Name: Jessica Herd
Hometown: Upstate New York
Where do you live? New York City
What does it mean to have a voice?
Our voices are powerful. Everything you say holds weight and will lead to a reaction, whether pleasant, or unpleasant.
How did you find your voice?
I found my voice as a result of writing and with the help of sharing through social media.
What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?
I started writing stories at age six or seven. I continued to write, mostly for my own entertainment, until middle school when I started sharing poetry with my then boyfriend. I had difficulty communicating my feelings with him. He encouraged my writing and it was something that we shared. That later transitioned to me writing about more than just love; I had found my outlet. I also wrote stories that would get passed around in school via binders and notebooks for my peers to read before social media was available.
I’ve always been a writer and my first online platform for my poetry was Myspace.com. Social media has had a huge positive impact on my life. I love following the lives of others from all over the world. I find it very inspiring, not only as encouragement to proudly live out my own story, but to contribute to the many voices online. Youtube and people’s personal blogs were two of the biggest influences. I love using all the platforms to express myself. Fast forward to today, I use social media to share encouraging messages from a mental health perspective. I use my voice daily in sessions with my clients. In turn, I empower them to express their voice both in my office and out in the world.
Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
Our voices are powerful. Everything you say holds weight and will lead to a reaction, whether pleasant, or unpleasant. It made me more careful with everything I say. On one hand, there are times that this belief has caused me to freeze and not speak up. On the other hand, I put a lot of thought into my words. If I say something, it’s because it’s something I believe in and is coming from a genuine place.
I am a cis-gender woman from New York of African and Caribbean descent. I speak from a place of privilege in some respects, and less so in others. I can only speak honestly from my own experience, so my identity is the lens that my voice is projected from. I wish that I could say that I’m always ready to come to my own defense, but honestly, sometimes it’s hard. It doesn’t feel good if someone is threatening your ability to speak your mind. I usually need time to regroup. I don’t like the feeling of someone trying to silence me or invalidate my beliefs or experiences. Eventually, I come back feeling incited and ready to stand up!
How valuable is walking in other people’s shoes, or empathy?
Empathy reminds me of the connection all humans have to one another. The humanity in each of us is felt through sharing feelings and experiences that we have all faced. It helps me to collaborate with my clients to find solutions that resonate with each unique problem. To see what the world would be like if everyone lived authentically, fearlessly, and with respect for humanity and the Earth.
How has your voice influenced others?
I think that the more women and girls of color hear nuanced voices from other women of color, the more everyone will be inspired to be authentic and share their story. That is my desire for my voice along with a belief in personal excellence, and that everyone has their own purpose and responsibility to be their best self. A belief that we are all connected and so we must all do our part for the greater good. My personal mission is to reconnect people with the greatness inside each of us.
Where will your voice lead next?
Expressing myself fully more often, and not just from a professional lens. I’m very work focused at this point in my life and I miss being creative for the sake of it; expressing a more care-free side, adventure-seeking, wanderlust, etc. It’s a work in progress, but I’d like to master an even balance of the presence of both my adult self and my inner child in my life.
Jessica is a licensed mental health counselor in the state of New York. She works in private practice in Brooklyn, and for a group practice in Manhattan. Jessica enjoys giving people the perspective and skills they need to navigate life’s stress and the mental health issues that they manifest; also, empowering individuals to trust their own intuition and live in their truth. When she is not in session, she enjoys eating delicious food, reading good books, and delighting in all of what New York City has to offer.