Rediscover the Magic

Friday, February 28, 2014

Today I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.

It's the day before the TEDxBirmingham conference and I'm not sure if it's possible for me to be more excited than I am. I've been looking forward to this for months and now the weekend is finally here.

TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting "ideas worth spreading" and started out doing so in 1984 by organizing a conference that brought people together from three worlds -- Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Since then TED's scope has become even broader. In addition to two annual conferences -- the TED Conference and TEDGlobal -- TED has a number of other programs including TEDx conferences, which are independently organized events.

The theme for TEDxBirmingham is "Rediscover the Magic."

Attending TEDxBirmingham is kind of a big deal.  Being part of this event wasn't as simple as purchasing a ticket. Residents had to apply to in order to receive an invitation to purchase a ticket. I am proud to say not only was I selected to attend, but I also received a scholarship offered to select educators.

Just as some parents let their kids open one gift on Christmas Eve I feel I'll be doing just that when I attend the TEDxBirmingham VIP reception tonight. Then tomorrow I'm expecting my world to be rocked and my life to be changed.

I'm hoping to learn more about innovations in the field of medicine from speakers like Dr. Patrick Hymel, co-founder of MedSnap, and Larry Lawyal, founder of the medical research crowdfunding platform Healthfundit.

I'm hoping to learn more about the importance of eating locally from Jen Barnett of Freshfully and Chris Hastings, James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef and owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club.

As an educator I'm hoping to leave the conference with new ideas on how to incorporate TED talks in to my lesson plans but I'm also hoping to leave with more enthusiasm and passion for teaching in general. I expect talks by Victoria Hollis, program manager of the Birmingham Education Foundation, and Jan Mattingly of Dynamic Education Adventures will get me there. I'm also looking forward to the talk by TED-Ed Community Manager Jordan Reeves. Reeves currently lives in New York, but he grew up in Hueytown, Ala., and attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Michele Forman of UAB's Media Studies program is speaking too.

The UAB Digital Media team put together a wonderful video (posted above) about the Magic City to spark excitement for TEDxBirmingham. It sure did work. Every time I watch that video and listen to the poetry of Shariff Simmons I get chills.

I'm happy to say that two of my dear friends will be speaking too. Laura Kate Whitney is the small business ambassador for Dogtrot Studio and known around town as one of Birmingham's biggest fans. Glenny Brock of Birmingham Landmarks, Inc. is one of the people leading the restoration of Birmingham's Lyric Theatre, which was one of the first places in the South where blacks and whites could watch the same show as the same time for the same prices.

If you're now just as excited about TEDxBirmingham as I am, but feeling bummed out because you didn't apply to purchase a ticket, don't fret. The entire event will be streaming online. You can access the live video beginning 10 a.m. CST tomorrow by going to Livestream or the TEDxBirmingham website.

How Young Women Are Embracing Feminism

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A few weeks ago Barnard College contacted me asking if I would help spread the word about the school's latest feminist project -- Dare to Use the F-Word. The following post originally appeared on the Barnard College website and has been republished at The Writeous Babe Project per request of the school. 
"Dare to Use the F-Word is a new monthly podcast series created by and for young feminists. Street harassment, food activism, body image and slut-shaming are among the diverse issues discussed in the series, which is produced by Barnard College and the Barnard Center for Research on Women and aims to spotlight contemporary issues and activists. The podcast is available for download on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to the series.
In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.
Barnard College President Debora Spar
From Spar: 
Since the release of Wonder Women several months ago, one of the questions that I’ve consistently been asked is “how is feminism different today? What do you hear on campus? Do young women want to be feminists, or not?”  It’s a complicated question, without an easy answer.  Because young women, of course, don’t speak with a single voice or share a common attitude.  Some are quick to embrace the term feminist.  Others despise it. And many – sadly, for the mothers and grandmothers who opened doors for them – no longer really have a sense of what the word implies.
My own view – shaped, I’m sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises – is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name.  What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim.  They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.  They assume that all jobs – be they in finance or law or public office or industry – are open to them, and that they will receive roughly the same salaries as their male co-workers.  They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.  They presume that birth control is widely available; that relationships are theirs to make, break, and determine; and that the world is every bit as open to them as it for their brothers.  In other words, they think, without even thinking about it, that they have equal rights with men.  Which was, after all, the central goal of feminism.
What they don’t do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable.  Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did?  How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents – especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me:  how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?
To be sure, there are many young women today who proudly wear the label of feminism, and are expanding both advocacy and theory in fascinating ways: leading the global fight against sex trafficking, for example, speaking out against domestic violence, and pushing at the very definitions of sex and gender and identity.  But there are others, too, the reluctant feminists, who carry the mantle even if not the name.

Debora Spar is president of Barnard College and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Wonder Women:  Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection (to be published in September 2013).  Prior to her arrival at Barnard in 2008, Spar was the Spangler Family Professor at Harvard Business School, where her research and teaching focused on political economy and the various ways in which firms and governments together shape the rules of the global economy.  Spar also serves as a Director of Goldman Sachs and trustee of the Nightingale-Bamford School. 

My Feminist Valentine

Friday, February 14, 2014

image via

Dear Edward,

You are my valentine, my funny valentine, my feminist valentine.

I don't know if you've ever called yourself a feminist, but we both know that you are.

You're a feminist because you believe in the radical notion that women are people. You're a feminist because you believe in me. You believe my goals are just as important as yours. You dare me to dream big and you support me in everything I do.

You're a feminist because you're man enough to do the laundry and you don't consider doing the dishes doing me a favor.

You're a feminist because you're a man of God who believes the Bible teaches that marriage should be about mutual submission.

When we married nearly eight years ago, the feminist in me struggled with the idea of changing my last name to yours. This time-honored tradition just didn't seem fair. And you agreed. And you reminded me that changing my name or not was my choice and my choice alone.

I chose to take your name just as my heart and my soul chose you.

And I choose you still -- today, tomorrow, always.

How to Make a Vision Board

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Last night I attended my first vision board party. This wasn't my first time creating a vision board, but it was my first time doing so with a group. It was much more fun working on this project with my girlfriends at a local crafts shop than alone in my living room.

Eager to make a vision board of your own? Here's how to do it:

Decide on the purpose of your board. Will your board illustrate your goals for the year? Will you fill it with images that represent the items on your bucket list? Will your board represent all the places to which you wish to travel? Or will your board simply be filled with images and words that make you happy? It's your board so you decide what you want from it. I decided that my board would represent my list of 33 things I want to do while I'm 33.

Make a list and check it twice. Draft a list of the goals or destinations that you'll seek to represent with your board. Make a list of things that make you happy. Or make a list of themes. To guide the creation of my board, I used my list of 33 things and a list of themes -- things that are important to me and that define who I am such as faith, feminism, fitness, writing and blogging, my marriage, my friendships, empowering women and girls, etc.

Browse your favorite magazines. Flip throughout several magazines to search for images. Inevitably, while looking for images you will come across articles you want to read. Just tear out these articles and put them in a folder. Read them later, not while you're searching for pictures. Otherwise, this process will take hours or even days to complete.

Cut and paste. Once you have your images, it's time to create your board. I'm a bit of a neat freak when it comes to vision boards. Before pasting down anything, I neatly arrange my images on my board until everything is just right. Then I take a picture of the board (I know, I need help.). Finally, I paste the images in place. This may not be your style. You may want a fun collage-like board with diagonal overlapping images. The key is for your board to represent you.

My board certainly screams Javacia! On it you'll find images of women who inspire me such as Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, Queen Beyonce, musicians Solange and Janelle Monae, artist Frida Kahlo and fitness guru Jillian Michaels. I have images representing my fitness goals and my writing goals, and I even included an image to remind me to spend more quality time with my husband. I have a picture of 17-year-old Tavi Gevinson not just because she's editor of Rookie Mag and completely awesome, but also as a reminder of all the young feminists I want to help and inspire.

Before you start making your board you'll probably have an idea (a vision) of how you want it to look. Chances are, though, once you start putting it together things will change and it won't turn out exactly how you imagined. That's OK. After all, life is like that, isn't it? Your path probably looks different than the one you thought you'd be traveling. But remember to enjoy the journey and don't forget to delight in the detours.

On Aging

Monday, February 10, 2014

Yesterday I celebrated my 33rd birthday. Actually, I celebrated all weekend, spending time with family and friends and eating entirely too much cake.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was a big blue poster I found tacked to my classroom door Friday morning.

Several of my female students worked together to create for me a fabulously feminist birthday card complete with a drawing of Beyonce, a portrait of Frida Kahlo and sketches of Hester Prynne and Kate Chopin tossing patriarchy in a trash can! And the messages they wrote to me brought tears to my eyes.  Many of them said I was their favorite teacher or the best English teacher they've ever had. One student said that when she feels hopeless or incapable of doing something difficult she thinks of what I would say to her. Two of the girls called me a queen! But little do they know, they are all royalty in my eyes. They have no idea how much they inspire me.

One young woman (the mastermind behind the birthday poster) wrote: "You have helped me grow into myself." But this is exactly what all these girls have done for me. They've helped me become the woman I was meant to be.

In a TEDxWomen interview that I love, Gloria Steinem defines aging as "becoming more of my authentic self." But she goes on to point out the irony of aging for women. When we are girls we are fearless and fierce, climbing trees and plotting plans to rule the world. Then, Steinem says, we are stamped with gender roles and become confined by society's stereotypes of what a girl should and should not be.

But then we age. And as we age we become more and more liberated from the notion that it is necessary to conform. We become that fierce, fearless girl again. "You're the same feisty person, but now you have your own apartment," Steinem says with a laugh.

My students, particularly my female students, remind me of my teenage self. And though young Javacia was full of the insecurities that most teen girls battle, she was also full of dreams and dogged determination. She believed every "No" could be turned into a "Yes."

And though I didn't have my own apartment, I was fortunate enough to have a room of my own and this room was my queendom. My room was my sacred space in which to create. My room was where I wrote songs, speeches, short stories and poems. I wrote in my journal every day. Blogging didn't exist so there were no thoughts of pageviews or landing freelance gigs. Back then I was a true artist, writing simply because I loved to do so. I wrote simply because I couldn't help myself.

I am becoming that girl again, which is making me a better woman.

And I want to be a better woman not for myself, but for all those girls I have the privilege and honor to teach.

I just hope they know how much they're teaching me, too.


Friday, February 7, 2014

My birthday is Sunday, but I decided to start the celebration today by drafting a list of 33 things I'd like to do while I'm 33.

  1. Lead a Jesus Feminist small group. 
  2. Build my upper body strength so that I can do 50 consecutive military-style push ups.
  3. Run in the Birmingham Color Me Rad race.
  4. Participate in the Vulcan Run.
  5. Conquer my fear of Pure Barre.
  6. Climb a rock wall.
  7. Reach my happy weight.
  8. Get Jillian Michaels to retweet me.
  9. Attend TEDx Birmingham.
  10. Start planning the See Jane Write Creative Conference.
  11. Start a newsletter. 
  12. Land my own column in a local publication.
  13. Land my own column in a national publication.
  14. Write for
  15. Write for Hello Giggles.
  16. Write for For Harriet.
  17. Write for
  18. Write for
  19. Write for
  20. Pitch a story idea to one of my favorite national magazines. 
  21. Guest blog for Erika Napoletano.
  22. Guest blog for Jeff Goins.
  23. Guest blog for Sarah Bessey.
  24. Buy a good camera and learn how to use it.
  25. Learn how to shoot and edit video and start video blogging.
  26. Give my blog a makeover.
  27. Give myself a makeover.
  28. Streamline and organize my life – online and offline.
  29. Revamp my syllabus and lesson plans for my literature course and my Women and Media class. 
  30. Go on a weekend getaway to New Orleans with hubster.
  31. Take a trip with my girls. 
  32. Read all the books I own.
  33. Pay down my credit card debt.   

28 Reasons to Celebrate Black History Month

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why do we need Black History Month?

I attempted to answer this question very thoughtfully last year in this piece I wrote for But in case that didn't get through to folks...

But seriously, though, I'd love for you to celebrate Black History Month with me and See Jane Write as we're hosting an African American Read-In showcasing literary works by black women. Find details at

Learning to Lean In

Monday, February 3, 2014

I'm an English teacher, so I like themes. 

My theme for February is simple: lean in. 

This month I'll be rereading Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg's wildly popular book on women in leadership, with a group of women from the Birmingham Girls Club

But that's not the only reason I've chosen the charge to "lean in" as my mantra for the month. 

In February I want to not only lean in to leadership, but I also want to lean in to life.

I'll be doing plenty of reading this month. In addition to the Lean In reading challenge with BGC, I'll also be participating in a virtual book club that's reading the e-book An Inspired Life, by Katie Hilbert of the blog A Place to Dwell. In the book Hilbert discusses the idea of leaning in to the different seasons of your life. She writes:

If I'm leaning into my season I'm embracing it, living it, and loving it -- despite its rough edges and imperfections.  
Leaning into your season isn't about ignoring your future it's about getting the most you can out of each day as you more toward new seasons and experiences. 

So while I will remain focused on my goals for 2014, this month I will also strive to enjoy each moment of each day. 

What is your theme for the month of February?