Robyn Jessome Grade 12, Inverness Education Centre Academy RBC Black History Month Student Essay Competition El Jones: Speaking for Justice November 10, 2017
El Jones: Speaking for Justice
El Jones is not only a two time National Spoken Word Champion and an astounding Canadian poet, but she is also a proud black woman and activist who expresses her passion for justice through her poetry. El Jones was born in Cardiff, Wales and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. El Jones is a radio host, activist, scholar, teacher, community organizer, and journalist (Mount Saint Vincent University, 2017). Since her days as an English student at Dalhousie University, Ms. Jones calls Halifax home. She has grown to be a well-known spoken word poet, especially throughout Atlantic Canada. In fact, Jones was the Poet Laureate for Halifax from 2013-2015.
Performing her first poetry at an open mic event for World Iz Bond - a collective formed by Dalhousie students in 2001 to give spoken word poets a place to share their art, Ms. Jones shone bright. Jones performances and leadership within the group was so successful that she became the artistic director of World Iz Bond Spoken Word Artistic Collective. Jones spoken word art tells stories of racism, women’s struggle for equality, the damaging effects of colonialism, as well as the need for the reformation of the prison system. Her passion also includes a strong desire to reach young black Canadians. El Jones has since performed across Canada. At the 10th Anniversary All-Star edition of When Sisters Speak (2010) in Toronto (Atlantic Canadian Poet’s Archive), El Jones added her unique voice to a rising chorus of black spoken word poets.
After her success with World Iz Bond, El Jones set out on a reading tour in 2012 with George Elliott Clarke where she was sponsored by Citizen and Heritage Canada. She then worked at NSCC and taught the African Canadian Transition program. Later, El Jones taught in the Women’s Studies program at Acadia University. Along with her successful career, Jones has written several articles for the Huffington Post Canada and eventually wrote her first book of poetry, Live From the Afrikan Resistance! in 2014 (Atlantic Canadian Poets Archive).
Today, El Jones is now the Nancy’s Chair at Mount Saint Vincent University for 2017-2019. The Nancy’s Chair “…raises awareness of women's issues by bringing to campus distinguished scholars in women's studies and activists who have contributed to the advancement of women” (Mount Saint Vincent, 2016). This recent appointment recognizes the significance and importance of social justice and women's issues in Ms. Jones’ life and work.
One of the main reasons Ms. Jones is so passionate about the poems she writes is because it is simply a part of who she is as a black woman in Nova Scotia. El Jones is inspired to speak for her fellow Africans and ancestors; their words come to life through her. The words and dreams of the past find their way into the present, even when reality frightening and dangerous.
In April 2016, three black men were shot and killed in Halifax. In March, only a month later, another black man was murdered in Halifax. This tragedy is what inspired Ms.Jones to create the poem “I Know What You See”. Throughout this poem, Ms.Jones talks about different assumptions non-black people have towards African Canadians. Within this poem, she also brings the awareness of how scary it is for many black people to grow up with the fear of being approached by a white police officer, or getting bullied due to the colour of their skin. Her comments about how poetry can help in dangerous times were: "It reaches people, it touches people, it changes minds," she said, "I do believe that." (Rachel Ward CBC News, 2016). That comment makes it very clear that El Jones has a genuine passion to reach out and to educate people on what is right and what is wrong, especially when it comes to issues relating to African Canadians. African Canadians have a history of being marginalized, a condition to which many activists and citizens from across the globe stood up and fought against. EL Jones will continue to stand up and speak up for what is right and to educate people not only within a classroom, but also in the broader society.
“El Jones.” Atlantic Canadian Poets' Archive, www.stu-acpa.com/el-jones.html. “El Jones.” Fernwood Publishing: Critical Books For Critica Thinkers, Fernwood Publishing Company Limited , fernwoodpublishing.ca/authors/view/el-jones. “El Jones.” HuffPost Canada, TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc, www.huffingtonpost.ca/author/el-jones/. Mount Saint Vincent University. “We stand with El Jones.” The Coast Halifax, The Coast Halifax, 29 Oct. 2017, www.thecoast.ca/halifax/we-stand-with-el-jones/Content?oid=10246302. Mount Saint Vincent University. “Nancy's Chair in Women's Studies.” Mount Saint Vincent University, Mount Saint Vincent University, 29 Oct. 2016, www.msvu.ca/en/home/programsdepartments/BA/womensstudies/nancyschair/default.aspx. Ward, Rachel. “Deaths of 4 young black men in a month move El Jones to pen powerful poem.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 29 Apr. 2016, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/el-jones-halifax-council-shootings-racism-violence-poet-1.3557608.