Use Your Best Talents for Advocacy: The People Who Inspire Series: Tamara Winfrey Harris
Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian‘s “The People Who Inspire series” highlights individuals from a variety of backgrounds and occupations who are seeking to impact the lives of others in a positive way. Through Truth-Telling: the honest sharing of their own experiences, they teach us a little about themselves, hopefully enabling us to be able to learn a little about ourselves through their stories.
Today’s post features Tamara Winfrey Harris. Tamara is senior editor at Racialicious.com, a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. She also contributes regularly to Clutch Magazine and is the Owner and Co-Editor at Love Isn’t Enough: a blog dedicated to anti-racist parenting.
Tamara is also a freelance writer, and blogs regularly about race, feminism, pop culture, and politics at What Tami Said. Stay tuned however, because Tami is in the process of moving some of her best work from What Tami Said to a new space at TamaraWinfreyHarris.com
I’ve drawn inspiration from some of Tami’s writings in my posts “Re: “Can I touch it?” The Fascination with Natural, African-American Hair”, and “What’s with the Conflict?: Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays.”
Could you tell us a little about your background and what led you to your current work?
I’ve always loved to write. As a little kid, I used to write stories and create my own “magazines.” I majored in journalism, but only spent a couple of years in an actual newsroom before turning to the dark side–public relations. I always retained my love of the written word, though. And about five years ago I also became increasingly frustrated about the absence of voices like mine in popular media.
Inspired by folks like Gina McCauley, who holds it down for black women on the blog, What About Our Daughters, I decided to start my own blog, focused on the intersection of pop culture and politics with race and gender. I did it for me initially–to exercise my creative muscles. I never dreamed people would actually read my stuff or that blogging would lead to so many great opportunities.
On your blog, you describe yourself as being someone who is anti-oppression, believing in justice for all, and that you believe in working ‘PROACTIVELY” towards this end. Can you tell us a little more about what this means to you?
I’ve thought a lot about this, because bloggers get a lot of flack for writing more than doing when it comes to activism. But I think we all should use our best talents to advocate for what we believe in–whatever they are. If you can organize–do that. If you can give money–do that. If you have a position of power and can change things from the inside–use it.
Writing skill is what I have to offer. And writing, thankfully, has given me a platform to reach people with what I hope are persuasive arguments about race, gender and other progressive topics. For instance, I am immensely proud of the blog carnival that I hosted with Shakesville, promoting the stories of women and men who have been helped by Planned Parenthood.
At a time when women’s reproductive rights are under attack, I think that was important. People need to know what we could lose if conservatives get their way. I am a PP supporter and it even opened my eyes to the breadth of impact they have.
Don’t get me wrong. I give money to causes I believe in. I canvassed for Obama. I do things. But I think writing is one of the strongest talents I have to offer.
Do you have any other issues that you’re interested in working on or working with others in terms of social justice/equity?
Anti-racism and feminism are the areas that are most important to me. They get most of my energy. But all “isms” are connected, you know.
We’re not going to get to the mountain top without understanding intersection and ultimately working for the rights of all people. I support the efforts of the GLBTQ community and those of other marginalized people, as well.
What are the parts of your work that you find enjoyable, challenging/inspirational?
The best thing about my five-year involvement with blogging, feminism and anti-racism are the people I have met. I have encountered some of the smartest, most driven, most eloquent, impassioned and inspiring people over the last five years. Some I’ve met in person; some I haven’t; but I call all of them “friend.” They have evolved my thinking on a host of issues; they have made me smarter and more broad-minded; and they have opened doors of opportunity for me. I am so grateful for that.
Among many other things, you are a writer, and change agent. Do you have any words of advice for anyone who might want to help others or work to improve their communities or the broader culture in terms of transforming their ideas to action?
What is your talent? Figure that out and think about how you might use that talent to help causes you care about. Even if all you have is time, there are lots of organizations hurting for bodies to help sort food donations or serve food or foster rescued animals.
There is no shame in only being able to do a little. It’s true that every little bit helps. The worst you can do is nothing.
What have been the Keys to your success so far?
I think the key to my success has been the people who support me, including awesome parents (It is neat to become an adult and realize how cool my parents really are as people and how much that has made me who I am.), a husband who is my biggest cheerleader and some amazing friends. By the way, I know some truly bad-ass women. They never fail to support, impress and inspire me.
Are there any special projects you’re working on currently?
I am working on my first book–a feminist exploration of black women and marriage, and the sexist and racist underpinnings of the “black marriage crisis” narrative.
Is there anything Else you’d like to add?
I’d like to encourage your readers cast a vote in the 2012 Women’s Media Center Social Media Award by Oct. 27. I am nominated, but honestly, I am the least impressive person on that list of women. A lot of the women who inspire me regularly, like Pam Spaulding, Jessica Luther, Veronica Arreola, Jessica Yee Danforth and Ann Friedman are there. And the awesome Issa Rae!
If you know any People Who Inspire that you would like to be featured in the series, fill out the contact form here.
Grace & Peace,
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW