FYSK 2013: Kendra Joseph-Rodgers

By Guest Blogger
18

After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest, the Feminist Campus team was able to sift through them, sit down, knock our heads together, and decide on ten finalists! This was no easy task: every single nominee was the most amazing person we’d ever met so far in our lives. No lie. Our awe-inspiring crew come from a diversity of backgrounds, universities, regions, and perspectives in the feminist movement – and it’s just not possible for us to choose a winner alone. And that’s where you come in! 

Over the next week, we’ll be posting blog posts written by each of our stellar finalists; on Monday, we’ll launch an online voting form where members of our community – that’s you! – cast a vote for who moved you deeply, inspires you most, or simply has your favorite haircut. 

Drumroll, Please: Announcing the Feminist You Should Know Finalists!

Activism has always been a part of who I am and who my community raised me to be.

I was raised in a biracial family with a strong network of anti-racist activists surrounding me. I internalized a consciousness about race and racism from a very young age. As a girl and teenager I didn’t like the word feminist because I wanted to be as different from my mom as possible. Ironically, feminist activism found me and became a calling during my undergraduate years.

As a young adult and college student I stumbled into working in reproductive health care and I have now worked and volunteered in sexual health education and abortion access for over eight years. Initially, a feminist professor referred me to a part-time job as a hotline operator at the National Abortion Federation (NAF). Then, I was recruited by my church to teach a comprehensive sex education course with middle school kids.

When I started working on the hotline, I was undoubtedly pro-choice but I had also just come out as a lesbian, so abortion wasn’t exactly the most pressing issue for me personally. However, it was a huge thing in the lives of my heterosexual and bisexual sisters on campus. Those folks helped inspire me as I learned to provide objective options counseling to thousands of women facing unintended pregnancies. After four years at NAF, I was burnt out and left my job to return home to New Orleans. I worked on a post-Katrina study about the health of children during disaster recovery. I wasn’t sure I would ever work in reproductive health care again.

But a passion for women’s health care was entrenched in my core. I quickly realized I couldn’t work in any other field. I believe healthier women create healthier communities. Women’s health depends on women having access to information and control over their reproductive lives. I started working in administration at a women’s clinic in New Orleans and began to experience first-hand the barriers to providing quality reproductive health care in states like Louisiana and Mississippi. During this time I realized my “calling” was not just in advocacy or counseling; I wanted to be able to be a part of the solution to the lack of quality health care available in my community. I found a balance between providing quality patient care and emotional support for patients in nursing and decided to become a student again; I enrolled in nursing school and I am now working at a women’s health clinic as a registered nurse in New York City and working towards a Master’s of Science in nursing to become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner.

As a girl, science was my least favorite subject. It intimidated me and from high school through my undergraduate studies I avoided it as much as possible. It was enough to pass the classes; in fact biology was one of two classes I took pass/fail in undergraduate. It was a desire to provide women’s healthcare that helped me push beyond my own internalization that science was “too hard” for me. If anyone would have told me I would pursue a career as a health care provider I would have laughed. “I’m terrible at science,” I would have told them. “I can’t do that.” I hope to find ways to engage younger girls and women so that others might not internalize that science is just “too hard.” I’m thankful everyday to the women I work with because it is through a passion for women’s health that I overcame my fear of studying science.

I am currently a founding member of Columbia School of Nursing’s campus chapter of Nursing Students for Choice, called Nursing Students for Reproductive Justice. We are working to gain momentum on our campus and improve the education nurses and nurse practitioners receive concerning reproductive health. We are also currently developing a leadership series covering issues like providing health care for transgender folks, differently-abled persons, sex workers, and young people. As a campus organization, we hope to promote access to information on a broad range of reproductive health care issues. We also want to support students in networking with health care professionals who are passionate about reproductive health care in New York and all over the country.

I feel so thankful that I have found such a true passion in women’s health – or rather, that it found me. When I provide a woman with a respectful and empowering annual exam or when I’m able to answer sexual health questions with openness, honesty, and compassion I know I couldn’t do anything else. Working in women’s health is a gift; it’s fulfilling and joyful (and sometimes enraging). I work with patients who come from many different backgrounds, and I’m thankful for my upbringing in an anti-racist, social justice oriented community. Those roots are always present in the care I provide for patients. Those roots keep me aware that every woman’s life has its own complex context of culture, relationships and priorities. What I can offer to my fellow students on campus and the women we serve is information without judgment, compassionate listening ears, and willing hands intent on quality care.

18 comments

  1. Kendra Rodgers is one of the most fabulous young women I have ever met! She is a passionate, incredibly hardworking and caring human being! I honored to be counted among those called family!

  2. I’m so proud and so honored to call you fam! your commitment is magical. thank you for your love and hard work! We love you!!!

  3. Kendra is an incredible person, I am so blessed to learn with her and from her! She is so energetic and such an asset to women’s health, I can’t wait to see what she goes on to do as a provider!!

  4. Kendra truly lives her beliefs. She is an advocate for her community and she is living out her life’s mission of delivering quality health care to those who need it most. I am honored to call her a friend and co-feminist!

  5. Kendra has held me down since the 1990s. She is wise beyond her years and inspires her friends and family to be our best selves. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to learn from, grow with and be friends with such an amazing person. Love you ken!!!

  6. I am so proud of you Hunny! You truly are an amazing women. Your words are an exact depiction of what healthcare for women should be; attainable, reliable, honest, and non judgmental! We love you!

  7. Kendra lives down to earth feminism at its best. She is not about the talk, she is about: what are we doing to take care of each other. Kendra was one of only two friends (and I have lots of feminist friends!) who checked in with me regularly when I was dealing with a really stressful situation while pregnant. I learned something about her then: she is a sister to women even when no one else is watching, maybe especially then. She is the sort of feminist we all want leading that campus group, doing that pelvic exam, calling that friend. Thank you, Kendra, for consistently being the first in whatever group to tell us to skip over the superficial stuff–and the first to model showing up for the important stuff. Yes, maybe women’s health found you, Kendra…but you found your own form of feminism. And you put care for people first.

  8. Kendra:
    I am soooooo proud of you!!! I have so enjoyed reading all the wonderful things everyone has written about you!!! I cast my vote with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, to see that you are finally being recognized for the AMAZING PERSON that you are!!! I love you forever!!!!!!! Aunty Bona <3

  9. Kendra is an exceptional, inspiring, and driven feminist! She is so clearly dedicated to helping other women and families – she is and will continue to be a mover and shaker in the world of women’s health and beyond!!

  10. Kendra its been so long, but I see your mom all through this essay. You may not remember me working with her, but let me say I’m glad you have found your own. The work that you are doing is vital so my prayer even after this is that you continue to do what you were called to do. I wouldn’t expect anything else. Best wishes.

    Denetra

  11. Thank you all for souch love and support! I’m so blessed to have such an extensive and wonderful support network!

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