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Tonyaa J. Weathersbee

5:12 PM, Jan 27, 2012   |    comments
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When I think of African American women and their contributions to culture, naturally, I think of storytellers, or rather, truth tellers like Ida B. Wells, Zora Neale Hurston and countless others who were determined to not allow the experiences of black people to be buried or marginalized, or the beauty and wisdom of our language and culture to be lost. I think of women like Mary McLeod Bethune, who refused to buy into myths of black inferiority and founded a college to educate blacks and prove otherwise, and I think of women like Oprah Winfrey,
who rose to become such a trusted icon that she gained the power to turn virtually any book into a bestseller just by telling folks to read it. I could go on and on, but I'd run out of space and time.

I chose my profession because I always had a love for reading, and a respect for the power of words. I knew I wanted to become a writer when I won two countywide essay contests while I was a junior at William M. Raines High School, and after I took my first journalism course at University of Florida and enjoyed it, I figured that I could make a living at it. I always planned to pick a profession that would make me happy as opposed to making me wealthy, since I'd be spending most of my life doing it - and I didn't want to spend most of my life doing
something that made me miserable. So that's how I came to choose journalism. My work has contributed to the culture simply by allowing me to give a voice to African-Americans and other struggling people in the city who never had one before I began writing my opinion column. Certain columns that I've written - such as one in which I recounted my fears as a black fourth-grader terrified of the prospect of a George Wallace presidency - as well as the columns I've written about the lives of
black people who are valued in their community but virtually unknown outside of it, have all helped to broaden the cultural knowledge base here. Or at least I hope that it has.

I've had several influences and mentors in my life. The obvious two are my parents, William and Wallace Weathersbee, but others who stand out are my first-grade teacher, Edythe Thompson, who gave me a solid reading and confidence foundation; my 11th grade English teacher, Elizabeth Lee, who encouraged me to enter the essay contests; and DeWayne Wickham, USA Today columnist who has mentored me and created many opportunities for me to gain invaluable experiences as a journalist that have further shaped my voice.


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