Guest post by Joy Boggs, President of the DePaul University Women’s Network (DWN), and an OpEd Project Public Voices Fellow at DePaul. A Chicago native, Joy writes on gender, leadership, and identity in contemporary US culture.
I began The OpEd Project’s Public Voices fellowship at DePaul University excited about the opportunity to participate and cautious about my ability to do well in the program. To be truthful, I was apprehensive because I have little affinity for writing. Graduate school made sure to suck out the love, joy and passion I had for writing. Instead of deep feeling I had dispassionate logic. My MA marks me as trained to speak with a measure of authority to the professionals in my field but only to the professionals in my field. Great for me, but what about my neighbors? What about my Mom? While it’s nice to have a few letters after my name my writing these days is limited to austere academic spaces. My training doesn’t make an impact where it matters most with ordinary people, living out their lives. That’s why I love Public Voices.
Somehow by participating in Public Voices, I found a way to reignite who I am when no one is looking with my professional training. Not to be overly dramatic, my public and private selves are weaving together and I am becoming whole – again. What’s happening with me reflects the mission of the Women’s Network I lead at DePaul University. Our mission is a civic engagement project similar to the Public Voices Fellowship program. We want folk and particularly women to get off the sidelines and onto the field. The Women’s Network enriches the DePaul work experience. We’re keenly aware that our presence and our work influences the culture on our campus, one person at a time.
Public Voices does the same however on a much, much larger scale. What I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in the past six weeks can’t really be put into words but I’ll try, here are my top three:
- Friends don’t let friends write alone. I am so over my romance of slaving away by myself in some lonely pied-a-terre. Who wants to do that when its so much more productive to dialogue and test out ideas with other writers. Your editor will thank you.
- My perspective matters. I watch women talk themselves out of telling their story. Why? Because they/we don’t think our story matters. Our stories matter because they are our stories! If we don’t tell it, who will?
- News is an opportunity to participate. I used to be one of those people who talked back to the news. The problem with that is my voice carried only as far as my living room. Public Voices is a path to a larger stage. I watch the news differently now. I know that I have the power and the training to influence the conversation.
Knowing your power is key. Though I may not have Wonder Woman’s bracelets or Storm’s ability to control the weather what I do have is my voice. In my book that’s power, real power to make a difference for myself and for others.
Thank you Public Voices for reminding me that I really am a superhero!