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Shero

  • Articles, College, GirlSpring.com, Goals, Local, Shero

    Life After College

    “What are you going to do after college?”

    Eight simple words. Every college student has been asked this universal question by friends and family alike more times than they can count. It was a question that plagued my mind on two separate occasions.

    The first time was near the end of my junior year at Loyola University New Orleans in 2015. I was sitting in the career counselor’s office, thinking of the options that were given to me. I wasn’t interested in joining the military, so my remaining choices were grad school or hopping into the workforce. In the end, I chose grad school because I yearned to learn more about creative writing and enhance my craft. In March 2016, after countless applications and sleepless nights, I was accepted to Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program!

    The second time the question popped up was as I was nearing the end of my second year at Columbia two years later. There seemed to be a weight on me. A finality that wasn’t present the first time. I wasn’t planning on obtaining another degree, Master’s or Ph.D., after completing my MFA. For me, that meant, as a lyric from “The Schuyler Sisters” from the Hamilton musical goes, “work, work.”

    I spent the second year of grad school applying for internships, any internship but received rejection after rejection. After returning home in May 2018, I received the call of a lifetime. I would be the New Media Editorial Intern for Marvel Entertainment! I ran around the house that day. I would be spending my summer in one of the coolest places in New York, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. The internship wouldn’t last forever; August 23rd was my last day in Marvel HQ. Back to the drawing board.

    So, what am I doing now? I’m currently living in New York, which continuously surprises me, and balancing a few jobs. I’m a Quality Assurance Coordinator at a social work agency, a Freelance Writer for Marvel (thanks to my previous internship there), creating articles for their website, and recently added Freelance Editor to my job list, editing a variety of documents like resumes, essays, and personal statements for college applications. When I have free time, I’m working on the third draft of my sequel to my first book, FATE, and writing short stories. In summary, I’m pretty busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Although I’m not where I imagined I’d be right now, career-wise, I appreciate every moment that has led me here. Where my journey begins doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be where I end. I look forward to the next stage of this wild adventure called life.

  • Articles, Music, Shero

    Betty Who: Music and A Message

    Betty Who

    Anyone who has attended a concert has experienced “that” feeling. The excitement, the anticipation. All of the hours you’ve spent singing, or crying over, the lyrics suddenly feels like minutes. It’s loud, it’s hot, and you might’ve already been elbowed in the face by someone trying to get by, but you wouldn’t trade it for the world. Suddenly, the lights go out and your heart starts to race. It feels like you are floating in the air and everyone in the room becomes unified at that moment. It truly is surreal.

    Personally, I think it is important to support the content and the character of artists you look up to.

    Artists who are truly powerful highlight their message as much as their music.

    I’m pretty sure I was introduced to the music of Betty Who the same way most everyone else was – the viral proposal, flash-mob video in Home Depot. I fell in love with her song, her message, and with her voice. Betty’s music and her concerts are always welcoming. She creates a safe space for anyone who needs it.

    (Editor’s Note: I had never seen the Flash Mob video that Aubrey mentions, so I searched it and attached it in case you also want to have the biggest grin on your face for five minutes straight.)

    Betty Who isn’t just a Singer. She’s my Role Model

    The first time I saw Betty Who perform was at the South Carolina Pride festival. I had never seen so many people on Main Street. Everyone, including me, was waiting for Betty. We sang every word together. We danced together. A few months later, I saw her again and had the absolute honor of meeting her. She was like walking sunlight. Then I saw her again, a few months later. I couldn’t get enough of her or her crowds. They have the same energy every time and it feels incredible to be in the middle of it. No matter where you came from, where you are going, or who you love, you are embraced at her shows. We are all in that moment together, and it’s magical.

    Everyone looks to artists for inspiration. Betty leads by example. When she enters a room, it instantly becomes brighter. She has a comforting energy that makes you feel safe. Betty’s activism for equality and her dedication to spreading love reminds me to speak up for what I believe in, regardless of how loud I have to be. Whenever I feel down about something, my mom asks me the same question. “What would Betty say?” and she waits for me to say “Betty would tell me I’m beautiful, I’m strong and I can do anything in the world.” She reminds me to be kind to myself and to love my body.  

    Does Betty look gorgeous in the sparkly dress, jewelry, and full glam makeup that she wears on stage? Obviously. Does she look gorgeous in jeans and an oversized hoodie? Of course. There is a common theme between these two outfits: she always wears her confidence, and that is eternally stunning. I admire her humility and graciousness and strive to be more like Betty. I adore her, everything she does, and everything she stands for. Betty Who has permanently changed the way I treat myself and the way I welcome others. 

    Find your role model, who knows, maybe they’re hiding in your list of Spotify Artists.

    It is so important to find inspiration in others and use it. Whether it’s the content of someone’s character, something they create, or a combination of both. Inspiration is the fuel for our lives. It pushes us to always contribute something to the world around us, often spreading to improve the lives of others. 

    Betty Who
    Aubrey and Betty Who

    To Betty – Thank you so much. I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully express how much you mean to me, so just thank you for everything you do. I will love you forever, Aubrey Best

    To Zak (@zcassar) – Thank you for capturing Betty’s beauty and sharing it with the world. Thank you for being so kind to me, and for letting me use your pictures! Also, best wishes to the two of you <3

    Music can be transformative and help shape who you are. Some people find comfort in pop music like Betty Who, others find it in some stranger places… like at heavy metal concerts. Check out what you can learn from living like a metal-head.

  • Articles, Lifestyle, Shero

    Stonewall Riots

    stonewall riots

    June 28, 2019, marks the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The name might sound familiar, but not too many people know many of the details of the Stonewall Riots. It isn’t taught in history class, although it was a major social disruption with historical significance, and most people don’t bring it up in their daily conversations. 

    Up until the 1960s, American society was extremely strict, cookie-cutter, and patriarchal. In the 1960s, there was a strong reverse in that trend. The decade birthed many counter culture movements such as the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the further advancements of women’s rights, and the Stonewall Riots.

    The riots stemmed from a police raid of a gay bar in Greenwich Village in NYC. The raid quickly got out of hand, and fights between bar attenders and plainclothes policemen soon broke out. People gathered outside the bar and watched. Those in the “audience” of Stonewall soon began to cry out cheers of “Gay Power”, and a mood of liberation and fighting back quickly struck the bystanders. 

    After the Stonewall raid, the next day there were protests in the Village for gay rights and acceptance. For weeks riots and protests went on to call for LGBT acceptance and rights. 

    Stonewall is known for the advancements of the LGBT rights. It was the major first step in drawing attention to the issue and led to many social and political reforms that led to the continuing acceptance of LGBT people today. 

  • GirlSpring.com, Interview, Shero, Sheroes, work

    Shero Debra Des Vignes, Indiana Prison Writers Workshop

    Debra Vignes photo

    We are always on the lookout for Sheroes and stumbled across Debra Des Vignes and this very cool program and wanted to share!

    1) Can you explain in layman’s terms what exactly is the Indiana Prison Writers Workshop?
    Indiana Prison Writers Workshop is a not-for-profit whose mission is to improve the lives of those incarcerated through creative writing and expression. Through a 12-week curriculum volunteer instructors provide 15-minute writing prompts to prisoners on a range of topics and themes and share prose by literary greats like Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and Maya Angelou. Each workshop includes discussion of the elements of writing and offenders read their work aloud and hear constructive criticism on their work. In between weekly classes, offenders spend time on bigger writing assignments. The goal is for them to use their critical-thinking skills and gain greater empathy by understanding differences through stories and experiences.


    2) How did you get into this line of work?
    I became interested in working with this underserved population after volunteering at a correctional facility. It was there that I could see the true power of words. I believed it could be transformative and healing for the men. And so, I began the creative writing workshop in October 2017, and was able to spend one-year working with the same group of offenders each week. It became a safe space. Since then, the program has spread into three Indiana correctional facilities – in partnership with Indiana Department of Correction – and my support team includes three talented and dedicated writing volunteers – who also bring in monthly guests such as poets, rappers, and community leaders. And while I no longer lead group workshops, I support the volunteers under the program who do and help share the written work produced in their classrooms.


    3) What has been the most positive outcome of this experience for the participants?
    To learn that people do believe in them and to see their achievements come out in the stories they write. We had one offender write a novel in prison and gave credit to the workshop for accomplishing this. I enjoy engaging with program followers who view the prisoners as talented and creative beings.

    4) What has been the most rewarding part of it for you?
    To see the glimmer of hope in a man’s eyes after he’s written or expressed something challenging or difficult to write about. To know these men can re-write their own life’s script. To watch a man leave the program better equipped to face the world.


    5) What is your advice to girls who may have parents that are incarcerated – in terms of forgiveness?

    Stay strong, but also find forgiveness and understanding in your heart. We all make mistakes; some are greater than others. Write about your pain or talk to someone.

    Debra Vignes Photo

    6) Do you feel like you are personally ever at risk working with inmates?
    No, they treat me with respect. It means a lot to them to be accepted.


    7) What is your advice to girls who want to pursue non-traditional fields?
    Follow the path you are most interested in and know that it’s OK to change the direction of your life at any time. Complacency is foreign to me. There’s risk in pursuing something new. Oftentimes, the things we’re most passionate about take us out of our comfort zone. It did for me. There was a lot of discomfort and growing pains until it evened out and I started to believe in my own work and see the value in it. Go all in! An offender once told me, “Go big or go home.” He was referring to a decision to get a tattoo – but you see my point. When I “went big” and started building the prison creative writing program – that’s when things really started to change for me. At first, I tried to run the program while holding down a full-time job. I’m also a wife, mother, and a boxer. I realized I couldn’t do it all. This must be a challenge all creatives face at some point as they enter a new space. It takes a good deal of inner-strength, grit, and perseverance. One may get disapproving eyes and/or feel the weight of making enough money. But know, we need more creatives in the world. We desperately need these game-changers.

    A woman with drive is a strong woman.
    A woman who remains playful and focused is a strong woman.

    Nigerian Poet Ben Okri in his book, “A Way of Being Free” wrote: “The artist should never lose the spirit of play. It is curious how sometimes the biggest tasks are best approached tangentially, with a smile in the soul.”

    8) Did you ever see yourself doing this when you were in high school?
    No. In high school I had no direction. I had no clear path, vision, or goal of what my future would look like. I was sort of a rebel. I was fortunate that in college (California State University Northridge) I was selected as an apprentice at ABC-7 News, a television news station in Los Angeles. It was there that my love for journalism began. I went on to work as a Television news reporter for a decade covering the crime and courts beat at different stations around the country. In a way, I was destined to do this work; to help offenders prepare for re-entry through writing – having covered crime for so long. You can’t break the cycle unless you head into the ring.

    — Find Indiana Prison Writers Workshop on Facebook to learn of activities, happenings, and events and also read stories written by offenders.


    — Read their stories in a book I just published, Sunday Sweet Sunday, available on Amazon.


    — Find us at inprisonwritersworkshop.org

  • Book Review, Celebrities, GirlSpring.com, Shero, Woman's History

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Book Review Michelle Obama

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Although Becoming was released in November of 2018, it wasn’t until recently that I finally had the opportunity to read it. A memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Becoming is organized into three sections, “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More,” that bring readers on Mrs. Obama’s journey through several key elements of her life, including her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, her marriage and life with Barack Obama and their daughters, and her experience as the First Lady of the United States of America. I have always loved hearing Michelle Obama speak, and that same strong, intelligent, and elegant voice is portrayed in her writing. I found Becoming to be a very engaging memoir, and there were many important takeaways I had from reading it.

    1.Be aware of your surroundings and any changes that may be occurring: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always a very observant and opinionated individual. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama discusses that the area wasn’t always as Black-populated as it is now. When she was in elementary school, her class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School had a fair number of white students as well, but the number of non-black students dwindled significantly as the years passed because more and more white families were moving to the suburbs. Through her observations and awareness of the concept of race from a young age, Mrs. Obama was able to become a more thoughtful and societally-competent individual. She would take these experiences and ideas into the future as a law student and woman of great power.

    2. People with authority may not always be correct: When Michelle Obama was in her senior year of high school and applying to colleges, her school guidance counselor told her that she wasn’t “Princeton material.” Instead of taking this as a set-back, Mrs. Obama stayed confident and reached out to other individuals in her school and community to help support her through the process. She successfully gained admission to Princeton University, the school of her choice, proving to herself (and to her guidance counselor) that she was, in fact, Princeton material. Big takeaway: it’s important to always believe in yourself and not let one’s title intimidate you.

    3. Don’t underestimate yourself just because the people around you seem smarter. At Princeton, Michelle Obama found herself to be a definite minority, both as an African American student and as a woman. Princeton, primarily white and male, was intimidating at first and Mrs. Obama felt that she may not belong. However, as she immersed herself in her classes and participated in the discussions, she realized that although the other students may have had a stronger educational foundation than she did, that didn’t make them smarter than her. Michelle Obama realized that she was a valuable member of the classroom, and this helped her succeed as a student at Princeton.

    4. Do what makes you happy. Life may be shorter than you think. One of Michelle Obama’s closest friends at Princeton was a woman named Suzanne Alele. Joining college as a pre-med student to satisfy her parents’ wishes, Suzanne soon realized that it wasn’t the path for her. She was lighthearted and loved parties, and she did what made her happy. Suzanne decided to travel after her years at Princeton, and Michelle Obama initially thought Suzanne wasn’t making the best use of her Princeton education. However, when Suzanne lost her fight to cancer and died at a very young age, Mrs. Obama felt that it was good that Suzanne had spent her life being free-spirited and doing the things she loved. Life may be shorter than we think, so we should always work to live each day the way we want.

    5. It’s okay to not always have a plan: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always very keen on organization and having a plan. Describing her journey from Princeton to Harvard Law School to her job as a lawyer at the firm Sidley Austin, she tells readers that she compared her accomplishments to checking off boxes on big list of plans for her life. However, this changed after she met Barack Obama, who was spontaneous and chose to pursue his interests and take life as it came. Mrs. Obama realized that life didn’t always have to be so planned out, and sometimes success could be achieved by taking advantage of opportunities that came one’s way and through hard work.

    6. It’s okay to ask for help. The transition to the White House was understandably difficult. Through words of encouragement and support from her brother Craig, Michelle Obama made the decision to move to the White House with her husband and family. She requested her mother to help her take care of Malia and Sasha during this process, allowing her to ultimately take control of and adjust to the situation without feeling extremely overwhelmed and burned out. Receiving help can allow an individual sort out their life and can actually help them be more productive.

    Both an interesting and informative read, I learned many important life lessons from Becoming. This is a very empowering book, especially for young women. Becoming is definitely a must-read, and is a great book for the summer if you haven’t already read it!

    Find it here, https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Michelle-Obama/dp/1524763136

    Looking for more good books? Check out our other book reviews, like this one by @bella_the_book_fairy, https://www.girlspring.com/?s=book+thief

    Or, check out your local library where everything is free!

  • Shero

    Faces of Feminism

    We had the honor of interviewing these two amazing young ladies, Olivia Bokesch and Callan Burton-Shore, the co-founders of Faces of Feminism after discovering them on Instagram. Their website, https://facesofeminism.org features tons of interviews with people who are asked to speak about what feminism means to them.

    Can you tell us why you wanted to start this project?

    We wanted to start this project because we experienced daily dismissal of feminist issues by people who think the cause does not pertain to them. The group that we saw this in the most was men because they often think they can’t be feminists since the traditional definition of feminism is about equal rights for womxn. We want men and others to understand that just because they have the privilege to ignore the feminist cause, does not mean they cannot still support a progressive movement for womxn’s rights. Another group that often distances themselves from feminism is the queer community, especially non-binary people, femmes, and trans women. This is because these people have historically been excluded and in some cases oppressed by feminists. We want Faces of Feminism to not only teach less educated activists about intersectional feminism and privilege, but make a space where people of all genders, sexual orientations, cultures, ethnicities, races, and levels of ability can be included in the fight for justice, especially those people who have been historically oppressed within the movement. Ultimately, we started this project to change the face of feminism. 

    Can you tell us in your own words what you think feminism is and isn’t?

    Callan: Feminism is intersectional; feminism is not exclusive. Feminism is ever changing; feminism is not stagnant. Feminism should make you think; feminism is not always comfortable.

    Olivia: Feminism is a progressive movement of open-minded, but not always like-minded people. Feminism changes over time to become more intersectional and include new definitions of what being a woman/femme/non-binary person means and to include their lifestyles.  Feminism is not made for only one gender to take part in and is not made to make anyone in the human race better than another. At its core, feminism is the equality of genders, and at its peak, feminism is the equality of all humankind.

    Can men be feminists?

    Callan: Men can absolutely be feminists. We try to get as many men involved with FOF as we possibly can! It’s a total misconception that men can’t be feminists, and it’s similar to the misconception that white people can’t fight racism. However, just like it must be when white people act against racism, when men are feminists they must take a step back and let womxn speak/act first. In every instance of inequity, there is the oppressor and the oppressed, so to be a good ally/ feminist when you are the oppressor, you must realize that the oppressed group has been fighting this war far longer than you have, and you must let them take center stage.

    Olivia: Men can be feminists because anyone can be a feminist! One of the central goals of FOF, is to teach others that you don’t have to be a cisgender woman to fight for equal rights in the name of feminism. However, like Callan said, it is important for men to know when to take a step back and listen to womxn and let them take charge of their own rights.

    Who are some feminists you admire both from history and from modern day?

    Callan: I admire activist Mona Chalabi who uses her knowledge as a data analyst to prove that injustice still exists (in spades) in the world. She makes extremely creative and captivating graphics to the present the data. I also admire Marsha P. Johnson. She was a black, transgender activist who fought in the Stonewall riots and started one of the first organizations to support non-binary and transgender youth. Lastly, I admire Stacey Abrams because she has made strides in a state that often turns red in elections. She also always prioritizes womxn’s and marginalized community issues, despite the challenges she faces as a black woman in politics. 

    Olivia: A feminist I admire from history is the writer and black queer activist, Audre Lorde. She helped to kickstart a new wave of intersectional feminism that involves any and every womxn. I highly recommend the book Sister Outsider, a collection of her personal essays and poems. A modern feminist I admire is Rebekah Bruesehoff, a 12-year-old transgender girl. After having the privilege to see her speak, I was moved to become a better and stronger ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Her powerful story and voice is constantly used to further equality for all, something this world could use a bit more of.

    What would success look like in terms of equal rights for all?

    Callan: I think full equality is a long way away, but it is important to celebrate the little successes along the way. Examples of these successes will be when equal pay is established, when queer individuals are given access to all rights and resources they need, when there is representation of ALL marginalized groups in media, when the disabled community is seen and heard, when disproportional gun violence affecting POC communities is eliminated, and when religions, such as Islam, and their places of worship are respected fully. Ultimately though I believe that it is equity, not equality, we should be striving for.

    Olivia: Full equality is a one step forward, two steps back type of deal. Progress is gained and lost daily, especially under the current United States government administration. Although it is more likely than not that the world will never reach it, full equality starts when the privileged acknowledge their historical oppression of minorities, like slavery, as well as acknowledging that many systems this world is built off of systematically oppress and take advantage of marginalized groups. Equal rights for all will take many more decades of unlearning and relearning the world as we know it today.

  • Shero, Sheroes, TRENDING, Video

    Check Out Our SherOCTOBER Sheros!

    GirlSpring is seeking extraordinary girls (13-18) to be featured in our Sheroctober video series! 31 videos of sheroes will be selected and displayed on our website and social media throughout the month of October. This is your chance to shine! Build up your digital portfolio and let others know what you are doing that is special! All participants will be part of a compilation video celebrating girls in Birmingham!

    A shero is someone extraordinary and is in general making the world a better place! This could be someone who has started a community initiative, shown academic achievement, overcome adversity, is enhancing the wellbeing of others or using their artistic talents to be a positive change agent in this world. The possibilities are endless!

    Shero Criteria:

    • Girls ages 13-18 years old
    • Nomination from a non-relative
    • Access to an electronic device with video and audio features
    • A standout reason for her sheroism

    How to Submit:

    • Create a video clip (2 minutes max) acknowledging that you (can be more than one person) has been recognized as a shero, addressing what you do that makes you a shero, explain why we need sheroes in the world, and if you have any heroes in your life.
    • Videos should be interview-style, but feel free to be creative with background music and any other artistic and fun elements! MAKE IT FUN!
    • If using a cell phone, please turn horizontally when filming.
    • Upload videos to youtube, vimeo, or dropbox and include public link on the application form.
    • In addition to the Shero video, all submissions must include a second, separate video clip with the following phrase “My name is __________. I am a shero. We are Birmingham.”
    • Submit a nomination form and link to videos by September 28th to be considered.

    Nominees will be notified by October 1st if their video is going to be featured.

    Questions? Email [email protected]