My senior year of high school I took a public speaking course. I figured, “I’m already a good public speaker, and I need the extra credit for my college application this should a breeze”. And so my journey into the mediocrity that plagues senior year commenced. What I didn’t realize was how it would affect my life.
A personal favorite speech of mine was the performance of a piece called “I Am Not Batman” by Marco Ramirez. A great rendition of it is done in a TED Talk (shameless TED plug) by a hero of mine, Adam Driver. The assignment was to recite a piece of literature in spoken word form. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me if what I had performed was spoken word: for that you’d need to consult with Jinahie.
I first heard of Jinahie when I ran into her TEDx Talk right before leaving for college. I remember finding the premise of her talk intriguing, as I was fascinated by her talent with spoken word. Little did I realize, or at least until I watched the video 3 more times and shared it with my entire family, that her talk was given at TEDxFoggyBottom. So when I found out I would get the chance to interview her for the Speaker Project Series, I was justifiably ecstatic.
Jinahie is a spoken word artist, one who describes her profession as “the opposite of a therapist.” She explained in her talk: “With therapists you sit down, you tell them your problems, and you feel better. With a spoken word artist you sit down, I tell you my problems, and you feel worse.” When I asked her about this, she told me the story behind her analogy: that criticism of poetry and of wordsmiths is the sad nature of their work. Jinahie explained to me that artists see a lot of substance in sorrow. That sadness is what drives her talk’s topic, that of artivism. The use of art to talk about relevant social, political, and cultural events.
Getting into the meat of her talk, she spoke about artivism and its role in modern culture. How through the medium of paint, video, music -or in her case- word of mouth, individuals had the power to inflict real change. She mentioned The Miss Peru beauty pageant addressing violence against women, black twitter and its conversation about the Cyntoia Brown case, even Disney’s animated film Zootopia and it’s message about police, stereotypes, and violence. In her words, “the beauty of artivism is that you don’t have to be an artist, you just have to come with what you have.”
That drives home a vital part of Jinahie’s work as a spoken word artist, the ability to bring one’s experiences and vulnerabilities to the table: to let it all lay out and use it to address something you care about. In her work apart from the talk at TEDxFoggyBottom 2017, Jinahie has worked with Delta Airlines and the Breast Cancer Research Fund, spoken about her relationships with her family and friends and the big-picture issues that affect them, performed in front of former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Pulitzer winning drama Ruined, and helped to tell the stories of countless individuals through her Potluck poems.
Sitting down with an individual who may very well be responsible for my application to and subsequent work with TEDxFoggyBottom, I found myself lost in the weight of her sentences. Jinahie is an individual whose words carry so much meaning, so much life, that inspiration is almost inevitable.