Updated: Nov 9








Monday, December 13, 2021 Today, I want to talk about something a bit different than my usual topic. As a woman of Oklahoma, I am very honored to have been able to interview Kyli Hammond, whom founded The Oklahoma Women’s Journal. Here is the story of how she did just that. The year was 1999. Kyli Hammond, then in fourth grade, was watching the CNN coverage of Rachel Joy Scott’s funeral. If you don’t recall, Scott was one of the teens killed in Columbine. You can read her story here. Hammond’s mother bought Kyli all of Scott’s published journals. This was the moment that Hammond became mesmerized by the fact that Scott addressed all of her journals to God. Young Hammond wanted to do something very similar. So it began. “I would just write really thoughtful pieces about life, what it meant and what my life meant.” She still journals to this day. “I literally just write out life, if that makes sense,” she says with a laugh, her voice light and welcoming. Her journaling background is a piece of what led to the publication known as The Oklahoma Women’s Journal, though it’s not all of it. Back in 2019, twenty years after discovering her love of journaling, Hammond and her sister begun an Instagram platform for women to share their experiences about cannabis use called: @okcannagalz. The social media page led to a local cannabis magazine noticing Hammond and offering her the role of Chief Editor. "It felt like I landed my dream job", she recalls. She wanted to be just like Jennifer Garner’s character in 13 Going On 30, "Chief Editor for a magazine". But what she got was something quite different. The bosses happened to be very misogynistic males. “They were very flirtatious — touched me on my shoulders, poked me in my side and made sexual innuendos that I did not approve of. I resigned after a month.” She thought that everything she had dreamt was totally over. She went to Scissortail Park in Oklahoma City and met with a friend. Sobbing, she told her what had happened. It was October 2019, a few months before the COVID lockdown had begun in the States. This was the real Jennifer Garner moment. Her friend suggested the unthinkable — that Hammond begin her own publication. Of course, who wouldn’t want to do that? “My entire life I have been journaling. Sharing your story through writing has always been something I felt would be very healing for other women as it was for me— by journaling, you know? So ultimately, that is how I came up with this idea to create a women’s journal.” She realized the risk of such a thing. She had not completed college and recieved a degree in publishing or editing. She did not have any prior knowledge other than what she had done for her social media platform and her previous chief editing job. Nor did she have the funds to pay staff writers. However, once she had thought of the idea, she felt she had to follow through. It took her several months to get it going. Since she could not afford a staff, she made the magazine based on submissions from contributors. This is part of the magazine’s magic. The magazine is a place for Oklahoma women to impart their life experiences. The notion was that,“These women would write their stories, share their authenticity as a way to encourage and inspire other women. And in doing so, they would be healed and inspired through their vulnerability; there is bravery in that. It takes bravery to be vulnerable.” The women who contribute have inspired Hammond the most and are why she has persisted, she says. After the women share their pieces and the magazine publishes them, Hammond says the writers, “come back and thank us up and down, but ultimately, they are the ones who are so brave.” Hammond says she derives great joy out of watching these women heal. “I can’t tell you the countless women who have messaged us, thanking us and telling us how much it saved them by sharing their story.” She adds that readers have also been inspired to submit their own stories after reading what other women share, thus continuing the positive, healing momentum of the magazine. Hammond got to meet some of these women at the June 5th launch party for Issue #2 of The OWJ. Incredibly anxious and inexperienced at public speaking, she was very fearful. Yet, she was so moved by the 60–75 women who attended — who so much appreciated what she did, she felt led to give a speech. She spoke for about nine minutes. “I was so passionate about what I was doing, that I didn’t even need to write a speech, the words just flowed. It was empowering for me to know that I was able to do that,” she says happily. Beyond such wonderful events are the concerns about some of the content Hammond and her team publish and how it might affect readers. The latest issue, being the third, focused on violence against women. Hammond said it was probably a good thing that the lack of monetary necessity meant that this issue would not be distributed at no cost to various businesses, as they had been able to do for the previous issue. Some of the content can be quite emotional and hard to read. “It would be delivered to your door in a printed form, but that way it’s not just out in the open for people to freely pick up, then read and have their entire day emotionally wrecked because they were not prepared to read something so triggering.” Indeed, there are many things like such concerns that Hammond didn’t anticipate when she began The OWJ. “It’s been a learning curve, for sure, to have to teach myself all of this.” The workload alone is incredible — designing the logo, running the social media platform, creating and running the website, learning adobe indesign, choosing the aesthetic for the magazine, running the business side, creating contracts, choosing themes for each issue, then overseeing final edits and designs. And on top of it all, she still works her full time job in order to make ends meet. As someone who struggles with borderline personality disorder and, as she stated, is an “outgoing introverted individual,” Hammond has to set aside some alone time for herself. The sheer grind and the very emotional interactions with the women contributing to the journal can be very heavy. “That’s my favorite time of day — to come home and be by myself.” The journal began so quickly, and she hadn’t anticipated that. “It takes daily work to have the mental capacity and, you know, just the belief in myself to keep this going.” But she manages. “Just trying to hold space is the most important part, and giving myself grace in knowing that I can’t please everyone.” There are times when she really feels like giving up, but she maintains that self-love is a must. “I just take it day-by-day, and I will continue to do so.” So one might ask “Why the hell bother”? Even with creating such a place for expression, what is so vital about putting oneself through this for a magazine? Hammond makes it very clear why. In Oklahoma, there is a need beyond just a platform for sharing experiences. These exist on the web, obviously, as Hammond points out. However, having an actual, concrete magazine to showcase to friends and family brings more unity than something “on a screen,” which is “just not the same,” Hammond says. There is a need for safety — a need for security in knowing it’s a space for discussing things that someone might not feel safe talking about to just anyone in the heart of Bible country. This is something Hammond emphasizes. “I believe that Oklahoma needs authenticity. I believe that we need to have tough conversations, and we need to be a little bit more comfortable in doing so. We need to have the ability to talk about the tough shit. In Oklahoma, a lot of people save face. They don’t want to talk about depression, mental health, STDs, domestic abuse and domestic violence, sexism, racism — they do not want to talk about it. They would much rather stay to themselves, and being in the Bible belt, these types of conversations are not really outwardly spoken of.” It is such pretense that makes her most feel the necessity for the magazine. She says, “So many of us go through hard things in our lives and because no one talks about those hard things, or those hard situations, we feel alone but we need that shoulder to lean on. We need to know that someone else has or is going through something similar.” And, "In such a time as this", she says, "it is even more prevalent".

With the deadline for submissions for issue #4 past, The OWJ team is currently in the thick of reviewing submissions. The topic for this issue? Mental Health. A biggie. Hammond thought it only appropriate to go with such a theme, with the time frame of submissions falling into autumn and winter; it coincides, she says, with “seasonal depression,” (something that everyone is posting about right now). Lastly, it also gets to the heart of why she began the journal in the first place.

What’s next? Hammond emphasizes, “rawness and realness". She strongly states,“There is strength in sharing your story. Societal standards need to be crushed." And she cannot wait to do just that — “to inspire the younger generation”. Hammond has come full circle, stemming all the way from when she was inspired by Rachel Joy Scott in 1999. Truly, she’s paying it forward.


- Josee Vaughn | @collectcallsofficial

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We’ve heard it since we were little, “ignorance is bliss”. I’ve seen it play out over and over in the past few years. I’ve been astonished at how blind people can be to the issues of our society. I’ve experienced overwhelming emotions ranging from rage to feeling lost and not knowing where to start. How am I going to change the world when I don’t know how to explain the realities that persist to those who don’t see it that way?


Through this question sitting at the back of my mind for over a year, I’ve had to find peace in there not being a straight forward answer. Some people may never care to see the harsh realities that unfairly persist, simply because it does not affect them. If someone can naively ignore something that does not hold them back, there is often nothing you can do. They might care later in life if something hits close to home, but even if not, it is not your responsibility to stress over. There have been some realizations made in this past year, through many trials and tribulations, that I hope might help someone in the same position I find myself in often.


First, you cannot change the world if you are drowning yourself. Or in other words, you cannot battle the world and yourself at the same time. You need to allow yourself peace, especially when there are pressing issues that aim to disrupt said peace. If you are able to center yourself and ground your mind to what makes you who you are, the world and stress won’t knock you down. Most importantly, people will not be able to sway your emotions as drastically. You only have one you. Protect your peace and then watch all the good you can create while you’re radiating light.


Secondly, you cannot make someone listen or see things they do not want to see. Better yet, you cannot make someone care. We are all made up of the views that we were raised with, the cultures we have been emerged in, and the circumstances we have been placed in. These factors birth every individual’s worldview. These may change and shift over time, but they will not be broken down in one conversation. We are all placed into this world and we decide what we want to see and what we care about, these often become our guiding core values. It doesn’t necessarily make one person a better human than the next. Essentially, it is a simple fact that they just have different core values. And how we choose to act on them can pit people up against each other. For example, if someone has a core value to allow individuals to make the best decision for themself- but, someone else has a core value of protecting unborn children- they might not ever come to the same conclusion regarding hot topics. Neither of them is wrong in a big picture sense, but how we choose to act on these principles will define our morals and character.


Lastly, do not let anyone cross boundaries you set, and whatever you do, stand tall on everything you believe. I will be okay if not everyone cares about the things I do- but I will not if I let myself fall short on making the change I believe I am capable of. I will be okay if someone talks about me in a negative light, due to the things I am passionate about- but I will not if someone continuously disrupts my peace by crossing created boundaries. If we have anything in this world of confusion and difficulties, we can have peace that we stood tall against all opposition, despite how terrifying it might have seemed in the moment. You are allowed to create boundaries with the people in your life when it comes to your core values and peace. You are absolutely within your rights to limit access to your energy and peace if someone tends to disrupt it. This is your life and you get to create it to be what you envision it to be.


There are going to be difficult people and circumstances in all walks of life and at every turn. Humans are beyond complex and frustrating at times, but they can also be full of grace and love. The way you respond is what will make the difference and create the change you are seeking. You can create more change by having grace and understanding with conflict versus if you were to respond with negative energy. This will also allow you to protect your peace against a draining and unnecessary fight. Focus on the bigger picture and embrace the uncertainty. You will end up where you need to be when you need to be.


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Walking throughout the OKCPrideFest event the afternoon of Saturday June 26, 2021, I was awestruck — in the most beautiful way. I still cannot wrap my brain around the fact that this would have been heavily frowned upon just 50-years-ago. Shockingly, today it is still not fully accepted worldwide, let alone statewide in the U.S. The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S. (Kevin Wong, 2021, www.thetrevorproject.org). Our children are killing themselves every minute because they don’t know what acceptance feels like. Shaming is real, whether you acknowledge it or not. Shaming for being LGBTQ+ happens daily, in every environment, to all ages. Why does this have to be the norm? We aren’t in 1970 anymore, we aren’t even in the twentieth century. The world is quickly changing around us. It is time we start teaching our children what acceptance looks like. This segregation has got to end.

Today, in 2021, we are still fighting for gender equality, race equality and equality for LGBTQ. The fight will never end. None-the-less, we must look at how far we have come. This event showcased just that.


 


As I wove in and out of the crowds, love and acceptance radiated. Filled with colorful humans, there was a sense of safety being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals. We were all there to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. It was a judgement free zone for those who stepped into Scissortail Park that day. In a world where the old is being taken over by the new, my hope is that this old-world view will be something of the past. Until then, let us not stop fighting for what is right; equality in all aspects is a good start.

And remember, you are loved.


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