Dwelling On The Past...Won’t Change The Past...Learning Is The Only Path Forward
Life@GWN with Dr. Brenda Henry Offor
Now retired, Dr. Brenda Henry-Offor was a college program developer with considerable expertise in mentoring college and graduate students. Her specialties are in Renaissance Drama, Women's Studies, and Education. She is warm and witty, and makes you feel welcomed the moment she says "hello." Get to know a bit about her, in her own words...
Tell Us About Your Life@GWN
I have always wanted to be a teacher. I think back to when I was ten years old and recall the same pull toward mentorship and guidance. My 10-year-old self would be happy to know I made her dreams come true. I have taken many teaching and mentorship opportunities throughout the years and Girls Write Now is the latest example of my passion and willingness to give back to the youth of today. I learned about Girls Write Now from a colleague, Dr. Daniella Olibrice who works for the program. After reading the mission statement of Girls Write Now I felt that I could be a part of their vision and I agreed to become a mentor. I joined Girls Write Now in the spring of 2023 as a mentor to a young lady in the program. Contact with my mentee took place via the phone. I found that working with my mentee, and the program overall, allows me to fulfill my desire to serve young women through mentoring.
Who or What Inspires You?
I am inspired by young people who set out to right the wrongs they see in society. Within recent years we see movements like Black Lives Matter stepping up publicly to vocalize the ills in society. My three adult sons inspire me the most because they choose to be entrepreneurs rather than work in traditional establishments. They aspire to determine their destinies on their terms. I would like to think their entrepreneurial spirit derives from me. I have always been fiercely independent and I constantly prioritize my freedom.
If You Could Change One Thing About Your Life…
Now, when I think back on the choices I have made and the life I have created for myself, it is hard to pinpoint anything in particular that I regret. Though, if I could change one thing about my life I would move to Lagos, Nigeria where I spent many years raising my three young sons. I enjoy the tropical weather there, the sense of community, and it is a safe place to raise children with values that are similar to those with which I was raised.
Despite not having many regrets, I do find that correcting my mistakes is something of a constant learning process. As of right now, my process of mending my mistakes looks like this: after I make a mistake I reflect for a while on how I made that mistake. After overcoming the hand-wringing stage that follows a mistake, I determine what my best response to the mistake should be and I implement change. I know that dwelling on the past and being despondent won’t change the past and moving forward in the right direction is the answer to that mistake. It took me many years to understand that learning from mistakes is the only path forward.
When my students come to me for guidance I try to impart to them this same ideology–
there is no sense in ruminating over the past; there is only forward.
Ultimately, our universal goal is to uplift others and most of my students understand that and adhere to this philosophy. I am very proud of a group of graduate students who have gone on to become doctors in a variety of disciplines and are dedicated to giving back to their communities. They make me proud.
What Creative Work Inspires You?
I recently read the book Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives by Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns. This book documents African American history as told through photographs taken by photographers from the New York Times during the first half of the 1900s through the 1970s. It is a very captivating and informative book and a must-read for anyone who enjoys learning about American history. The authors believe that the photos in the book were neither printed nor publicly shared by autographs. Additionally, photos of African Americans were used by White Americans during that period to depict that group in an unflattering and dangerous light. I learned that African Americans were marginalized and newspapers prioritized the written word over a tremendous amount of history about America, African Americans, the role of print media, and cultural zeitgeist in New York and other cities where African Americans make up large portions of the population. What impresses me most about this book is that this history would have been lost to Americans and the world if the book’s authors did not compile the photographs and written about them.
Books like this remind me of the importance of the work I do. Mentorship is not simply an outlet for my passions, but something that sparks change– presently and continuously. When we choose to care we give a platform to the issues we think are important. When we choose to care we are inevitably saying “Look at this,...give this your attention.”
"When we choose to care, we refuse to turn a blind eye, no matter how difficult that may be. Caring never goes unnoticed; never gets lost. Caring will always stand the test of time. "
Ultimately, our universal goal is to uplift others and most of my students understand that and adhere to this philosophy. I am very proud of a group of graduate students who have gone on to become doctors in a variety of disciplines and are dedicated to giving back to their communities.
They make me proud.
Stay tuned for Brenda's mentee and her riveting story.
If you belong to the Girls Write Now community and have a story to share, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
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