Sharline received her B.S. degree in Journalism in 2013. Building on her background and training in journalism, Sharline has been published in The Boston Globe and has worked on advocating for women and getting involved in politics in the City of Waltham. She continues to be focused on telling stories and empowering those in her community through speaking and blogging.
What are some key experiences at Emerson that helped shape your career path?
Sharline: “My experiences at Emerson opened my mind to the possibilities beyond broadcast journalism. I remember taking a political reporting class with The News Lady, Carole Simpson. The course enabled me to amass invaluable knowledge on the beat. As our assignments changed without warning, keeping in step with the ever-changing political landscape, I realized that whatever my future held, I wanted to be part of the decision-making process in politics. I wanted to be a decision maker because I realized how policies, good or bad, affect our daily lives. Another experience was a course I took with Jerry Lanson who encouraged me to explore a career in government.
Jerry and I had many conversations about economic disparities, the 2008 economic downturn, women in positions of power, and the gender pay gap. He helped me explore ways of telling those stories without becoming part of the story. He once asked me what I wanted to do after school and my idealist response was that I wanted to tell stories that cause people to stop and think of how they could make a difference. He then told me that I sounded more of an advocate than a journalist. Even though I was a tad annoyed by his comment, his observation that I was passionate about advocacy was spot on. Somebody else at Emerson told me that I was such an advocate when they read a paper I did on polar bears and melting glaciers. I did some soul searching and realized that in many ways, I am an advocate at heart.
That is why I decided to run for office in the spring of 2018 when I learned that the city council seat in my ward had been vacated. I ran in part because I had never met our city councilor, the person who had been making decisions on my behalf, I wanted to change that. I wanted to be a representative for and of the people– one that they knew and had unfettered access to and one that they felt would really champion their causes. I ran for office to be my neighbors’ advocate and because I want city government to open, transparent, and inclusive of the people it is meant to serve.
My historic win made me the first person of color on the Waltham City Council, the first woman in my ward, and first Ugandan-American to hold public office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This was an important part of my campaign because representation matters. I was brought to tears recently when the Junior Girl Scouts invited the women in Waltham City Government to dinner and a girl scout from Uganda told me how happy she was to see me on the Council. The fact that that young lady can see herself in me matters more than I can articulate. All my experiences at Emerson helped shape my career because they culminated in teaching me this fundamental truth: everyone has a story and each story matters.”
Tell us about your work as a journalist, speaker, and blogger…
“While at Emerson in Lanson’s class, I worked hard on all my stories and that hard work paid off when I got a chance to have some of my work published in The Boston Globe. Also, while at Emerson, I worked as Marketing Director for WCAC, the local cable television station in my hometown of Watertown. In addition to my paid position, I volunteered as a reporter and anchor. It was fulfilling because the stories I told were about the community I loved and lived in. Both experiences were quite the thrill because I was inching closer to the field I dreamt of ever since I was a little girl. As time progressed, I applied to various news organizations and though I never received an offer, that job application experience added so much more meaning to my blog and the work I do now.
Today, as a speaker and occasional blogger, I must remember that audience size doesn’t matter. In the world of social media where followership and likes are perceived indicators of how successful someone is, it’s easy to misconstrue audience size with influence. Twitter algorithms determine how many people have interacted with your tweets while Facebook and Instagram followership show how many people follow you and your content. That is why I must be careful to stay true to my purpose. Why do I blog? Why do I speak? Why do I share my story?
Why do I continue even when many doors are shut? The answer is simple: in order to touch lives. I’m humbled when I get an inbox message from a reader about how my blog inspired them or helped them with their parenting. And I am humbled when my constituents say I’ve inspired them to use their own voice to effect change. And lastly, I am humbled when institutions such as my alma mater ask me to be part of their events and programming. I am humbled to be spotlighted in the 2019 Womxn of Emerson Profile series!”
There is a lot of conversation about professional allies, both for women supporting one another and men supporting women. What do you think makes for great allyship?
“Good allyship starts from a place of listening. A good ally doesn’t challenge and isn’t suspect of your story, ideas or approach to problem-solving. They listen to understand in the interest of finding ways to empower you and assist you in attaining your goals. Allyship is about a collective vision and a shared goal. It’s a choice to include each other for that vision to come to fruition and for success in accomplishing shared goals. Great allyship is listening to one another and seeing ourselves in each other.”
What does representation for womxn mean for you in the field of journalism?
“I had the pleasure of gleaning from the late Gwen Ifill during a speech she gave to aspiring journalists in 2010 at the Cutler Majestic. “Take your identity and don’t limit yourself,” said the bestselling author of ‘The Breakthrough: Politics and race in the age of Obama” a book for which she was called an Obama booster.” She always said “thank-you” to her critics because she discovered that her gratefulness takes the power away from the insulter.’
Upon graduating from Simmons College, she interned at the Herald and was surprised to find a note on her desk that read, “N***** go home.” She told us that she wondered who they were referring to. I asked her about diversity in the newsroom and she chuckled as she said that when she looks at newsrooms and sees a black male anchor and a white female anchor, she can’t help but think that the arrangement or attempt at diversity has been carefully thought through by decision makers. “I’m more concerned about people of color behind the scenes making news decisions than I am of people of color getting in front of the camera,” Ifill said. “Bias is not in the stories that get on air but in the untold stories,” she added. And that stuck with me. I’m grateful for women like Ifill and Simpson for blazing the trail for women like me. Their audacious approach to news, wit, humor, fairness, and drive inspire me and make me proud to be a member of the Fourth Estate. I am still telling stories that matter to people albeit from Waltham City Hall.”