El Jones is a political artist, a community activist working with youth and prisoners, Halifax, Nova Scotia’s, fifth Poet Laureate, and a two-time National Spoken Word Champion. She is the author of Live from the Afrikan Resistance!
El’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/el.jones.94?fref=ts.
Her Poet Laureate page with videos and writings is http://www.halifax.ca/culture/PublicArt/PoetLaureate.php
El’s book Live From the Afrikan Resistance! may be ordered at http://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/live-from-the-afrikan-resistance or http://www.amazon.com/Live-Afrikan-Resistance-El-Jones/dp/1552666786/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429183932&sr=8-1&keywords=live+from+the+afrikan
Some quotes from El’s speaking and writing:
“I think about how every word uttered by a Black woman is an act of resistance, of survival.”
“My sisters, save yourselves, Eliminate everything from your life that doesn’t contribute to your health.” … “Please don’t walk yourself back into slavery.”
“Your ancestry is the root and you are the leaf / This is not street knowledge it’s revolutionary.”
“It’s only because of the de-humanization of Black people that when we assert our humanity it’s seen as confrontational or different than when other people assert their humanity.”
Excerpts from “An Interview with El Jones,” By Gillian Jerome
My first spoken word poem really came to me as a gift of the ancestors, poetry spirits, whatever. I woke up one morning with the whole poem in my head, rhymes and everything and simply wrote it down.
… a poem for me is something I can say clearly and without question, while attesting to the reality of my own thoughts and feelings. It is not just that I speak because my Grandmother was not allowed or not able to speak, but that in speaking, the very act of claiming language is a victory against oppression.
I realized recently that this is maybe not usual, as I have been part of a few panels where other poets seemed in consensus that poetry most powerfully embodies not knowing, and questioning and uncertainty, where the appeal for me had always been the ability to essentially seize my own voice back from the unsureness of language.
I know it is necessary for Black women to continue to speak out, no matter what our fears. We’re not going to win the war, but it is our responsibility to fight the battles that we can and not leave them over for someone else to deal with. … speaking is a crucial assertion of being and power, and so when Black women do it in whatever capacity, we are by nature advocating for our own value and humanity.
So I guess it’s in my blood to be suspicious of what the institution wants from us. … our need is to stay grounded in experiences outside the institution as well. We can’t afford not to be connected for the survival of everyone.
In the end, it’s better to just do what we need to do and let people come to us instead of worrying about if someone is willing to accept what we are doing. We think of inclusion as being one way—us making it in white institutions—but not the other—white people coming to us and engaging on our terms.
We need to come to the establishment with our own power if we want to shift the hegemony. I’m not saying it’s easy or fair, but we have to do that work.
Read the full interview here: http://cwila.com/an-interview-with-gillian-jerome-founder-and-outgoing-chair-of-cwila/
00:00 – 10:08 Introduction. El Jones as Halifax’s Poet Laureate, describes her role. Nature of education and reality of the university system.
10:08 – 16:58 El Jones recites the poem Harriet (Tubman), it is in her book Live From The Afrikan Resistance!.
16:58 – 22:27 Co-host Dustin LindenSmith joins us via phone. Dustin talks about El’s writings on her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/el.jones.94?fref=ts. Local political issues discussed and compared to what’s going on in Black and Indigenous communities. Dustin asks El how she keeps her drive and spirit in the midst of ongoing civil hardship experienced by Black and Indigenous people and how mutual love is the payback.
22:27 – 22:35 [sorry the audio is bad] I was trying to say that White culture, including myself, could be diluting El’s writings, words, teachings.
22:35 – 25:31 El talks about the potential of being hired for academic work and the power of her book even while she was hesitant to publish it.
25:31 – 25:44 [inaudible, poor recording]
25:44 – 28:29 El talks about how it’s rude to be confrontational yet the writing is for Black people. “It’s only because of the de-humanization of Black people that when we assert our humanity it’s seen as confrontational or different than when other people assert their humanity.” Black contributions are degraded.
28:29 – 33:16 Dustin asks whether people are becoming more aware. El talks about how she was hated when she started her political artistry. How the liberal society acts and their motivations. The charitable-industrial complex. Mother Theresa. Radical work vs awareness work. The bullying movement as a neo-liberal move to homogenize and remove words such as racism, misogyny, oppression.
33:16 – 41:41 Talking about radical Black issues with family members who don’t “get” it and others who don’t believe there are such issues as racism. The importance of daycare for women moving forward. Dustin asks how you can touch people in their hearts. Not everyone is conscious, including Black and White people. Blacks and Whites are exposed to the same white supremacist conditionings. Part of community building is recognizing that there is racism in our Black and White families. El’s own family doesn’t totally understand her work. We have to spend our energy most efficiently. Dustin mentions Quanda Johnson who came to Dalhousie University for a year-long Fulbright Fellowship to create and produce a stage show about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Read about Quanda here: http://www.dal.ca/news/2013/11/27/sharing-the-underground-railroad-s-untold-stories.html
44:41 – 45:56 Activism is based in Love. The diunital approach says you can have racist conditioning and also appreciate and enjoy Black culture. Moving toward loving more fully.
45:56 – 51:15 El Jones reads a poem about Rocky Jones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Jones
51:15 – Conclusion. Closing music by Prosad.