Video Note: This profile was shot and produced prior to January 2013, when Project Girl Performance Collective officially changed its brand name to Girl Be Heard, marking the organization’s evolution from a grassroots NYC collective to a growing global movement with the same empowering mission.
Meet the remarkable Jessica Greer Morris (MPH), one of Newsweek’s 2012 “150 Fearless Women Who Shake The World” and Executive Director of Girl Be Heard, an incredible organization that creates a safe space for girls to write and perform their own work and empowers them to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders.
The published playwright, human rights activist, mother of twin boys, public health advocate and champion for women and girls all over the world, is fostering a brave new generation through her work. This is Jessica’s inspiring story.
How She Got To Where She Is
Jessica is a published playwright, founder of Playwrights Unite, and beneficiary of Love Creek/RCL that produces her work in New York City. She wrote and starred in a New York Times acclaimed one-woman show, Searching for a Mensch. As of late, Jessica has produced work for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women conference, the Samuel French One-Act Competition, NYC Fringe Festival, and the Estrogenius Festival. Jessica is also a principal at Man Up, a global, youth-led campaign to stop violence against women that she helped to launch in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup with 100 young activists from twenty-five countries.
Jessica also works as a consultant where she brings expertise in the area of public health, strategic management and communications to both not-for-profits and private industry. Before her global consulting work took off in 2006, she spent six years as the Director of Community Relations at the New York City Department of Health. During her tenure at the Health Department, she often served as a media spokesperson during times of crisis (post September 11th) and the ensuing politically charged anthrax and SARS eras that followed. Before working at the NYC Health Department, Jessica was the District Manager of Manhattan Community Board No. 4 (1994-1998) where she received accolades and honors for her advocacy work with communities throughout Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. She also worked as a senior manager at the NYC Police Department and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, always with a focus on community grassroots organizing.
After graduating from Columbia University with a Masters in Public Health, Jessica was asked to serve as the Acting Director of the Executive MPH Program at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Subsequently, she was sought out by another division at Columbia to work as an HIV/AIDS consultant for the International Center for AIDS Care and Prevention, one of the largest AIDS-service providers in the developing world. She also served as the Communications and Development Director at Family Care International promoting reproductive health strategies for hard-to-reach, poor populations in Africa and South America.
Jessica joined Girl Be Heard as Executive Director and Producer in 2009. She currently lives in Brooklyn Heights with her husband and feisty, identical twin boys.
What Else She Shared… More With Jessica Greer Morris
WYSK:What is the most interesting item in your handbag right now?
JGM: We’re doing a show on sex trafficking, so I always have my sex trafficking post cards for the debut of our first full length show, Trafficked, in my handbag.
WYSK:What gadget or technology can you not live without to do what you do?
JGM: I’m not a big fan of technology. I’m a little bit of a luddite. Part of the work we do is to create a safe space for girls to write and perform their own work, so if they’re on their phones or their ipads or if they’re texting, you don’t get the same intimacy and you don’t get the same kind of depth of healing through art.
WYSK:What is the last book you read?
JGM:Cutting For Stone. I so love this book. It’s about these incredible doctors and the work they do in Ethiopia working on fistula and doing fistula operations, which are often the result of war because women who are in a war torn country in the developing world like Congo or Ethiopia literally get raped so violently that their insides are all ripped open. So they need to get a fistula operation to basically repair the damage. And it’s not the kind of operation where you go in once and you get repaired. It’s the type of operation where you often have to stay in the hospital for an extensive period of time and get operation over operation to heal. So, this is a beautiful, poetic novel about these incredible, heroic doctors that chose to do this work over any other work to heal women.
WYSK:What is your biggest pet peeve?
JGM: Judgment or criticism… I think that’s one of the most damaging things you can do for another human being, especially when it comes to creativity. To criticize someone basically shuts down their opportunity to be creative and to dream and to hope. It’s really hard to be honest about what you are going through if you fear people are going to judge you.
WYSK:What is your favorite indulgence?
JGM: Ooooooh… I have a thing for chocolate, but I like it warm with something cold. I love warm molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. I love warm brownies. I actually make Trader Joe’s brownies multiple times a week for my kids… well for me first (laughter), but for the kids as well.
Invest In Girls… Help Keep GBH’s Work Alive
If you are interested in supporting the incredible work that Jessica and the staff at Girl Be Heard do in creating a safe space for girls to be creative, realize their full potential and thrive as brave, confident, socially conscious leaders, there are so many ways to help or get involved… DONATE, SHOP, BOOK A SHOW, JOIN THE MOVEMENT.