Jamia Wilson admits to being a yes-person. By saying yes to every opportunity to get her voice heard on behalf of women, she has become a vocal social advocate, writer and outspoken feminist, who has been called “the next generation thought leader.” But really her time is now—right now. Linking generations of feminists, Jamia is the youngest and first woman of color to lead the nearly 50-year-old Feminist Press as executive director, and a children’s story author, molding the next generation of women. She credits the focus her parents put on education, and the guidance from her mother and grandmother, who she calls “powerhouses and trailblazers in their field.” She says that she is grateful for the healthy collaborative relationships she had with them and other women who put her work at the intersection of feminism, human rights, activism and story-telling.
When so much is dividing us these days, Jamia seeks to bring us all together by saying yes to every opportunity to empower the next generation, remind us of our humanity, and credit those generations of women who paved the way for her to pave the way for others.
Mentors Help You Claim Your Power
Jamia has been fortunate to have some amazing mentors. She went to work for Planned Parenthood straight out of college and her boss was Gloria Feldt, who was Executive Director at the time. Today Gloria is author of the best-seller, No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think about Power, and co-founder of Take the Lead, which seeks to gain parity for women by 2025. Gloria remained Jamia’s mentor after she came to New York, and Jamia says, “She [Gloria] has always had a vision for me that is bigger than myself.” This kind of mentoring makes a person reach and strive to meet the expectations of their mentor. Beyond that, her mother and grandmother taught her to look to older women for advice about how to tap into her own strength. That is where Jamia says women’s real power lies—enduring with resilience and persistence again and again no matter what comes your way.
Feminist Press Helps Women’s Voices Be Heard
Founded in 1970, the Feminist Press at the City University of New York, is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Press exists to amplify feminist voices around the world and was founded in the second wave of feminism. Jamia spoke of a recent meeting they had with the founder, Florence Howell, who just turned 90 in March. Florence admitted that when she started it, she just saw it as an idea, but checks arrived from women wanting to support it. Even then, she thought it would only last about 10 years—that the issues would surely be solved by then—that the publishers would understand what an important part of the market women are.
Jamia says that she thinks the reason why The Press is still here is the root causes of the issues (the dehumanization of people, of human suffering, of all the isms) have not been addressed. As long as there is the power of domination, people will be marginalized and voices will need a platform to speak out and help them be heard.
Listen to this interview for more stories about Jamia’s experiences growing up in Saudi Arabia, at events with Gloria Steinem and more about her perspective on today’s feminists. Check out her website, for a complete list of her books, her blog and her speaking schedule. And please visit and buy books from The Feminist Press. Your support helps The Press keep operating. It’s the most basic form of women supporting other women.
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