Ashley Fox – Never forget who you are, where you come from, and who sent you

This week’s featured lady boss is just a completely awesome human. Introduced to us by Mara D’Amico (who is a super duper connector), Ashley Fox is an advocate for local politics and engagement. I have a feeling that if you haven’t already hooked into your local politics, you will want to after reading about Ashley.

Ashley Fox_Jamie Raskin Stump Speech1Ashley stumping for Jamie Raskin

Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: My granddad’s constant reminder to me: Never forget who you are, where you come from, and who sent you. He was talking about committing to being authentic and having a vision—a vision for something bigger, bolder, and better. For a black man born in the 1940s Mississippi Delta who never finished high school, believing that harnessing skills, passions, and introspection can be personally fulfilling and transformative for communities was really more than just a belief. It was a vision for hope and change.

I had a close relationship with my maternal granddad and have long been inspired by his conviction that political engagement, particularly at the local level, is the most immediate and effective tool we have to advocate for ourselves and influence our personal circumstances in the US. This conviction manifested itself in ways that positively changed the trajectory of three generations in my family.

It’s because of these changes that I see public service as an extraordinary tool to empower and advocate for myself, my community, and others—a tool that can change the trajectory of generations for the better. Politics isn’t always a feel-good ride, but it’s unavoidable and demands participation. It’s exciting to be a part of that, and it’s fulfilling to know that, through public service, I’m bringing my own vision for something bigger, bolder, and better to life.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: Volunteering on a campaign! It was infectious—meeting so many hardworking people who wanted to empower themselves by voting and advocate for their interests through a candidate.

Ashley Fox_GOTVAshley & Get Out The Vote!

Q: What do you do now?
A: I was once asked if my job is like being Gary to Selina Meyer on VEEP…which would be hilarious. The answer is definitely no, but there are always surprises and a good number of laughs throughout my day! I’m the communications and community outreach director for a city council member in Washington, DC. This means that I spend my days talking to press, writing website and social media material, keeping tabs on what residents are concerned about, attending and hosting community events, and making sure my boss is prepared for events outside of the office.

Q: In tweet-format (140 characters), what advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: There’s no substitute for being authentic. Master listening. Remember you’re not the whole. Learn from useful criticism and forget the rest.

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Q: What advice would you give a woman coming up in public service?
A: Ask yourself why you care about the things you do and how you are best equipped to positively impact individuals and communities. Answer honestly. If you’re interested in politics or running for office like me, have a goal and find a mentor. Being a boss lady in male-dominated spaces can be hard. Know the ways you best refresh and recharge, and do them regularly.

Ashley Fox_Back to School EventAshley at a Back To School event

Q: Are there books or articles that have influenced you that you’d like to share?  If so, can you give a sentence about why you recommend it?
A: I most recently read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It’s an interesting read that detailed an experience completely different from my own. There’s always plenty to learn from someone else’s story.

When I need a little motivation I flip through Go For It! A Celebration of Your Dreams, which is a clever little Hallmark book that I’m lucky to have annotated by my parents.

When I need to be reminded of who I am, where I come from, and who sent me, I read a selection from I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women who Changed America.

Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: A few favorites (no judging!): @feministabulous, @secretflying, @Cuteemergencytv

 

As I said before, Ashley is a boss lady.

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There’s a badge for that

I am a Girl Scout (and a Brownie). I love finding out when other women are Girl Scouts too. I’ve heard the funniest stories about experiences with their troops from selling cookies to the hardest badge they earned. For me, my troop memories revolve around Girl Scout camping and the summer I received the most mosquito bites in the entire world (in our foolish little brains, we thought water REPELLED mosquitoes and our troop leader didn’t realize what we were doing when we constantly douse ourselves from well water until we were covered in bites — my number was 47!*). One of my favorite professional experiences was having a partner meeting at the regional Girl Scouts office and walking into their conference room with STACKS OF GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. Stacks that were taller than me by twice. I honestly can’t remember what we talked about in the meeting – I was way too distracted by the cookies.  All this to say, when Juliette Gordon Lowe’s birthday came around this year, I took a few moments to thank this amazing woman for creating Girl Scouts and providing an amazing way to empower girls.

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I particularly love Girl Scouts these days. Unlike other similar organizations, Girl Scouts has consistently evolved to reflect contemporary times. Even this past week, I learned about the new “Raise Your Hand” badge.  It’s not even the first social justice badge. They’ve welcome transgender girls since 2011 and attended the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. While they haven’t specifically endorsed Planned Parenthood, they allow troop leaders to create badges and curriculum on human sexuality and birth control (with parent permission). All this social justice work is consistent with Juliette Lowe’s original mission of “build ‘girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place’ “. Current Girl Scouts “Chief Girl Expert” Andrea Archibald believes that mission extends to all members, and through [this] program, girls develop the necessary leadership skills to advance diversity and promote tolerance,

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Juliette Gordon Lowe was WAY ahead of her time. She started Girl Scouts in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. If it doesn’t immediately hit you – that was BEFORE women could even vote in the US. Girl Scouts were born from Girl Guides, an offshoot of Boy Scouts. She gathered a small group of girls to hike mountains, learn about the world around them, and camp – not exactly skills that girls were encouraged to learn in that time. The initial Girl Scouts handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country, was a combination of guide and empowerment book. As the group grew, scout members were active in WW1, growing their own food and learning to can. They also worked closely with the Red Cross to create surgical dressings and knitting clothes for soldiers. Ms. Lowe was consistently adamant that Girl Scouts be led by women and girls and has maintained that primary value.

Even though Lowe retired as the head of the organization fairly early on, she spent the rest of her life fundraising and promoting Girl Scouts. When she died, there was a Girl Scouts honor guide that accompanied her casket.

Selling cookies were introduced in 1917 by Ms. Lowe, initially being cooked in the homes of the girls. The idea behind selling cookies was to provide girls marketing and business skills as well as provide funds for activities and trips for troops. In 1935, the Girl Scout was added to the cookies (hello, Shortbread), creating that iconic brand. While some people like to mock or devalue the selling of cookies by girls, it’s a pretty awesome program that allows girls to own their own entrepreneurship.

 

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There is an effort to rename a bridge in Savannah in honor Ms. Lowe. If you are interested in supporting, you can sign the petition (I totally did).  She’s received a ton of honors, both during her lifetime and posthumously. My favorites include the induction to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Juliette Gordon Lowe is a hero for girls. She provided a space for girls to explore, learn, and give back before it was popular to do so. She created an organization that allowed girls to become everything they could be and  has encouraged generations of girls and women to be leaders and to promote positive change in their communities. I joke about my time with my troop but my involvement began my recognition that girls were badasses and together, we could do anything. So essentially, you can thank my Girl Scouts troop for this blog.

 

*We also found a brown recluse AND a black widow spider in our tents. You can imagine the calm and collected response of a group of 11-12 year old girls to these spiders. It’s a miracle we survived these trips.

Jennifer Zelaya – Working to Empower

Half the fun of HerStory is being regularly introduced to new awesome ladies doing awesome things. That’s how we met Jennifer Zelaya, whom we met through the previously featured Mara D’Amico.  (If you aren’t as blown away as I was by Jennifer’s passion and dedication, I question your value system.)

Picture1Here is Jennifer with the fieldworkers in South Sudan after she had finished a two-week training conducting quantitative prevalence studies of VAWG

Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I grew up in a low-income community in Los Angeles where I learned first-hand how a lack of resources (food, health, or otherwise) impacts quality of life.  I have continued to discover the injustices others face and learned about the ways that I could improve the lives of those around me. Encouraged to reach my potential by some pretty great mentors, I knew very early on that I wanted to work in a profession that empowered others. Although I have had roles in other non-public service sectors, I haven’t felt the same sense of meaning and purpose that I feel when I am working in social welfare or public health.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: I studied Psychology at UCLA and during my time there, I was interested in working in the community. I trained as a crisis counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and worked there for a year. From that point forward, I found other opportunities that allowed me to learn a lot about the mental health landscape in the US. I found a position managing community-based programs for kids that had experienced traumatic events. In addition, I developed a photography and mindfulness program to help female adolescents struggling with depression and anxiety.  I knew that I wanted to be working to help reduce mental health stigma in our communities. After a lot of soul searching, I went on to receive my Masters in Social Welfare and Masters in Public Health at UCLA—so that I would have the skills to provide therapy at the individual and group level, but to also develop and evaluate mental health programs, which is really exciting!

Q: What do you do now?
A: Over the last three years, I have focused on Violence Against Women and Girls at the global level, with field experience in Latin America and the Caribbean Region.  Working for the Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University, I manage multiple studies that focus on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Central America. I have also supported fieldwork in South Sudan in order to learn how conflicts impact the lives of women and girls. One of the greatest aspects of my job is that I have been able to mentor students on the practicum and capstone projects for their Masters in Public Health or International Development. In addition, it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to work in different countries, learning about their various cultures and the ways in which their communities are trying to prevent VAWG.

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Q: What advice would you give a woman coming up in public service?
A: 
To seek out mentors in a similar field and to ask questions often. It’s also important to be gentle and flexible with yourself as you get started on your path—things change, interests change, and you grow so much in the span of a few months or years. I would also encourage one to try out different roles and areas of interest; it’s important to figure out what you like and to be open to what you discover.

Q: If you had to choose a meme or gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose? **

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Q: Who is your role model?
A: My mother. She has endured a difficult life: from immigrating to the US in the 70s (by foot), striving to provide for a family of five. However, she has a huge amount of resilience and is extremely hardworking, smart, kind, and generous—qualities I aspire to in my daily life.

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Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: I enjoy accounts on cooking, design, and those accounts that share tips on how to get better at taking care of yourself. Here are a few:

We are new fans of Jennifer and can’t wait to see what she does next!!

**Subnote: As mentioned before, we give extra credit points to Leslie Knope references. We give SUPER extra points for referencing awesome women previously featured on the blog.

Emma & Kathryn — Living their best Leslie Knope lives

Here at HerStory, we are BIG BIG fans of podcasts. So much so, one of us is getting her doctorate in them (that’s a gross oversimplification on my part but you should expect that from me). One of our favorites is the “Waffles Friends Work: A Parks & Recreation Podcast“, hosted by Kathryn Baxter and Emma McAuley. Following the episodes of a HerStory favorite show Parks & Recreation, each podcast also features at least one real life badass lady public servant, cut straight from the Leslie Knope mold. Kathryn and Emma do a spectacular job of finding women in all forms of public service and provides the opportunity for them to speak about their experiences and positions. Of course, it made perfect sense for us to highlight these two women, their work with the podcast, and their own careers.

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Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: Kathryn – We both have a Masters in Public Service degree — in fact, our graduate program is how we met. Emma’s background is in informal education. Mine is in advocacy and policy. But we both believe strongly in the idea that service is the rent we pay for room on this earth. As Leslie Knope demonstrates, public service positions are sometimes underpaid, underestimated, and undervalued, but I know neither of us would trade believing in the work we do and feeling that our work has purpose for anything.

Q: Why did you start your podcast? How do you find the amazing ladies you interview?
A: 
Emma – Kathryn had the idea to start the podcast and asked me to join because we are both huge fans of Parks & Recreation. We have been so lucky with the amazing women that we have been able to interview. Logistically, it can sometimes be difficult to find people at the local level because so many women (and gender nonconforming people) do work that doesn’t get headlines or awards — they just (to quote Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) “get stuff done”. So we began looking for potential guests by asking the women we knew in public service to recommend any “real-life Leslie Knopes” in their circles. We also research the staff of organizations we admire to find potential guests. We are so fortunate that many of the women we reach out to not only have Leslie Knope’s dedication to their jobs but also have her enthusiasm for their work and agree to speak with us! And, of course, we are always open to guest recommendations from listeners
A: Kathryn – I also have to add that ever since I was young, I was raised with that “anything boys can do, I can do too” attitude. So I admit that some of my motivation to actually create our own podcast was to take up some space in a field that can can feel very male-dominated and to use that space to talk with and about amazing women/gender nonconforming people. All that said, I love podcasting because it’s a fairly democratic medium in that the barriers to entry are low. While a lot of the big-name podcasts (is that an oxymoron?) are still very male-dominated, there are so many diverse voices out there if you’re willing to look for them. I also have to add that ever since I was young, I was raised with that “anything boys can do, I can do too” attitude. So I admit that some of my motivation to actually create our own podcast was to take up some space in a field that can can feel very male-dominated and to use that space to talk with and about amazing women/gender nonconforming people. All that said, I love podcasting because it’s a fairly democratic medium in that the barriers to entry are low. While a lot of the big-name podcasts (is that an oxymoron?) are still very male-dominated, there are so many diverse voices out there if you’re willing to look for them.BoysGirls-01.pngCredit to Ryan Tran

Q: What’s your favorite P&R episode?
A: Emma – Flu Season (season 3, episode 2). “Stop pooping” is an iconicParks & Recline and I just love how we get to see Leslie excel at her job while also seeing Amy Poehler have a chance to be incredibly funny in the process.
A: Kathryn – I’m not sure I actually can say! Most of the episodes that stand out to me are memorable because of iconic moments for Pawnee or our favorite characters (which I won’t detail so as not to spoil anything for our first-time viewers!). But as I think our experience with the podcast is proving, there is just SO MUCH quality in even the everyday, non-Very Special Episode episodes. Check in with me in 20 months once we’ve wrapped up the podcast and maybe I’ll be able to say for sure then.

Q: What do you do now in IRL?
A: Kathryn – I work for the national Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland Baltimore. We support research, policy, training, and practice that advances school-based mental health care. I strongly believe in investing in young people’s health, education, and success, and this position is a great opportunity to support all three of those things.
A: Emma – I am a research assistant with Education Development Center, a nonprofit that creates, delivers, and evaluates health and education programs. I work on a project that provides technical assistance to the federal home visiting program, which provides families with skills and resources necessary for healthy children.

18768368_10158724970695058_5470441648948259410_oThis photo is from a trip we and another Clinton School alumna took together to Brainerd, Minnesota to visit one of our guests at her soon-to-be-open reproductive health clinic.

Q: What advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: Kathryn – “Take serious criticism from serious people seriously. And… take unserious criticism from unserious people unseriously.” This quote is from Chelsea Clinton, but I found it when researching one of our guests, Minnesota State Representative Erin Maye Quade, because shecited it in an interview as advice that resonated with her. And it clearly is great advice because it strikes a chord with me as well.
A. Emma –  The advice that most rings true with me actually came from Erin Maye Quade as well! She was definitely a fabulous guest. As a woman who currently holds an elected office, she spoke with us about the importance of utilizing your skill set to contribute in your own most effective way. As someone who fervently believes in equity in our representation but also does not feel that campaigning and holding elected office is for me, that advice really stuck with me and helps me better value the contributions that people can make without feeling compelled to run for office. (P.S. Erin Maye Quade joined us for episode 3.05if you want to hear more of her insights!)

Q: If you had to choose 2 Leslie Knope memes or gifs to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose?

Q: Are there books or articles that have influenced you that you’d like to share?

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.01.57 AMA: Check out Kathryn & Emma’s 4 choices on GoodReads and why they chose these books over all the other thousands she’s read.

Q: What instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: Emma @bymariandrew – she’s a fantastic artist who has great insight and I find her drawings really relatable (This is the second time this Instagram has been chosen so if you don’t follow her yet, you really should)

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A. Kathryn – I’m a bad Millennial who doesn’t have an Instagram, but I am part of the Silent Book Club group on Facebook. When my newsfeed is otherwise filled with (very real and understandable) anger, fear, and sadness, it’s nice to take a break with people just sharing book recommendations and their love of reading.

P.S. We love what these two are doing and love listening in to their conversations. If you haven’t signed up for notifications, you are missing out.

Also, they gave us a third gif and we love it for ourselves! This is essentially how BrownEyedJude and I also exist as well. a31d0ad3939f64e9f2dcaf60467d14d1

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!!

Here at HerStory, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples‘ Day on the second Monday of October. It celebrates the indigenous people of the US – promoting Native American culture and history. Hopefully soon, it will be the dedicated federal adopted holiday for this day.

While brainstorming awesome ladies to highlight on this day, it seemed an obvious choice to talk about Ada Deer. The first woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ada is a lifelong advocate for Native American peoples and history.

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Her advocacy included fighting to ensure that her tribe, the Menominees, was not declassified as a tribe in the 1960s and 1970s. She helped organized a massive march in Wisconsin from the Menominee County to the capital in Madison and regularly spent time in DC, lobbying Congress to protest the declassification. Due to her efforts, the original federal law terminating their status was reversed. She also served as the Chairperson of the Restoration Committee after the tribe was re-instated.

While she led the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Clinton, she met with dozens of tribes and tried to empower tribe businesses to succeed, whether or not if they were on reservations.

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Ada recently retired as a social work and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She also co-founded an Indian community school and started a program to provide social work training on Native American reservations.

Just a few of her honored posts: She was honored by the National Women’s History Month as a featured honoree, was a fellow at the JFK School of Government, and helped on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Native American Rights Fund, and National Indian Gaming Commissions.

To be fair, I’ve only given you broad strokes on her awesomeness. Everything I found shows that Ada has spent her entire life, every minute, helping her community and making positive change. Even retired, she’s involved in providing support for her tribe and community.

Mara D’Amico – “Justice, Women, Empathy”

We ventured out of Memphis and made our way to DC, via Michigan. We asked our next featured ladyboss, Mara D’Amico, a few questions and like the overachiever she is….she gave us even more!

SteinemMara with Gloria Steinem

Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I want to use the privileges, skills, knowledge, time, drive, and connections I have to serve others. I have been afforded many things in my life, and feel a strong sense of responsibility to serve my community and others with everything I have. Though service for me started as a way to help individuals in need, I’ve grown to focus on changing unjust systems, while also supporting the people impacted by those systems.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: A lot of my interest in public service stems from my family – both my parents worked in public schools and had a passion for serving their students, particularly those most in need. They helped develop a strong sense of empathy in me, as well as a passion for using my time to serve others. Additionally, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 7 years old, and, faced with a life-disrupting and life-threatening disease, I wanted to do something about it. I raised money for my local Walk to Cure Diabetes, I gave presentations to my elementary school classmates about the disease, and I learned how it felt to take action in the face of something that seems impossible to overcome. My interest in and dedication to working on seemingly intractable problems has only grown from there.

Q: What do you do now?
A: I work at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Program. Basically, I work with doctors and hospital staff to ensure that all women can access the full range of contraceptive methods. In my free time, I’m a volunteer crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, a volunteer with Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia, a board member for a criminal justice organization, and a drummer with Batala Washington.

Drums                                             Mara playing the drums with Batala Washington

Q: What advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: @maraedamico Treat others with kindness – you never know what they’re going through & you may have the power to lift their spirits or break them.

Q: If you had to choose a gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose? **

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Q: Are there books or articles that have influenced you that you’d like to share?
A: Check out Mara’s 7 choices on GoodReads and why she chose these books over all the other thousands she’s read. Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 11.08.40 PM

Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: I love cooking and these ladies have some incredible recipes.

                                        @smittenkitchen                                           @minimalistbaker

 

P.S. It just was Mara’s Birthday Week!! So not only does she deserve credit on a daily basis for all the passion she puts into the world but she gets all the balloons this week! BALLOONS!!

Photo Caption: Mara’s featured photo is from her registering voters on the Hillary Clinton campaign in Grosse Pointe, MI.

Title Caption:  “Justice, Women, Empathy” are the three words that describe the types of service and advocacy she is drawn to.

**Subnote: Yes, we give extra credit points to Leslie Knope references.

Veena Rangaswami – Act like a lady, Think like a BOSS

By coincidence, our next amazing woman we are featuring that we know personally is ALSO in Memphis, TN. We asked Veena Rangawami, another great friend of HerStory, to answer a few questions about her passion for public service and what motivates her.

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Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I’ve never known a life without public service. I grew up in a small town in the Delta as the daughter of two physicians who encouraged my older brother and me to give back for as long as I can remember. My career in public service has evolved a lot over the years, but it has its roots in my Delta childhood.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: I grew up in one of the ten poorest counties in the country, and every day my parents would come home with stories of patients whose families could not afford medical treatment. My father is a pediatrician who never turned away a child because of a family’s inability to pay, and that was a lesson I took to heart from a young age. I had the opportunity to go to boarding school for my last two years of high school where I became involved in daily service and learned more about how to serve my community. That involvement continued through various programs in undergrad, after which I moved to India and worked as a program manager for an NGO in Bangalore. Each opportunity has led to the next, and I feel like I have now come full circle.

Q: What do you do now?
A: I am the COLLABORATE Specialist for the Bridge Builders program at BRIDGES in Memphis, TN. That’s a fancy way of saying I coordinate our summer leadership conferences for rising 11th and 12th graders and help to run our year-round program. We bring together 7th-12th graders from around the greater Memphis area to participate in experiential-learning workshops and then discuss ways they can use their newfound skills to create change in their communities. I have the honor of watching our students grow as leaders in their neighborhoods and their schools, and I know how cliched it sounds but I really do feel like I have found my dream job.

Q: What advice would you give a woman coming up in public service?
A: I saw a woman wearing a shirt at a recent festival in Memphis, and the image of it has stayed with me; it said, “Act like a lady, Think like a BOSS.”

Q: Tell me about a powerful moment you’ve had while in public service?
A: During the first week of Senior Conference this summer, I was speaking with one of our Bridge Builders. He is a very sincere, thoughtful young man, and when I said in passing that it seems like he has been a Bridge Builder his entire life, he responded with “Maybe it’s because BRIDGES is the only place where I feel I can always be myself.” He said it so casually, but it really drove home the impact of the work we are doing.

Q: If you had to choose a meme or gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose?

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Q: Who is your role model?
A: 
I have so many, but I keep coming back to Joli Anderson. Joli was the director of the service program at Baylor School, my high school alma mater, for over 20 years and has been one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever known. She is the person who first introduced me to daily service, who gave me my first service leadership role, and who afforded me my first opportunity to combine travel and service. Over the years I have turned to Joli again and again, and she continues to be one of the greatest inspirations in my life.

Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A:  

P.S. Veena is awesome. This is just the tip of the iceberg of her awesomeness. She also has one of the best grams herself – @veen_83. You should totally follow her.

Kayla Brooks – Well behaved women seldom make history

We are trying something a little new here at HerStory and highlighting the women we know personally that we admire and who inspire us on a daily basis. We are starting with Kayla Brooks, a good friend of HerStory working in Memphis, TN. We asked Kayla a few questions about her passion for public service and what motivates her.

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Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I am interested in public service because there are systems in place to disenfranchise certain people (poor, black, women, etc.) and I want to work toward dismantling those systems and supporting those affected by them.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: I started in public service as a result of my parents. They were extremely active with my childhood church and that is where I gained a lot of early exposure.

Q: What do you do now?
A: I currently serve as a Network Manager for an education focused nonprofit. In this role, I provide training for our partners geared toward capacity building and facilitation.

Q: If you used a wordle to list all the types of service and advocacy that you are passionate about, which words would be biggest?

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Q: In tweet-format (140 characters), what advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: @herstory Well behaved women seldom make history

Q: What advice would you give a woman coming up in public service?
A: Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or be yourself.

Q: Is there a book that has influenced you that you’d like to share?
A. Pedagogy of the Oppressed – the book describes how change must occur and the voice of those most oppressed must be at the center of the conversation

Q: If you had to choose a meme or gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose? 

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P.S. We love Kayla. She also started a great networking event series for women, recently starred in a show in Memphis, and is generally one of the most delightful humans ever.

I, Activist.

Last month, I spent a few weeks in Belize, doing all sorts of things. Randomly on one of the last days, I was introduced to the concept of an Earth Ship. It’s nothing to do with aliens but rather a home that is completely created from recycled materials, self-sufficient, and totally off grid. And across one of the walls was this quote from Rigoberta Menchu:

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BrownEyedJude and I have discussed Ms. Menchu a few times because she’s the classic definition of a woman who felt compelled to stand up against injustice. You might have seen her book, My Name is Rigoberta Menchú, on pretty much every lists of social justice books.  (Book Nerd Alert: The book is often mistakenly filed under memoir/autobiography but was actually created around a series of interviews done by a Venezuelan author. She had only been speaking Spanish for 3 years by the time she had the interview. I doubt she used Duolingo to learn it.)

Rigoberta grew up in a activist family, with her father being a member of one of the guerrilla groups in Guatemala, but she used her own voice to resist the oppression of the Guatemalan government and to bring to the international community the reality of the civil war in her country. She amplified the voices of the Maya Indian community in Latin America and she was run out of her own country. She still finds it difficult to return due to the frequent death threats.

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. I’m not sure what an UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador has to do but it seems pretty cool. She elevated her Nobel Prize experience and formed the Nobel Women’s Initiative with the other five female Peace Prize winners. The idea behind the Initiative is to support women’s groups around the world in promoting peace and justice.

My “favorite” [insert sarcasm font] part of her story is the mansplaining that a historian tried to do on her book. He went back and interviewed many of her friends and family and tried to prove that everything she said was false and tried to get the Nobel Prize people to take back the prize. Rude. Years later, he said in ONE interview that she was actually pretty accurate in the book but he refused to change his book or apologize. Dude. Not Cool.

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Should’ve worn goggles

Katherine Hepburn and I have a lot in common. Not only do our names have some of the same letters in them, we also both almost went blind while acting. She famously fell into a Venice canal multiple times for a shoot, which caused a series eye infection that she struggled with for the rest of her life. I was randomly in a transportation commercial a few weekends ago when I was visiting BrownEyedJude and somehow managed to hurt my eye, leading to a swollen eye requiring antibiotics and 2 days of a weird puffy eye. See? Totally the same. I will take anything that puts Katherine Hepburn and I in the same category.

Growing up, like any good theater kid, I was obsessed with old movies (shocking, right?). Of course I had no context so I didn’t realize that the strong, independent women that I gravitated towards in these movies were an anomaly. Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn frequently played women who were not stereotypical. They wore pants (GASP), smoked cigarettes (gross but still mindblowing for the time), and generally did what they wanted.

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You could be asking why I am featuring yet another actress in our public service ladies blog. For me, groundbreaking actresses portraying independent women who refuse the “traditional” gender roles have an enormous impact in changing people’s ideas and open doors for women to express themselves in their own fields. Not only that but Ms. Hepburn openly supported access to birth control and abortions when birth control was frowned upon and abortions were illegal.

In addition, most people don’t realize that she was aggressively opposed to the McCarthyism that swept Hollywood in the 1940s. She was active in the Committee for the First Amendment, a group that supported the Hollywood Ten, ten individuals who were cited for contempt by Congress after refusing to answer questions about their supposed involvement with the Communist Party.

If you aren’t already a fan, I encourage you to watch Katherine in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” or “The African Queen” or “The Philadelphia Story”. You’ll feel empowered and inspired.

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