A Kind of Bio

Q: What led you here?

A love of learning, teaching, research and especially helping others. I've been a journalist, a human resources manager, a professor, and a consultant. The best part of all these jobs was working directly with people, encouraging their input, listening to stories, and helping them work through conflict in a way they felt heard and valued.

Q: Why 14 Words for Love?

I was always interested in social identity but didn't know this term until 1993 when Dr. Kecia Thomas, then assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, offered a new graduate seminar. My experience was so powerful that it led me to do a dissertation on how race and ethnicity identity affects values at work.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to know about other identities, the groups that matter to us. And the more I wanted to be involved in real community change. In 1999, I volunteered to co-facilitate Ethnic and Race Study Circles in Raleigh, North Carolina. Shani Barrax Moore and I facilitated years of study circles in communities, city government, universities, schools and churches. Later, I signed on to explore social justice poetry as a writer-in-residence for Wake County schools.

14 Words for Love began as a community event on Valentine's Day 2011, after I'd read that white supremacy and other hate groups claim "14 words" as their motto. That made me angry. I thought, "Hate can't claim any words at all!" February was approaching, so the idea of reclaiming ‘14 words' as small valentines of kindness, empathy, and gratitude for everyone in the Raleigh-Durham area just happened.

Q: So you've been at 14 Words for Love for 7 years?

Not exactly. My husband JB and I moved back to Athens, GA, in 2015. My plan was to teach leadership and coordinate service-learning projects at Terry College for 10 years. But, the more I learned about myself, about what I could/could not do in my position, about the larger Athens community, and the more polarized America's political and social perspectives were getting—especially the summer of 2016 and since — it became clear that 14 Words for Love was waiting for an official birth. It needed a parent and I could be her.

Q: What are your goals?

First to get a lot of people to write 14 words or take a photo or make a small piece of art that expresses one aspect of love for a diverse and inclusive world. Second, for them to share what they created on and off our site so that they connect with others to form real relationships. Third is that 14 Words for Love becomes a platform to share ideas for successful community events all around the nation (and the world!). At those events, the ability to talk about our perspectives, to ask questions, to share without fear of vile attacks on persons or groups. We all know "conversing" about differences or what we perceive those to be only ends badly in the virtual world. While face-to-face doesn't guarantee respect and listening, these two outcomes are a LOT more likely.

Oh, and one other goal: that 14 Words for Love is successful enough so I can keep it going. I'm very fortunate. Right now, I get to combine what I've been privileged to learn and experience with one of my biggest passions: to help others realize there is no "them" – just us.

Judy Burns

Jodi Barnes, Community Collaborator in Chief