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UF grad student working against misconceptions about black women

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By Brianti Downing, Gainesville Sun

nonacjonesUniversity of Florida graduate student Nona C. Jones was doing research for a class one day in September. She sat down at her computer and typed in a topic she thought would be easy enough to find research on: “black women.”

She clicked on “images,” unaware that this moment would change her life.

What she saw shocked her.

Jones, who is not only a UF student but also works in community relations management at Gainesville Regional Utilities, saw nothing of herself in her search results. There were no black women professionals dressed for a day at the office.

Instead, she saw photos of strippers, video girls and prostitutes. She remembers thinking, “these are the images that define black women.”

Jones resolved that she had to do something about the images that defined not only how people of other ethnicities saw black women, but how black women saw themselves.

That same day, www.SistersSpace.com was created.

“I put it together for black women, so we can define who we are in a place where we are positively uplifted,” Jones said. “Whereas, in another social network, they would perpetuate the idea” seen in the Google search results.

Jones created her Web site, she said, not only to help give black women a positive image of themselves but to bring them together.

As someone who has been a member of several student and community organizations for black women, Jones said she’s noticed that black women segregate themselves. She said they become “antagonistic” toward one another, failing to realize that much of what they’ve attained as black women, has come through working collectively.

Since its inception more than two months ago, the site has grown beyond Jones’ expectations. The site has received about 70,000 hits a month and, as of earlier this month, the site has 1,053 members.

“We actually don’t have an ad strategy in place,” said Jones, who graduated this semester from UF with an MBA. “We’ve grown by word-of-mouth and that’s basically been it.”

Jones said her public relations director, Tracy Moring, is currently working on a promotions strategy. They have even been approached by Black Entertainment Television (BET) about doing something for the television channel in the near future, Jones said.

The site has what it calls “sister groups,” which are groups for people with similar interests. Within the groups, women can talk about a range of topics not necessarily pertaining to the group’s stated interest.

The site also features a podcast called the Nona Jones Show, hosted by the founder. The show is recorded over the phone, edited and broadcast as something that can be listened to online or downloaded onto a member’s computer. Jones said she wants the podcast to show portrayals of black women who are shaping history.

Jones’ favorite interview so far came from Lillian Lincoln Lambert, who became the first black person to receive a master’s of business administration degree from Harvard Business School in 1969.

“She inspired me so much. To think that she graduated from Harvard in the midst of the civil rights movement,” Jones said. “She integrated the program and we need to know these types of things … that black women are doing these types of things.”

Another feature on the site is the SisterPrayer, which allows members to request

prayers from other members. Like the Web site, the prayer list has surpassed expectations, Jones said.

Next year, the site hopes to begin a mentorship program, pairing those aspiring to be in a certain field with women who are already working in that field.

“There are girls on the site as young as 10 who’ve e-mailed me about finding

someone who works in a field that they’re interested in,” Jones said.

“Historically, black people as a whole have lacked the connection that a lot of our white brothers and sisters have,” she said. “My goal is to help sisters be connected with what we have.”

UF students will be among those eligible to be mentored by someone prospering in their chosen field, Jones said.

“I want SistersSpace to be the hub for black women. I want a sister, when she wants to purchase her first home, to be able to find a sister real estate broker, a sister mortgage broker and programs that may be able to help her buy a home,” she said. “When ladies say, ‘I’m single, I want to find a man,’ I want to have a program available where they can find good brothers.”

Thus, plans call for SistersSpace to pave the way for another Web site in a year or so, called BrothersSpace, said Jones, who has written a book about relationships called, “When the Soul Won’t Let Go: No Nonsense Answers to a Broken Woman’s Questions.”

As the name of the upcoming Web site suggests, BrothersSpace will be targeted toward professional black men, she said, like her husband, who works in claims management at Nationwide insurance.

Jones said she wants to use the sites to “open up the dialogue” between black men and women.

“I want to change the way our race interacts,” she said. “I know we can do it. It’s just going to take some time.”

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Written by Symphony

December 30, 2008 at 8:35 am

Posted in Activism

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. Congrats to a job well done! Ms. Jones has seen something and done something. She has hit the nail on the head re: our lack of support to one another as women. We can be rough on each other which is a waste of energy. I for one will support her.I am available to mentor the youth.

    B Garnes

    January 3, 2009 at 11:28 am


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