adopted it as our song - we play it at all our events and always jam really hard to it.

Beast Grrl is more than a zine - talk about your Moon Party and other events. After our first few issues of Beast Grrl, we started to get a more involved in Baltimore’s activist and art worlds and realized that we wanted to find a way to help our community more directly than just publishing a zine. We began hosting events based around Beast Grrl’s central mission of empowering feminists. We held a tampon drive at our high school for women’s shelters and a workshop for a project called Monument Quilt, which creates a safe space for survivors and supporters of rape and sexual assault through community art projects. Right now, we’re working on holding zine-making workshops throughout Baltimore.

Beast Grrl’s quilt for their Monument Quilt workshop

How has the city of Baltimore impacted and/or inspired Beast Grrl? Baltimore is so important to Beast Grrl. Our seventh issue is called “Justice” and was inspired by the Baltimore Uprising. Living in Baltimore has also been important to our understanding of feminism - many people in our city have not had the same privileges we’ve had, which has really fostered our belief in intersectional feminism. We’re lucky because Baltimore is a really supportive city. It’s also a city that’s really receptive to youth engagement and activism.

Favorite issue or thing published in Beast Grrl?
Haley: One of my favorite things is the poem, “The Women Widowed to Themselves” that my favorite poet, Lora Mathis, contributed. I’d been following her on Tumblr for a while and was totally in awe of her work - then Kory suggested we message her about submitting. I was so star-struck and excited when she sent in this piece!
Kory: My favorite issue is issue 3 - it has a few pieces like “How to be a Rebel” and “Extreme DIY” that did really well on our social media, which mean a lot to me, since I run our Tumblr. It was really amazing to see people getting excited about something we had created.
Emeline: My favorite issue is our fifth, “Everyone”. We got a lot of submissions for this, and I see it as a synthesis of what Beast Grrl is about - the idea of togetherness and the idea that people who are not usually heard can band together to create something.

You guys go to Baltimore School for the Arts. What are each of your disciplines? Kory is a singer and Emeline and Haley are visual artists.

What’s something you can’t leave the house without?
Kory: My makeup bag so I can look good 24/7.
Emeline: I can’t leave my house without earphones, so I can listen to music on the go.
Haley: My tampon bag - even if I don’t need them, it feels good to help a sister out.

What/who do you guys think is the Next Big Baltimore Thing? From where we’re sitting, the next big Baltimore thing seems like the end of apathy. For a while, it seemed like not caring was really the way to be cool, which was really challenging for us because we’ve always been really gung-ho about, like, doing stuff! But lately it seems as though there’s a shift and the young people around us are becoming more and more excited and interested in politics and social justice and trying to help others. The Baltimore Uprising was a manifestation of a lot of rage because of terrible inequality, but it also created a lot of energy in the city for change and revolution. It’s a really exciting thing to be around!

Any advice to aspiring young artists?
Kory: I’d say that you should be true to your values and don’t spend time molding yourself into what others want you to be.
Emeline: Be confident. It’s also important to build a strong support structure and surround yourself with people who can help you.
Haley: Learn how to stand up for yourself. Part of this is taking yourself seriously and respecting yourself; know that you are valuable and that your ideas are important and then don’t let anyone treat you as though that’s not true.

What’s next? We want Beast Grrl to stay in Baltimore and to continue being run by high-schoolers. For us, Beast Grrl is about girls discovering feminism and having a forum for that discovery and discussion to take place. This was really valuable to us in high school, as we were discovering feminism, and we want it to remain that kind of a resource even as we leave for college. For this reason, we’re passing Beast Grrl on to a younger editorial staff after we graduate next year. We’ll still be available for advice, but Beast Grrl will be their project. Hopefully, they will pass it on when they graduate and it can continue to exist and evolve to meet the needs of young feminists for a long while.

You can find Beast Grrl at:

text: zipi diamond
visuals: beast grrl
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