What's Your Word - Oracle/Ambition

Marissa Southards

*Note: #WhatsYourWord will feature a different participant telling their story  Be sure to subscribe to get the feature straight to you inbox! 

When I first began this project, I never anticipated that The Awakenings Project would become a “thing”.   Seeing a future past the first set of photos (now commonly referred to as Awakenings I) was never a goal I really had in mind.  Truly, I just wanted to create something beautiful, and provide a non-judgmental space for women, transwomen, and girls, to connect with themselves and capture an image for them to see their own greatness.   Seeing where this project has led me has been a journey in and unto itself. Hearing how participants felt afterwards piqued my natural curiosity in how they felt maybe later down the road.  I also wondered how my participants now viewed themselves after going through this experience, nearly a year later for some.  The Awakenings Project is viewed as bold and empowering, and for many participants, stepping in front of the lens is a truly courageous act.   How do they feel?  What kind of place where they coming from when they decided to step in front of my camera?  Those questions brought about #WhatsYourWord (or #WYW).   For the first “interview”, Mrs. Jennifer Harris was chosen (she is also an active contributor to The Awakenings Project) to discuss the words she chose to connect with who she is.  Those words are Oracle (Awakenings I) and Ambition (Awakenings II).   Jennifer was actually one of the last photos I took for both A1 and A2.  When the word Oracle was presented to me, I instantly felt drawn to the energy surrounding it, as I could see that Jennifer was truly “tapping in” to what compels her as a writer.  The final photo (seen below): came naturally within minutes as we discussed the reasons behind her word.

This image not only was quick to capture, but also was one I examined often when I found myself in need of inspiration to continue to create.

Jennifer sat again for A2, while I was actually wrapping A2 in Chicago.  Her word this time:  Ambition (image below).  Ambition to continue to move forward in this creative life, ambition to rise above and do the things she’d been told so often she shouldn’t focus on, ambition to be true and authentic to who she is.  Moving into a space where connection with who you are and connection to the drive to stay there is a beautiful thing to witness, and I’m honored to have been in a space to capture these moments of authenticity.

I have had the honor of collaborating with Jennifer on several prior projects and have been able to watch her creativity grow in boundless, and limitless ways.

A few of my curious questions were sent to Jennifer.  Here’s what we found out: 

Jennifer Harris heard about the project through social media, local word of mouth in through the St. Louis artists’  community and from knowing the artist, Marissa Southards. Her word for this session was ambition. She chose that word because she thought that it defined her current feeling about her life at present. There are projects she is doing and finishing, and things she yet desires to do. The perfect word, she thought to describe that, is ambition.

Jennifer Harris never considered herself a feminist, and still does not. She is an advocate of women’s rights, and aware of the issues women face. But Jennifer feels that being labeled a feminist isn’t an encompassing enough term. She prefers womanist, a phrase coined by the author Alice Walker. Jennifer has participated twice in the Awakenings Project, A1 and now A2. Her second session was on the road in Chicago, and she was not able to see the final photos before the wrapping of this cycle of the project. She saw the final photo as it was published the social media page hosted by The Awakenings Project. Despite that, she feels that The Awakenings Project has been an influence in her life to indeed live her life unapologetically.


Jennifer Harris is a  St. Louis, Missouri native, married mother of 2 and published local author. She is a collaborator to the Awakenings Project, and contributor to the site Write To Live. She also is the founder and contributor of The Ideal Firestarter ( You can follow Jennifer on Facebook (Jennifer P. Harris) or on Twitter (@theladyofharris). All her published work can be found on Amazon.


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