Young Woman of the Month: Ebony Murphy-Root (August 2015)

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Ebony Murphy-Root
Age 32
Has lived in Hartford, New York and is off on a new adventure in Ojai, California

Q: Can you tell us a little about your life path? What are you doing in your career and community right now and what led you there?

A: I am so glad I stuck with being an English major at the University of Connecticut because I loved it although it has been popular for a long time now to bash English majors as unemployable future baristas. I have always been able to find interesting, meaningful work and for that I am very grateful. Currently I am finishing up training to be a SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) facilitator and I will bring this program to my new school. SEED is a program founded 30 years ago by Peggy McIntosh who wrote the article ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’.

My first ‘real job’ back in 2005 was teaching GED to adolescent parents in Springfield, MA, but it was only 32 hours a week so I also worked a few days a week at the GAP. From there I took a job as a case manager working with teens in state care at Gilead Community Services in Middletown. After that I started my foray into secondary teaching at Watkinson School. I was always involved in my community in some form, because I knew how important it was to be present, to ‘show up, not just at your formal ‘position’ but also in other ways. I have had teachers and peers who modeled this for me. I did a training with Leadership Greater Hartford a few years ago called Leaders on Board that prepared me for board leadership and since then I have served in the boards of The Cove Center for Grieving Children, Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens and also Greenwich Academy Alumna Association.

Q: What does young women’s leadership mean to you?

A: Women’s leadership is everything. Seeing women in positions of power, leadership and mentorship allows young women and men to access alternate visions of women’s place. I am currently enamored of Adrienne Rich’s concept of the ‘politics of location’, this idea that young women bring not simply their gender but also all the other aspects of who they are to the table.

Q: Do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?

A: I proudly and loudly identify as a feminist. Along with sister, teacher, daughter, auntie and wife, it is the title I identify with most. Feminism to me is about seeing women outside of traditional roles while also valuing that women do much of the day to day work in society that goes unnoticed and unremunerated. Everything is not a feminist choice just because a woman chose it. Feminism is not just about ‘choices’ although I believe all kinds of folks can claim feminism, even ones I don’t see eye to eye on much about. As much as I deeply appreciate what I call ‘old school’ academic, first and second wave academic and activist feminism, I appreciate that Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian are grappling with their feminism in the public eye. To paraphrase Angela Davis, feminism must be ‘difference that makes a difference.’ Although feminism has gone mainstream in some ways, it is still radical to name oneself as feminist in a world that tells women we must be primarily concerned with being acceptable and amenable.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other young women, ages 18-35, about how to build their leadership skills or the importance of becoming a leader?

A: I would tell a young woman just out of high school of college that you have plenty of time to build a career and a network of peers and mentors… but do start now. Think about what you have to offer outside of what it says on your resume or formal degrees.

Confidence develops over time and so it’s better to start exploring one’s interests early and finding the people who will help you get where you need to go. Keep learning, growing, trying new activities and meeting new and like-minded people. Show up to local forums and lectures, join book clubs, write to your political leaders and make sure a few know your name or at least your face. Be confident. Sometimes when I was younger, and even sometimes now, I would see a totally together woman and feel intimidated and small. Now I see women like that and I want to know their secrets and how they got to where they are now.

Young Women Rising celebrates one young woman each month by sharing their story here on our blog. If you know of a young woman between the ages of 18-35 that we should consider including please email us at michelle.noehren@cga.ct.gov.

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