By: Amethyst Martinez
This is not the end of your story. Define your own story. Be the hero of your own story.
These were Sheena Howard’s, a professor of communication at Rider, three truths of self empowerment which she delivered at a moving speech at the TEDXChestnutStreetStudio that was released on the TED website on Sept. 20.
TEDx is a public speaking program focused on local community speakers, in comparison to its parent program TED that features speakers from all over the world.The mission is to elevate local individuals’ voices.
Howard spoke about her three truths of self-empowerment, while also speaking about her experiences from adolescence to struggles faced in adulthood.
“Doing a TEDx talk was an amazing experience and I am glad I had the support system to get it recorded and delivered to the world,” said Howard in an email to The Rider News.
The TEDx was hosted at REC Philly located on Market Street in Philadelphia.
Howard said, “REC Philly is a 10,000 square foot creative space where Quest Love just performed – so it was a great honor to do a TEDx talk, but to also do it at that location. The entire experience was nerve-wracking and exciting all at once.”
Twelve individuals were selected to speak for the event, Howard being one of those chosen.
Howard said, “I made the last available spot for the Chestnut Studio TEDx event, so it felt like that spot was made for me. I did my best to maximize my time on stage and deliver the exact message I wanted to deliver to the world. Personal empowerment is akin to personal responsibility of your life and the things that have happened; you are able to take control of your future in very powerful ways.”
During her speech, Howard provided real examples of challenges that she has faced throughout her life.
“I talked about self-empowerment, which for me, is looking within to find the answers to some of life’s toughest questions and life’s most difficult situations. Being back on campus here at Rider, many of my students are struggling with the transition back to campus and just the stressors of life, so I want people to have an optimistic view of the power they have to control their future,” said Howard.
In addition to being a professor, Howard is an award-winning writer, scholar and filmmaker. She was the first Black female to win an Eisner Award for one of her 2013 comic books titled “Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation” and has received honors such as two proclamations from the City of Philadelphia for literary, social justice work and creative projects, the KYW Women of Excellence Award in 2019 and more. She is also the Founder of Power Your Research, a program that helps increase media presence for tenured professors.
Nicole Johnson, a graduate student with a major in school counseling and a former student of Howard’s, said, “I mostly give it all to Dr. Howard for teaching me how to communicate with people better than previously.”
Johnson said, “She’s African American like me, and she exudes that strength as she exudes confidence as an African American individual. … She’s given me so much in my life that’s affected me personally and academically.”
Howard said, “I had been asked to do a TEDx talk in the past but I didn’t feel my message was refined at that point. I waited to do a TEDx talk when I knew what I wanted to say and who I wanted to impact. I knew that one day the topic for my speech would just come to me – it’s all about trusting your intuition.
Howard’s 11 minute speech can be viewed on the TED website.