Associate Culture Editor, sojo.net

Jenna Barnett is an associate culture editor for sojo.net.

Jenna was born in San Antonio, Texas, and has found home in California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. She has a B.A. in sociology and religion from Furman University and an M.F.A in Literary Reportage from New York University.

Before joining the Sojourners team, Jenna managed the International Rescue Committee’s large urban gardens in San Diego, and worked as a Peace Writer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, where she used creative nonfiction, interviews, and conflict analysis to tell the life story of Pauline Dempers, a human rights activist and torture survivor from Namibia. It's a life goal of Jenna's to continue uplifting the stories of women who are cooler than she is.

Jenna has written for McSweeney's, the Belladonna, and New York Magazine's Grubstreet. You can follow her on Twitter @jennacbarnett and see what she’s creating at jennabarnett.com.

Posts By This Author

Thousands of Women Could Die Because of Sessions' Latest Immigration Decision

by Jenna Barnett 06-12-2018

FILE PHOTO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a legal decision that has fatal implications for our neighbors fleeing abuse around the world. Sessions has decided to deny asylum to everyone coming to the U.S. to escape domestic violence, overturning a precedent set by the Obama administration in 2009.

This Mother's Day, Give the Gift of Civic Engagement

by Jenna Barnett 05-11-2018

Even though Congress has not voted on the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, states have begun using it as a model for state-level legislation. We must keep the momentum rolling. This Mother’s Day, give the gift of civic engagement.

10 Pieces You Need to Read About Sexual Assault and the Church

by Jenna Barnett, by Helen Salita 04-30-2018

Just as one month of awareness every April isn’t enough, neither is one 10-article roundup. Our prayer is this: May our reading and writing lead to preaching and legislating, may our preaching and legislating heal trauma and end sexual violence.

How Churches Can Stand for Survivors, Not the Accused

by Jenna Barnett 04-27-2018

Churches must not be scared of what an independent investigation will uncover. Instead, they should fear what an investigation that prioritizes the accused won’t uncover. We cannot truly preach the Good News until we are ready to reveal the bad news of the harassment and violence at work in many of our churches and homes.

2018’s 10 Christian Women to Watch

by Jenna Barnett 03-08-2018

Every International Women’s Day, we compile a roundup of Christian women who are making and shaping history right now. From advocating for immigration reform, to battling racism and abuse in the church and through the church, women are leading the way. Below, the women we are honoring this year share with us their hopes, heroes, and blessings for 2018.

The Golden Globes Held a Funeral. Now Let's Hold One in Church

by Jenna Barnett 01-08-2018

Image via Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

I hope we stop spreading the dangerous myth that abuse and harassment doesn’t happen among Christians.

Have You Ever Heard a Sermon on Domestic Violence?

An Open Letter to Faith Leaders to Speak Out for Survivors

Faith communities can play a powerful role in preventing violence and supporting survivors, but collectively we’re falling short. Two-thirds (65 percent) of pastors say they speak once a year or less about sexual and domestic violence, with 1 in 10 never addressing it at all. This failure has a deep and lasting impact.

'Get "Them" Off the Streets'

by Jenna Barnett 09-18-2017
Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and the future of juvenile justice

In recent years, the Department of Justice had begun to veer away from the harsh sentencing guidelines that were implemented in the 1980s and ’90s, especially those used to lock up low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. But Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on course to stop those changes.

In a new set of guidelines issued in May 2017, Sessions instructed prosecutors to pursue charges for the most serious offense possible, including charges that carried harsh sentences and mandatory minimums. Sessions described these guidelines as “moral and just” and praised them for producing “consistency.”

But humans are not uniform and consistent, and neither are their crimes. U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour believes mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines make sentencing far too easy. “I considered sentencing to be an art and not a science,” Coughenour told The Atlantic in 2016. “And it’s not a science. It’s a human being dealing with other human beings.”

Neither Angels Nor Demons

by Jenna Barnett 09-18-2017
We preach compassion for girls who endure abuse and trauma, but what about when those same girls commit crimes?

I CAN THINK OF MANY MISTAKES I made before turning 18, including a couple that could have landed me in juvenile detention: fireworks in the suburbs, running from the cops, lying to the cops about running from the cops, and one or two others I’ll keep to myself because everyone I interviewed for this story insists on this: Nobody is the worst thing they have ever done.

If those words are true, Sara Kruzan will not always be the 16-year-old who shot her sex trafficker in the head right after he took her to another hotel room.

And that means Krys Shelley is not just the 17-year-old who used an unloaded gun to rob someone.

But back when Shelley stood trial as a teen, the judge only saw a criminal. Shelley still remembers what the judge said before delivering the 12-year sentence: “Good luck.” He studied Shelley closely. “You’ll do just fine in there.”

Shelley believes that the judge felt like Shelley fit the bill of a juvenile delinquent—black, tall, and masculine. At the time, Shelley identified as a tomboy (today, Shelley is gender nonconforming). From an early age, Shelley could grow a full facial beard because of an inborn hormone imbalance—a common symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

But it’s less about what the courts saw in Shelley, and more about what they didn’t see: an honor-roll student with a steady job whose pastor came to the courtroom to offer support.

Why Is the U.S. Handcuffing Incarcerated Women In Childbirth?

by Jenna Barnett 07-20-2017

Image via Seth Drum/Flickr

The vast majority of incarcerated women have a history of trauma. According to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, 75 percent of incarcerated women have suffered severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82 percent have endured serious physical or sexual abuse as children.

3 Ways the Senate Republicans’ Health Care Bill Targets Women

by Jenna Barnett 06-26-2017

Thirteen male senators wrote a 142-page healthcare bill behind closed doors that puts the health of women in the U.S. in danger. While the authors of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” may have forgotten about women — only including the words “women” and “woman” a few times in the whole document — Jesus never forgot about women’s health.

Let us not forget that healing was central to Jesus’ ministry, and the healing of afflicted women was just as important to him as the healing of men. Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath in a room full of protesting men (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus healed a hemorrhaging woman considered ritually unclean who had been denied coverage — in a sense — for 12 years (Mark 5:25-34, Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48).

Women Have to Work at Least 94 Extra Days to Earn What Men Do

by Jenna Barnett 04-04-2017

For those who are counting, that’s 94 days. Ninety-four reminders of the stubbornly persistent — and plateauing — pay gap between men and women. According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time working woman earns 20 percent less than the average full-time working man. The disparity grows starker for women of color: Black women make 37 percent less than men, and Latinas make 46 percent less. This disparity is wide enough to push some people to activism, and others to try to understand why this gap exists.

#WomenCrushWednesday: Margaret Bourke-White, the Woman Behind History’s Most Iconic Photos

by Jenna Barnett 03-29-2017

Women sewing American Flags in Brooklyn on July 24, 1940. Photo: Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments, by Margaret Bourke-White

Bourke-White traveled the world in search of complete stories: from Depression-era Hooverville to partitioning India to Apartheid-era South Africa to Nazi Germany. She became the first female war photojournalist and the first photographer for LIFE. After surviving a helicopter crash and getting stranded in the Arctic, Bourke-White’s colleagues declared her “Maggie the Indestructible.”

#WomenCrushWednesday: Dolores Huerta, ‘Dragon Lady’ of the Labor Movement

by Jenna Barnett 03-22-2017

Image via Pitzer College/Flickr

In 1993, Huerta became the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. And in January, a documentary about her work, aptly titled Dolores, premiered at Sundance. 

#WomenCrushWednesday: Lois Jenson, Iron Miner and the First Person to Win a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in the U.S.

by Jenna Barnett 03-15-2017

The fight to end sexual harassment and assault in the workplace continues. In 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was asked to investigate 6,758 claims of sexual harassment — a number that has been steadily declining over the past several years (7,944 cases in 2010). Only about half of the claims result in charges. According to a Huffington Post YouGov poll, only 27 percent of the people who experienced sexual harassment reported the incident.

#WomenCrushWednesday: Dorothy Height, Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement

by Jenna Barnett 03-08-2017

Dorothy Height, June 2008. Photo by Adrian Hood /CC BY-SA 4.0

Height is something of an unsung hero to both the civil rights and women’s rights movements, largely because of the sexism within the civil rights movement and the racism within the women rights movement. According to the New York Times, Height is “widely credited as the first person in the modern civil rights era to treat the problems of equality for women and equality for African-Americans as a seamless whole, merging concerns that had been largely historically separate.”

10 Women of Faith Leading the Charge Ahead

by Jenna Barnett 03-08-2017

In honor of International Women’s Day, we asked some of our favorite women leaders questions about their personal hopes, faiths, fights for justice, and how their womanhood surrounds and informs those parts of them. Here is some of what they had to say.

#GrabYourHeadphones: 8 Songs by Powerful Women to Soundtrack Your Women’s Day

by Jenna Barnett 03-07-2017

Image via Bruno Bollaert/Flickr

There are many ways you might spend International Women’s Day: going to work, staying at home, being a woman, or thanking a woman. This playlist is for all of these ways you’re observing the day, and more.

Hillary Clinton's Humans of New York Interview Resonates Because We've All Experienced That Moment

by Jenna Barnett 09-09-2016

For Hillary Clinton, it was a classroom in Harvard with scared law school hopefuls trying to keep her from studying justice. For Malala Yousafzai it was a school bus loaded with an armed member of the Taliban, determined to keep her off her schoolyard soapbox. For me — clearly not saving the best for last here — it was a kitchen in the South with a confused freshman Baptist hell-bent on keeping me away from the pulpit.

Songs of Longing

by Jenna Barnett 07-05-2016
A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, by Leyla McCalla. Jazz Village.
Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla

LEYLA MCCALLA wrote the title track of her latest album A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey while imagining the experience of the Haitian boat people—political asylum seekers who packed into sailboats headed for the U.S. only to get intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard mid-journey and sent back to the politically volatile and violent land from which they fled. In the early 1990s, the U.S. repatriated more than 34,000 of these Haitians before hearing their asylum cases and listening to their stories.

McCalla sings their stories now—in French, Haitian Creole, and English. The album’s title is a Haitian proverb that McCalla came across in an excerpt of Gage Averill’s book of the same name: A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey. McCalla explained to NPR that the phrase captures the spirit of her Haitian ancestors, who overcame slavery only to fall in and out of political turmoil, but that the proverb also points to a universal experience: “It made me think of the roles that we all play throughout our lifetimes, how we are all trying to navigate our way through this world where sometimes it feels as though we are the hunter, and sometimes we are the prey.”

McCalla can make us feel like we’ve gone back in time through songs written years ago about people fleeing another time’s violence. But McCalla’s voice also pushes us to consider today’s Syrian boat people, intercepted by white waters, delayed by white fear. And she urges us to consider this historically systemic turmoil alongside our own feelings of personal displacement and victory. The album’s inspiration is as timeless as McCalla’s voice.

Only three of the tracks on A Day for the Hunter are Leyla McCalla originals. All the others she arranges and bolsters with vocals from former Carolina Chocolate Drops band mate Rhiannon Giddens, the jazz guitar of Marc Ribot, and the fiddle of Louis Michot. McCalla incorporates the talents of all these musicians without crowding the sound of her songs. The instruments and voices almost take turns, giving A Day for the Hunter an uncluttered, focused, and conversational feel.