Halifax’s El Jones Plans To Awe At Annual When Sisters Speak
A stage set only to speak about the many stories of womanhood. That is what Dwayne Morgan’s 14th annual When Sisters Speak Concert will be, bringing talented, truth-evoking female poets from across North America to downtown Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts to recite their original spoken word to hundreds. Amongst this year’s lineup is 2013 – 2015 Halifax Regional Municipality Poet Laureate recipient, El Jones. This teacher, and overall humanitarian, not only wants to bring her presence to the acclaimed show, but wants her words to transcend into others a feeling of power and strength to take charge in their community and life.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO POETRY AND SPOKEN WORD? It’s not me actually… I had woken up one day just literally. In my head I had wrote a whole poem and I wrote it down, and I literally saw [Keisha Monique the poet] in the street that day and she was like, “how come you never come to poetry?” and I was like, “I didn’t know there was a poetry show.” And I ended up going to the open mic and that’s where it all started, just time, place and encouragement from another sista.
“I feel that when you take the space to speak, you speak knowing you stand on all the shoulders of the women who couldn’t speak who came before you… so it’s very important for us to be able to get up and speak truth, whatever those truths are, and then hopefully make a way for other women to speak as well.”
YOUR POETRY IS PARTICULARLY COMMITTED TO SOCIAL JUSTICE AND POLITICAL ISSUES. WHY DO THESE TOPICS HOLD SUCH MEANING TO YOU? It’s just what needs to be said. I know as a black woman when you speak you have to care about space for ourselves nobody gives you space. And when we speak as well, it’s people; because people just want to say “you’re an angry black girl,” or all these stereotypes that you are fighting against. So I feel that when you take the space to speak, you speak knowing you stand on all the shoulders of the women who couldn’t speak who came before you… so it’s very important for us to be able to get up and speak truth, whatever those truths are, and then hopefully make a way for other women to speak as well. I think I’m very conscious of that. I’m blessed to speak, I have opportunities that other people don’t, that other women in my community don’t have and we have a bad need to talk about these things… If we don’t get up on stage and use our space to talk… then I don’t think we’re doing our jobs as artists.
WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO BRING TO THE 14TH ANNUAL WHEN SISTERS SPEAK CONCERT? Well you gotta bring fire, it’s an audience of 500 black women, mostly women, but black men [too], you gotta come correct to that show. It’s a great audience, they respond to everything you say… you want to come with stuff that they can connect to. I’m finishing doing some writing right now so hopefully it will be fine. Telling the truth and going to move the audience hopefully, that’s the goal, and there’s so many women and artists that we just feed off each other. It’s not a competitive thing like, “oh I need to do better than this person,” when somebody throws down that takes you to another level, you know you’re just going to be on stage with other women that are this next level of people, so you need to make sure that your own stuff is doing the same thing.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DWAYNE MORGAN’S WORK WITH WHEN SISTERS SPEAK? Dwayne is the only artist who is making a living off his poetry. With When Brothers Speak from before, he realized that there needed to be a showcase for women as well so I think that’s a prime opportunity… What I like about it is it’s a nice professional show. It’s in a theatre… and I love community shows, I do so much grassroots work standing out in the cold, rallying with people who protest, and that’s the heart of what I do. Its also nice to get dressed up and go to a theatre, you know people are having a nice night and for us as black people to enjoy ourselves and to treat ourselves well… it’s a special night for everybody and that’s what’s important.
Interview By. Aliecia Brissett