A look back at Reckon Women Voices essays that will inspire you to write your own

Each week the Reckon Women newsletter includes a column from women in the South, in collaboration with See Jane Write. Click here to join the Reckon Women Facebook group.

By Javacia Harris Bowser

I love a good superhero story. On December 25, I sported a Wonder Woman Christmas sweater to celebrate the release of Wonder Woman 1984, which I watched as soon as I had my last bite of our holiday meal.

But the greatest superheroes aren’t from the DC Comics franchise. And while I love all things Marvel, the greatest superheroes aren’t characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe either.

Some of the greatest superheroes are real-life storytellers.

I believe every woman has a story worth sharing. That’s why I started See Jane Write – a website and community for women who write and blog. And that’s why I partnered with Reckon Women in 2019 to curate the Reckon Women Voices column and publish a new essay each week by a woman with ties to the South.

I believe that when a woman shares her story, she can change lives – including her own. And I believe that by changing one life at a time, one story at a time, storytellers change the world.

The year 2020 certainly amplified the need for change. As we grappled with both a global health pandemic and the epidemic of racism, Reckon Women writers shared stories to open our eyes and to give us hope about these issues and many others.

Birmingham-based author Randi Pink declared in an essay, “I fight with my fingertips,” reminding us that we can use our words to fight for the causes we care about most. Beth Shelburne did exactly that in her piece, Alabama Prisons: Why I care and why you should too.

And in her piece, We are river people, poet Tina Mozelle Braziel used her voice to try to protect Alabama’s rivers. Meanwhile, Betty H. Smith reminded us that Black women worry about police stops, too, and should not be excluded in conversations about police brutality and racial injustice.

No matter what is going on in the world, we must not neglect taking care of ourselves – a lesson Joi Miner learned the hard way. In her essay, Boiling Point: aneurysms and high blood pressure in Black women, Joi shared how a ruptured aneurysm forced her to finally prioritize her health.  In her essay Reclaiming my time: on living each day for yourself, Eunice Elliott shared that she left her job as an anchor for WVTM13’s morning show so she could finally prioritize herself.

When coping with COVID, Southern women got creative. In Color Me Calm, Linda Lyle shared how she has used adult coloring books to manage anxiety during the pandemic. Marliese Thomas has found solace in Birmingham’s cat-loving community, as she shared in her essay, On being a cat lady during coronavirus.

While the world was reeling from COVID-19 and social unrest, I had another fight to face – breast cancer. This battle inspired a series of essays on breast cancer that were published in October, including my thoughts on “How breast cancer ruined and restored my confidence.”  LaKisha Cargill shared Breast cancer taught me what it means to ‘woman up’ and Bisa Myles shared Finding my new normal after cancer. Marie Sutton’s captivating story on “Becoming the one-breasted lady” inspires us all to do what we must to feel whole and at peace no matter what life throws our way.

I hope that in 2021 you will share your stories. If the essays I’ve already mentioned haven’t inspired you to put pen to page (or fingertips to keyboard), I’m certain these five will.

When body positivity and a failing heart collide

By SueAnne Griffith

Body positivity is a trending topic in most pro-woman circles. But these conversations tend to center on loving and accepting the way your body looks regardless of its shape or size. In this essay, SueAnne Griffith stresses that this is only part of the story. A heart disease diagnosis means she’s no longer able to do the things she wants to do like run a 5K. She asks, “How am I to love something whose brokenness keeps me from my dreams?” Strong stories don’t have to answer all questions. Simply asking the question can be powerful enough.

7 ways to do Southern hospitality from a distance

By Katie Roach Dudley

Social distancing is hard for everyone, but Katie Roach Dudley understands that for Southerners it can feel as if we’re going against the very essence of who are. “No more hugging each other’s necks, no more dropping off a homemade casserole, no sharing a meal, no more having the neighborhood kids running through the house,” she writes. In this piece, Katie weaves amusing anecdotes with practical advice to show us that we can be good neighbors – and good Southerners — even from afar.

How exotic dancing helped me succeed in corporate America

By Dachondra Cason

The best stories are those that push us to think outside the box, stories like Dachondra Cason’s essay exploring how exotic dancing helped her succeed in corporate America. Dancing gave her confidence and that confidence helped her land a job at one of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Her confidence helped her step outside the box.  She writes, “As a dancer, the club was my box. I knew society’s expectation was for me to gain success solely based on my physical appearance. No one wants financial advice from a dancer. As women, so much of our success hinges on that one courageous step outside of what society has deemed our norm. While yours may not be a strip club, the same principles apply. I challenge you to do what you want, with no regrets, and no regard for what the world thinks. I promise the entire universe is waiting.”

The threads of privilege are all over me

By Donna Eich Brooks

Privilege is a word we’ve heard a lot this year and for anyone who denies its existence, Donna Eich Brooks makes the abstract tangible in this breathtaking essay. She writes, “In my life, money and social class have been this thread, this string, this filament, invisibly elevating me. Of course, I spent years never seeing it. I was a hard worker; the shining thread isn’t about that. It doesn’t negate anything I’ve done… But this strand is everywhere.”

The doctor is out: A snapshot of women’s health in the 21st century

By Mikkaka Overstreet

I believe stories change the world in part because I believe the personal is political. Top notch stories detail personal experiences to shed light on universal issues. In her essay, Mikkaka Overstreet shares her struggle to get help for debilitating pain that she endured for over a year. In doing so, she proves that “Women, particularly Black women, are overlooked in healthcare… Historically, physicians have been taught that African Americans are less susceptible to pain. This misconception is compounded by gender, as women’s health lags behind other areas of medical knowledge.” Mikkaka’s story becomes a lasso of truth forcing us to face facts.

I can’t wait to read your story. I can’t wait to see your superpower.

Javacia Harris Bowser is a freelance writer and blogger and the founder of See Jane Write, a website and community for women who write and blog. She’s also the curator of the Reckon Women Voices column. You can find her online at seejanewritebham.com and on Instagram @seejavaciawrite.

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