Through years of writing and a dedication to poetry, Waltham-based artist and “recovering journalist” Joyce Jellison has found freedom, passion and an unvarnished voice. Now, through her Write Out Loud workshops, her mission is to work to help other black women find their own unique way of expressing themselves. (Photo courtesy of Anh Dao Kolbe/ADK Photography)
|The new year promises to be a busy one for Jellison — she starts a new workshop in her Write Out Loud series next month, and plans to launch an ambitious project to engage incarcerated females in telling their own stories this coming May. (Photo courtesy of Anh Dao Kolbe/ADK Photography)|
Joyce Angela Jellison says she has always had a big mouth.
The Waltham-based poet and author has an independent spirit and no problem sharing her feelings. It’s a trait she wants all black women to share.
For the last few years, Jellison has run Write Out Loud, a nonprofit organization that facilitates workshops for women of color who want to learn how to express themselves better. The new year promises to be busy for Write Out Loud — in addition to a new workshop starting up next month at the Cambridge Women’s Center, Jellison recently announced the launch of a new project, titled “Voices Carry,” focusing on women incarcerated in Massachusetts prisons.
Scheduled to start in May, the project aims “to empower these women through words and have them document [where] they are now emotionally, spiritually and physically,” Jellison wrote in an e-mail. “Those without power often [turn] this helplessness and perceived lack of power onto themselves … It is the goal of the Voices Carry project to heighten awareness of these and other issues that face women in prison.”
Jellison said the project was inspired by her experience with a relative in prison who died — a fact that Jellison didn’t know “until over a year had passed,” she said.
“It was like, this person went away and there was just silence. Where had this life gone?” she told the Banner in an interview. “What would he have shared if given the opportunity? I am about encouraging all voices [and] narratives to be documented — even those that are not close to us.”
Voices Carry exemplifies Jellison’s commitment to helping black women sharpen the skill of self-expression — because in order to combat the negative images all-too-frequently disseminated in the media and pop culture, she says, black women need to start writing down their own truths.
“I have found my voice, and now I want to help others find theirs,” she said.
Jellison said that many past participants in the Write Out Loud workshops have come away with the attitude that they can control their images and their lives, not only on paper, but also online.
“We need to be blogging more because blogs have created a space outside of the corporate media paradigm to talk about their feelings,” she said.
Even when those feelings might not be very popular.
Take last summer, for example. Jellison says she got into many heated debates with other African Americans over whether or not Barack Obama would be an effective president. While Jellison said she voted for Obama, she also said she thinks that Americans can’t expect the president-elect to “change” the country’s problems and circumstances all by himself.
“The revolution will not be led by Obama,” she said. “You can wear all the Obama buttons all day long, but America is still going to have the same problems on Jan. 20 [after Obama’s inauguration]. All of us have to lead the revolution to bring change to this country.”
It may not have been a trendy viewpoint in the run-up to Election Day, but for Jellison, voicing the opinion was all about keeping it real — and with Obama about to enter the White House, it’s now about speaking truth to power.
Jellison traces her commitment to honest discussion back to her roots in Philadelphia.
The youngest of four children, Jellison says she grew up surrounded by artistic and politically active family members. The thoughts and writings of poets like Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka and others from the Black Arts Movement were regular topics up for kitchen table discussion. In fact, Jellison says, her middle name pays homage to Angela Davis, the former Black Panther famous for taking unconventional positions.(p2)
The official Web site of Jellison's nonprofit organization that serves economically and socially marginalized women living in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan by engaging them to document their life stories. More »
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