In 2019, the Reckon Women team was thrilled to announce a partnership with See Jane Write to bring more women’s voices to the forefront through our Reckon Women Voices column. Javacia Harris Bowser is the founder and editor of See Jane Write, a website and community for female writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs. The Birmingham, Ala. native and Berkeley graduate is regularly published on websites, in magazines and news organizations across the region. She also blogs and edits and teaches.
Her blog-turned-business, See Jane Write, is a space for women to learn how to get their ideas out of their brains and into the world, be it through a personal blog or outside publication. We knew she was a perfect fit for helping our community of game-changing women claim their stories and have them published on our site and in our newsletter.
Each week the Reckon Women newsletter includes a Q&A with a woman in or of the South, and we feature it on our website. These essays are edited by Javacia through are partnership with her company. We have published dozens of women’s essays, and continue to each week.
Read our Q&A from 2019 with Javacia below.
Javacia, why do you think it’s important for women in the South to use their voices, speak out?
I think it’s always been important for women everywhere to speak out and use their voices, because that’s how change happens. But I believe it’s especially crucial now. For example, the abortion ban in Alabama and other states shows that it’s essential to speak out on issues of reproductive justice – which is about much more than abortion. Yes, we women should have autonomy over our bodies and the right to not have children. But all women should also be able to parent the children they do have in safe and sustainable communities. Alabama has one of the highest rates of women in poverty in the United States and more than 31 percent of women-headed households in Central Alabama live in poverty. We need to use our voices to help all women gain access to contraception, health care, childcare, education, jobs, housing and more.
What women do you look up to most and why?
The list of women I admire is so long! Most people who know me well know that I’m a huge Beyoncé fan, because I admire both her artistry and business acumen. But I also admire plenty of women in my hometown of Birmingham – women like Eunice Elliot of WVTM 13 News, who has the power to light up any room she steps into and whose words of encouragement can make you walk a little taller and hold your head a little higher. And women like Melanie Bridgeforth, who as CEO of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, is working day and night to help accelerate economic opportunity for Alabama women and their families.
Body positivity advocates like yoga instructor and author Jessamyn Stanley and Gabi Gregg of the blog Gabi Fresh are inspirations to me as I try to learn to love my body, a battle so many women are fighting daily.
As a writer, I’ve, of course, been inspired by the work of literary legends like Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni and June Jordan, but local poets Ashley M. Jones and Kwoya Fagin Maples move my muse too.
As a journalist, columnist and essayist, I basically want to be Elaine Welterworth when I grow up, even though she’s younger than I am. I truly admire the work she did as editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and her memoir, More Than Enough should be required reading for any woman or girl of color interested in media.
How did you become comfortable with your voice and come to terms that your voice is valuable?
Before I moved back to Birmingham, I worked for a weekly paper in Louisville, Kentucky and my editor asked me to write a bi-weekly column. Some of those articles were reported pieces, but most were personal narratives and those were always the stories that got the most engagement. This made me realize that even though I’m not famous my story still matters because when I share something that other people can relate to it lets them know that they’re not alone.
What barriers do women face perceived or otherwise when speaking up? How can they overcome?
I think the biggest barrier women face when it comes to speaking up is believing that their voice doesn’t matter. I know that many women of See Jane Write have struggled with believing that their stories are worthy of being told.
There’s also sometimes fear of what others will think if you speak up or if you share your story, your truth. But the only way to overcome this is to feel the fear and do it anyway, as the saying goes. Once you start speaking out, once you start sharing your story, you will begin to see the impact doing so can have, which I think will urge you to keep lifting your voice. Even if your words help one person, that matters!
What are you most excited about with the See Jane Write/Reckon Women partnership?
The partnership between See Jane Write and Reckon Women is a dream come true! This gives me the opportunity to help the women of my community see their work and their byline someplace other than their blogs, which is huge. This helps give them the confidence boost they need to keep going, to keep writing. It’s also an opportunity for their work to be put in front of new audiences so that they can inspire even more people with their stories. Some of the women who have already been featured have told me that this experience helped them to finally feel like a real writer. See Jane Write is not only about helping women write, but I want to help them feel like the authors of their own lives, too. This partnership with Reckon Women is helping me do that.
Want to connect further with See Jane Write and Reckon Women?