Near my bed, I keep a copy of a landmark book, “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.’’
Time and time again, I thumb through, mesmerized by the buffet of beauty and brilliance before me. Seventy-five exquisite portraits and first-person tales from artists, politicians, and other heroines who, quietly, and sometimes loudly, rocked the foundations of racism and gender inequality with gumption, grace and God-given genius.
Funny thing about this book: it was produced back in 1989 – by a man. “As a photojournalist,’’ Brian Lanker, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, wrote in the preface, “I felt the need to prevent these historical lives from being forgotten.’’
I can’t help being grateful to Lanker for gathering such amazing women. (The book helped me introduce my daughter, a nine-year-old aspiring architect, to Norma Merrick Sklarek, the first black woman licensed as an architect in the U.S.)
But I’m happier still, that today, we are increasingly telling our stories ourselves, taking an axe to the era of asking for permission. With advocacy organizations like Women, Action & the Media (WAM) and emerging sites like Shetroit.com as guiding lights, we’re diving into the sea of new media, creating all kinds of possibilities.
Full confession: I lost my seat in traditional media – laid off after 20+ years as a daily newspaper reporter – and was rewarded with the full view of just how beautiful, and yes scary, the horizon is for women hungry to influence, even own, media.
My inbox is loaded each morning with feeds from blogs and webmags for us, by us.
It’s a glorious thing to see what sisters, of every hue, are doing these days … acts of courage that Anna and I will surely share Friday night at Woodbridge Pub from 6 p.m, to 8 p.m., and again on Saturday, during a drop-in mentoring session at 14 East Cafe.
When women ask, how do I get my story in “the media,” I tell them, stop waiting. Serve it yourself, like a fine five-course meal, selecting a different group of friends and allies for each course. Feed each one well and they’ll build your buzz. Overnight, maybe not. But any woman who’s spent a day in a beauty shop knows how stories spread. We pass them, through communion and connection, long before “the media” get a taste.
To me, that’s the beauty of now. We can tell it, tweet it, skype it, all of it, if we choose, in real time, across platforms, to global audiences.
The only walls in our way are the ones we cling to that block us from the world(s) we dream.
Nichole Christian believes she’s coming into her own as a writer, flying free,”unfolding” her own myths one essay, one poem at a time. The incubation has been over two decades reporting for some of the biggies: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Detroit Free Press. They were just a warm-up, she says, offering lessons that helped return her to her authentic storytelling voice. Her essay, “Truth at Last,’’ was published in the anthology “Dear Dad: Reflections of Fatherhood.” As a writer and artist, she dances with being a mom, wife and communications director for the InsideOut Literary Arts Project along with occasional volunteer collaborations such as her latest work with Women, Action and the Media (WAM).