Photo Credit: Jessica McEachern

Photo credit: Jessica McEachern

Jessica M. McEachern, MA, MSW, is on a mission to help individuals connect with various experiences and identify misperceptions within society. She penned Societal Perceptions, which utilizes experiences, observations, and narratives to explore how societal perceptions impact individuals, families, cultures, communities, and associations. By the end of Societal Perceptions, readers will understand how viewpoints, behaviors, thinking and experiences constrain individuals, families, communities, cultures and race relations within society. The book encourages readers to take the initiative to change thinking and actions to change societal views.

Read what she has to say.

Why did you write Societal Perceptions?
The book began as a collection of thoughts and ideas about ongoing issues within society. The thoughts and ideas derived from conversations, observations, current events, political viewpoints, religious perspectives, stereotypes, images and experiences.

The book presents innumerable perceptions from the perspective of an African American female living in a society that oppresses African Americans, devalues African American women, and diminishes the beauty of African American women, particularly brown complexion or dark complexion African American women. There are so many topics that people fear discussing because the topics may be controversial or uncomfortable. The book forces readers to examine topics and various situations, think about them, assess how the topics or circumstances can be perceived by others, change the way individuals respond to conditions, and reach a solution that influences a positive change within individuals, families, communities, agencies, media, and society.

Societal Perceptions was written to help readers connect with various experiences and identify misperceptions within society. The book utilizes experiences, observations, and narratives to explore how societal perceptions impact individuals, families, cultures, communities, and associations. By the end of Societal Perceptions readers will understand how viewpoints, behaviors, thinking, and experiences constrain individuals, families, communities, cultures, and race relations within society. The book encourages readers to take the initiative to change thinking and actions to change societal views.

What’s the story behind the title?
The title frames the overall concept of the book, which is to explore misconceptions within society. The book was written to help readers become aware of interpretations, impressions, subconscious thoughts, behaviors, and views as well as examine where those thoughts, views, and behaviors derived.

Societal Perceptions Book Cover

What do you hope readers will glean from reading your book?
I want readers to comprehend that there are individuals within society who do not recognize biased perspectives and innate behaviors until those actions and perceptions are confronted or challenged.

I want readers to understand the theme of the book. Ideally, I want there to be an understanding that if individuals change their thinking and behaviors that impacts the world. I want the readers to be able to embrace diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency which connects people no matter their race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, level of education, age, or ethnicity. The book explores ideals and perceptions while probing the reader with questions about how those perceptions impact their decision making, relationships with others, families, friends, colleagues, children, communities, and the world.

I want readers to utilize the book for ongoing discussion. The topics within the book are not topics that can remain ignored. The book explores so many subjects such as environmental factors, life experiences, privilege, dating, complexions, marriage, divorce, education, abuse, communication, history, heritage, social justice, the judicial system, mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty, violence, gender roles, popularity, disproportionality, voting, human rights, diversity, and inclusion because those issues shape how individuals see themselves and how they view the world. The book encourages readers to engage in dialogue about the topics to help connect with people, improve race relations, recognize acculturation, promote equality, encourage self-determination, and embrace inclusion.

How long did it take you to write this book?
I began writing the book in 2010, but finalized the manuscript in 2014.

What was your regimen to complete this book?
The book began as a collection of thoughts and ideas about ongoing issues within society. The thoughts and ideas derived from conversations, observations, current events, political viewpoints, religious perspectives, stereotypes, images, and experiences. The book incorporates excerpts from papers that I may have written at some point that parallel topics that I wanted to explore within a book.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
My career choices included being a Social Worker, Lawyer, Principal, Author, Community Organizer, Business Owner/CEO, and Singer. No matter what degree I obtained, being an author, business owner, and singer have always been coupled with furthering my education. I have always had an interest in writing. I journaled during childhood and during adulthood. As thoughts come to mind that I want to revisit in writing, I note them on anything available that I can write on or make a note within the note pad on my phone. Growing up I wrote poetry, plays, songs, and short stories. Writing is an outlet that I utilize to express myself. My life experiences, relationships with others, my perspective on the world, my family, my friends, and my beliefs inspire me to write. I have a story to tell and a message to deliver in a unique way.

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
I strive to be my authentic self without conforming to being like anyone else or societal perceptions of who I should be. My educational background, work experience, community, and life experiences separate me from others in the field as well as connects me with some in the field.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
The definition of success differs for many. Success could be obtaining a GED, graduating high school, earning a degree, maintaining a job, getting a job, getting a promotion, maintaining a specific weight, making the honor roll, refraining from eating fried foods, reading one book a week, or being debt free. Success to me is reaching short term and long term goals. Success to me is trying and not being afraid to fail a few times before reaching an accomplishment. Traits conducive to success include faith, character, drive, knowledge, being willing to learn, action, character, integrity, work ethic, honesty, professionalism, communication skills, and healthy relationships. I recommend mastering fundamental writing skills, developing relationships with editors, networking with publishers, reading various authors, learning from mistakes, being unafraid to make mistakes, and maintaining the drive to push forward. The ability to have your work edited, reviewed, critiqued, and criticized without becoming offended. Recognizing areas of strength and building upon the things that you do well. Being willing to receive constructive criticism, welcoming of differing opinions, and being open to others views.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
Researching, networking, ongoing educational opportunities, participating in various trainings, being willing to try things that I have not done before, being willing to step outside of my comfort zone, and pushing forward without giving up when the outcome may not be in my favor. Reading various authors. Being willing to learn. Applying feedback received from others who have succeeded as well as failed. Pursuing my passion and doing what I enjoy doing. Remaining true to my authentic self and knowing that my biggest competition is staring at me every time I look in the mirror.

Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I think that there are misconceptions about authors, social workers, and singers. There seems to be stereotypes about modern singers being unable to sing and lacking talent, exploiting themselves, or using auto-tune as well as studios to enhance their vocal ability. There are singers who possess vocal ability without studio enhancement. There are singers who embrace natural beauty instead of conforming to body augmentation, Photoshop, and makeup. There are singers who can sing without producers having to alter their voices. There is a notion that in order to sell books you have to write tell-all books, be associated with celebrities, or have a lot of followers on social media. Authors are successful without writing tell-all books. Social workers are viewed as employees with the department of social services, single parents, or older women. All Social Workers aren’t older in age, single parents, or nosey single women. Social Workers are more than Medicaid, food stamps, child support, child protective services, and the department of social services. Social workers work in hospitals, veteran clinics, nursing homes, the department of juvenile justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations, group homes, schools, community agencies, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse, counselors, therapists, advisors, advocates, peer support, case managers, care managers, health departments, supervisors, managers, CEO, lawyers, judges and educators. I am not the stereotypes or misperceptions associated with authors, social workers or singers.

I dispel misconceptions by being an example, knowing my worth, valuing myself, maintaining positive mannerism, and presenting a positive image of womanhood. I am an author, social worker, and singer. I recognize that authenticity is embracing flaws, imperfections, and the very things that make me different yet original. I believe that beauty is knowing your self-worth, displaying self-confidence, and loving the skin you are in (hair color, eye color, hair texture, complexion, heritage, genetics, facial features, and natural body without alterations). I challenge women not to exploit themselves or conform to the negative images portrayed on television, within music, or on social media. I promote women who are educated, well spoken, respectful, nurturing, capable of having conversations, wives, professionals, mentors, and role models. I advise women to continue ongoing education because knowledge is indeed powerful. I recommend women develop goals, identify steps that can be taken to reach those goals, and work towards goal attainment. I inspire women to never give up while pursuing their dreams. I encourage women to love themselves and to be themselves without compromising values, morals, self-worth, or character. I support women who respect themselves and live as an influential example for others. I motivate women to make their first impression a lasting impression.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I outline long term and short term goals. I make the goals measurable and give myself timeframes. I measure success by the steps I have taken towards those goals. Some of my goals included graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree, graduating from college with a masters degree, writing and publishing books, singing, owning a business, owning a home, getting married, having a family, and helping the community. I have been setting goals since I was a teenager. I recall planning to have finished school, be climbing the corporate ladder as a manager within my career, owning a home, owning my vehicle, being married, and having children by age twenty five. I am still working towards goal achievement.

Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
Jane Adams, Nobel Peace Prize winner, leader, social worker, college graduate, and founder of the Hull House. Michelle Obama, lawyer, writer, mother, wife, college graduate, advocate, role model, professional, and first lady of the United States of America.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
The Giver by Lois Lowry; Lord of the Flies by William Golding; Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston; The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; Societal Perceptions by Jessica McEachern; and The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and the Bible.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
Continued learning is important because the world, careers, technology, and education is constantly changing. Continuing education is a way for professionals to stay knowledgeable within the field. Many careers require continuing education. Continued learning broadens understanding and builds upon the base of one’s educational foundation.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
I have a few but I can narrow it down to six quotes that I live by: 1) “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…we need not wait to see what others do.” 2) “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” 3) “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 4) “You never fail until you stop trying.” 5) “All things are possible for the one who believes.” 6) “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
Technology makes it possible to communicate around the world, share information, network, market, research, interact with various audiences, and remain up to date with current events. Technology is essential within my career, social life, and personal life. I utilize iTunes, iBook, kindle, nook, MacBook, laptop, iPhone, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, PayPal, square credit card reader, Microsoft office, and email.

Please define your personal brand.
I consider myself a distinguished person. Being driven and taking the initiative are components of my personal brand. Instead of waiting for things to happen, I develop a plan, project potential outcomes, and take action. Though my community, education, family, values, beliefs, make me who I am, the choices I make set me apart from others. I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work, Master of Art in Teaching, and Master of Science in Social Work. I have worked a job since the age of fifteen. I was employed during my undergraduate and graduate years of college. I have worked a full time and part time job while pursuing short term and long term goals. I am an advocate. I enjoy helping others. Within the field of social work, I am a voice for those who are afraid to speak up. I promote justice, unity, and equality. I am determined to achieve all of my goals no matter what it takes or how long it takes. I set goals and work towards achieving them. I am consistent. I go above and beyond when I am exhausted or feel like giving up. I stand firm in my beliefs. I know my worth. I am confident and courageous. I am selfless and recurrently evolving. I am not perfect at all, but I strive to live an honorable life that is exemplary to others. People are impressionable so I try to be mindful of my words and behaviors in hopes that my actions and lifestyle has a positive impact on others. I strive to leave an everlasting impression in all that I do. I desire to be a part of the positive change that I wish to see in the world. Those attributes described above and the skill set that I possess are my brand.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
I look forward to traveling more to experience different cultures. I want venture out and experience some things outside of my comfort zone. I look forward to visiting Vegas, Hawaii, and Africa sooner than later. I intend to make it a goal to incorporate more fun into my life as I am often occupied with my career and ambitions.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would change more than one thing. I would transform some of the images of African American men, women, and children that are highlighted within the media and on television. I would change the approach utilized by minority communities when dealing with misperceptions and inequalities. I would like to see an increase in voting during all elections, an increase in high school graduation, an increase in college graduations, an increase in employment, a decrease in incarceration, extermination of gang related activities and gang violence, an increase in standardized test scores, an increase in music that uplifts minority communities, a decrease in music that promotes negativity (substance use, gun violence, domestic violence, sexual promiscuity, and distorted images of beauty).

Social Media is a platform that can be utilized differently to promote changing the minority community’s prospective and position on dealing with misperceptions as well as inequalities. I would like to see social media utilized to promote morals, principals, service, unity, networking, community organizing, and education. There is so much emphasis on sex, drugs, violence, nudity, and fame in comparison to education, employment, service, upliftment, community organization, strategic planning, and positive images in reference to the minority community. I would like to see the minority community evaluate what the community can do differently as individuals, parents, relatives, community members, politicians, and church members. The community has to learn politics, policies, and the judicial system in order to challenge the issues that create division and regulate oppression. The sense of community has to be reestablished so that communities protect each other and work together. Overall, changing the mindset of the minority community because change begins with thoughts. Once the mindset changes, then behaviors, choices, music, images, stereotypes, biases, communication, laws, practices, environment, individuals, families, communities, associations, and society change.

What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
There are so many notable icons who are not celebrities, entertainers, or well known. Icons are elegant individuals whose character speaks volumes. Icons are individuals who possess leadership skills while also being able to follow. Icons are persons who respect themselves and others. Icons are authentic, community oriented, influential examples for others. Icons are role models who possess values, morals, and character. Icons often leave a legacy.

Wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, police officers, victims’ of Domestic Violence who leave those relationships without returning to the perpetrator, soldiers, veterans, and firemen are icons. Women who do not sexually exploit themselves or pose nude for money or fame are icons. Couples who have been married once without infidelity, separation, or divorce are iconic. Individuals who have successful marriages and remain faithful to their spouse are iconic.

Well known individuals who could be categorized as iconic are Jane Adams, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Ken Griffey Jr., Jackie Robinson, Folorunsho Alakija, Isabel Dos Santos, Harriet Tubman, Condoleezza Rice, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Diana Princess of Wales, Mother Theresa, Shirley Chisholm, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Societal Perceptions is available on iBook (iTunes), Kindle (Amazon) and NOOK (Barnes and Noble). Find her on Facebook: JessicaMcEachern; Twitter: @jessmmceachern; Instagram: @divinerevelation1908; or visit her website http://jessica-mceachern.squarespace.com/.

 

Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.