Like an aerobics instructor leading a relaxation exercise, Janice Ferebee Murphy speaks in a distinctly soothing voice. Even her kindly answering-machine message—“…remember, speak life to our children, for they become what you tell them”—puts a caller at ease. With this talent for talk, Murphy is a born counselor. Fittingly, she devotes her spare time to mentoring at-risk teenagers, and has just self-published a workbook, Got It Goin’ On: An Image Awareness Guide for Young “Ladies,” to promote girls’ physical fitness and confidence.
Murphy, an administrative assistant at a commercial real estate company, compiled Got It Goin’ On from handouts she used in workshops and one-to-one sessions with 13-to-18-year-olds. She found friends willing to contribute time and money to publishing the 55-page paperback, an easy reader that focuses on young women of color (not unlike Alison Abner and Linda Villarosa’s big-budget paperback, Finding Our Way). “Obviously my interest is promoting it in the African-American community,” says Murphy, who was the first African-American model editor at Seventeen magazine. “But the information applies to all girls—it’s universal.” The author’s passion for helping young people has even led her to rethink her career, and this fall she’ll leave D.C. to study social work at the University of Pennsylvania.
But in the meanwhile, Murphy will remain an active local organizer. Each Saturday beginning May 18, she’ll lead a free “Walk and Talk” program for girls and women in Rock Creek Park; she got the idea for this casual mentoring session while discussing her own problems with a friend in the relaxed park setting. Got It Goin’ On can be found at local feminist and African-American bookshops. For information on the book or the Walk and Talk program, contact Murphy at P.O. Box 18083, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 829-2822.—Nathalie op de Beeck