by Minister of Information JR
Jazz is one of the new up and coming poets out of the Bay who has been making a name for herself at poetry readings over the last few years. I like seeing the next generation of artists that will define culture in the area of the country that I love the most. Jazz is definitely one of the most loquacious and passionate young sistas to come out of the concrete jungle of Oakland in a long time. Check out this talented young woman in this exclusive Q&A …
M.O.I. JR: How did you get into poetry? When was the first time you read your work publicly?
Jazz: Never have I been a stranger to a microphone or a stage. Since birth, the world has been my stage. I started singing at 3 years old and by the age of 5, my father had me memorize and recite Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. speeches. My father placed me in a poetry/writers workshop class at the West Oakland Library. The class was taught by Wanda Sabir. It was there that two of my first poems where published in a youth compilation book. The first poem was on Rubin Hurricane Carter entitled “The Dream” and the second was entitled “Poison.”
There was no stopping me. I wrote any and everything that came to mind. I entered the Maxwell Park Elementary Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Fest and won first place.
Shortly after that, my father became homeless and at 12 years old, I entered the foster care system. I lived on the streets and in and out of group homes and foster homes. In total, I have been in 10 group homes and six foster homes and 15 schools.
My writing changed drastically due to my experience living on the streets. It also changed because at the time I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship. I slept under park benches and sold dope to make ends meet instead of selling my body like most girls my age living on the streets.
One night I was listening to Street Soldiers. It was there I heard a spoken word artist, Ise Lyfe, and his poem, “Beautiful,” spoke to me. It changed my life at a point in time when I felt hopeless. So I began to do more research on spoken word. I started to attend a writing workshop run by Youth Speaks and taught by Ise Lyfe. I then entered the Youth Speaks National Poetry Slam and have been performing since.
M.O.I. JR: What kinds of things do you write about? How have people responded to you?
Jazz: I write about what I see. I write about my life experiences. I write about my people, the ills of my community and I expose the fake. Sometimes I use my tongue as my trigger and my words as my bullets. There are other times I simply speak from a place of healing and how to move forward after addressing issues like poverty, self expression, violence, drugs and rape.
A lot of my poems are about the change I want. I try to make sure my poems are personal so the audience can get to know the real me and all the thoughts that reside in the corners of my mind. In a lot of my poems I talk about how it was growing up without my mother and her being addicted to crack. I’ve talked about being raped and being in an abusive relationship at a young age.
I’ve had many different responses to my poetry. For a lot of people it’s been life changing and inspiring. I’ve never been booed off of a stage or not asked to come back. Also, the young people I’ve mentored tend to look up to me. When I started to perform my poetry, I didn’t care if I received all 10s from any of the judges I worked with, as long as one person’s life was changed in the crowd or that I was able to tell my story for the person with the same story that felt voiceless like I once felt. I write sometimes just to inspire myself.
M.O.I. JR: What poets are you inspired by?
Jazz: Amir Suliman, Jesus El, Ise Lyfe, Rudy Francisco, Nikki Giovanni, Gil Scott Heron, Suheir Hammad, June Jordan, Dom Jones, Maya Angelou, Ryan Nicole, Nikki Black, Audre Lorde, Tupac Shakur, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, just to name a few .
M.O.I. JR: What is the hardest thing about being a young female up and coming poet in the Bay?
Jazz: Not just in the Bay necessarily but in the world in general being a Black woman and being young as well, I wasn’t encouraged to express myself, at least not without crying. I was taught to just push through it.
Spoken word to me is becoming a more male dominated art form, so just having respect or a platform open all the time is important. I sometimes think being young works in my favor in poetry. Now that’s the voice people want to hear. In the Bay, though, I get love!
M.O.I. JR: Who are some of the people you have worked with?
Jazz: I’ve opened for Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Zion I, Susan Taylor and Michael Eric Dyson.
M.O.I. JR: What are you currently working on?
Jazz: Currently I’m working on my chapbook, “Small Minds Say Small Things,” which is a compilation of poems, short stories, life experiences and words of wisdom. Also I’m in a new independent film, “Art of Love,” by Baayan Bakari. I’m also working my blogspot and website, Small Minds Say Small Things. I will be performing at the Empowering Women of Color Conference (EWOCC) at the University of California, Berkeley, on Feb. 19.
M.O.I. JR: What advice would you give other young female poets?
Jazz: Don’t stop! One of my favorite quotes is “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” With that being said, live each day as if you’re already the person you want to become. Keep writing. Find one thing or many things you believe in and fight for that belief.
M.O.I. JR: What kind of effect do you want people to get from your poetry?
Jazz: Love, change, growth inspired to create a revolution in yourself and others. I want people to be healed. I’m writing for my people to be free, so innately I want people to feel a sense of freedom.
M.O.I. JR: How can people keep up with you online?
Jazz: Face book “Jazz Monique Hudson,” www.myspace.com/ladyday1, Youtube “Jazz inspires the multitudes,” Twitter “jazzpoet.” Look out for my blog “Small Minds Say Small Things.”