We are pleased to highlight Tianna Manon as our
first Black Women Roc! feature for the Month of June
Tianna Manon is a freelance journalist, writer, and community activist in the Rochester, NY community. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Open Mic Rochester; a Rochester, NY-based online black publication that provides a forum to discuss everything important to our community: geographically and culturally.
How does it feel to be nominated for the 2018 Black Women Roc! Campaign
TM: It’s validating honestly. It means a lot to know my community sees my hard work. I didn’t go into this for recognition and journalism is often a thankless job. I went into this to tell stories and raise awareness about issues in our city and I’m glad someone thinks I’m doing alright at this!
When did you begin the community engagement work that you do?
TM:I’ve been engaged in the community since high school. It started with working on a RCTV news show: Talkback4Teens and then throughout college I used that platform to talk about issues our city’s youth face. Open Mic Rochester (OM) has been around for several years but I didn’t get involved until 2015.
What inspires you to continue to work hard for the Rochester Community!
TM: People have a tendency to write off Rochester but I know it’s a great city full of some excellent talent. It’s been inspiring to live here, see the change and especially to cover it and even sometimes be a part of that growth. We use OM as a way to expose people to new businesses, efforts and organizations. We like to believe we play a small role in the progress around here—especially for our city’s black and brown residents which aren’t always included in growth.
For you how does your business or area of expertise relate to wellness?
TM: We cover a lot of stories related to wellness: why it’s important to take a break, how to actually do so properly, ways to eat healthier and businesses that prioritize that. Most of our work in this realm is covering other people’s work here but on our social media we post inspiring quotes, tips to stay healthy on #WellnessWednesday and just overall encourage people to focus on their health.
How do you stay mentally and physically healthy ?
TM: We try to remember that our community is more than what’s on the news. It’s easy to get depressed in this industry but we’re more than the homicides and poverty. And keep in mind homicides and violence has actually been decreasing! We like to look at other stories and tell other narratives—of regular people making a difference. We think it’ll encourage other people to do their part. Not everyone who fixes Rochester has to be some amazing scholar with all the right answers. We all have ideas.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of your community engagement?
TM: Our community has been ignored for so long that sometimes they don’t believe in the platforms available to them. We’ve been fighting to prove to people their stories matter and should be in the news and that we deserve to tell those stories!
What are you working on now?
TM: Wow, a lot! We’re in the middle of a fundraiser to expand our staff and get better equipment. We recently raised enough to get a downtown newsroom and that’s been excellent for growing our coverage. June is Gun Violence Awareness Month so we’ll have stories about people trying to reduce that violence and how it affects people. We’ll also look at some of the candidates in this year’s election and work on increasing our presence at festivals, concerts and other events this summer. I think this will be a year of tremendous growth for OM!
What’s has been your best experience as a Black female change agent in Rochester?
TM: Working with other amazing black female change agents. There are some great minds out there and it’s been personally inspiring to be surrounded by amazing women. I see myself in them. I have kinky hair and I was a district kid and so often we don’t see our students as able to do anything but I’ve met alumnae of our local HS who are kicking butt and it’s a constant (and necessary) reminder that that narrative is not only unfair, but wrong. Not only are these women making change, I can too!
What has been your biggest challenge as a Black female change agent in Rochester?
TM: Everyone has amazing ideas for fixing Rochester but either we don’t know about each other or we struggle to work together. It’d be great to see 15 people work on 1 thing, rather than splitting between 5 similar projects that ultimately flounder. I’d like to see more collaboration overall.
Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
TM: Somewhat. It’s a lot of putting ourselves out there which I don’t mind but it doesn’t always work out, sadly. Collaboration is hard work and we don’t have a history of that here but we’re working on fostering better working relationships and encouraging people to team up and learning how we can help one another.
What advice do you have for other women interested in community activism/engagement work?
TM: Do it. We need your voice and experiences. You may feel hesitant or inexperienced but just by living and working here you know what you’re talking about. Get involved and help those of us doing the work by bringing those experiences to us and making this work more applicable to others and further reaching. I like to work with as many people as possible, there are never too many hands in the pot. If there are, good, get a bigger pot and make more soup!
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?
TM: Please consider checking out OM! We pride ourselves on thorough, factual news that’s often left out of mainstream news!
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