Who Is Joy Elan and Why Is She Holding On To Her Pride


Redeemed World Magazine had an opportunity to catch up with San Fransisco bay area author and spoken word artist Joy Elan for a little Q & A about her passion and perspective. 

RWM: Summarize Joy if possible from a moment in time that ignited what has become your passion for writing and the spoken word?
JE: I have always loved writing, whether it was stories, essays, and poetry. It was my outlet. I started writing poetry when I got older since I learned that it was like writing songs. I love music too so poetry is the lyrics, without the instruments. I didn’t start performing poetry until I published my first book in 2011. Going to open mic to perform my work got me to meet other spoken word artists and push me to become a spoken word artist (memorizing my work and performing it). Very different from being a poet, where a poet just recites poetry by memory or reading it.
RWM: Where are you from and what role has that played into the impact you seek to have when you share your work and experiences with your community, fan base and or world at large?
JE: I am from Berkeley and Oakland, CA (born in Berkeley but raised in Oakland, while attending Berkeley schools). I am both cities and it shaped what I write about because I write about relatable topics from what I’ve experienced or witnessed other people experience. It helps me to go to different venues in the community, from San Jose to Sacramento, to share my work. It amazes me how other people in other cities can relate to what I’m sharing. The other thing is, I travel to other cities, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, to perform and people like what I’m talking about because I keep it real. I don’t talk about love. I talk about what it’s like to work a job where you have people who let their titles go to their heads or having student loans and trying to survive in this economy. Those are topics that I don’t hear many poets/spoken word artists talk about and these topics reach a wider audience because a lot of people are experiencing these things, not just Black people.
RWM: As a spoken word artist/performer who is deaf; does that have an impact in any way when choosing words?
JE: I have a hearing loss but I’m not deaf. I am hard of hearing, which means that I can hear without my hearing aids, just not clearly (words sound mumbled). Having some hearing shapes the way I write because I can play with words because I know how they’re pronounced or what they sound like. I can use double entendres or make a word rhyme. It’s like Biggie in Juicy. He said, “Birthdays were the worst days, now we sip champagne when we’re thirsty,” knowing thirsty is being pronounced thir-stay to rhyme with birthdays and worst days. My hearing loss plays a role in how I choose my words for my poems or for metaphors. I listen to a lot of music and read the lyrics, so that’s my exercise to train my way of using words. Also, I watch a lot of comedians and I listen to how they use words to deliver their jokes. Like the Wayans Bros and Martin have it good with playing with words and they teach me how to be creative in cracking jokes or using them in my writing.
RWM: When did you discover that words were powerful?
JE: When I was a kid. I always read and wrote stories.
RWM: Do you seek after inspiration or does it find you?
JE: I let inspiration find me. If I’m not inspired to write it, I don’t bother. I’m not going to chase it because it seems forced.
RWM: Who’s your favorite musician and why?
JE: Teena Marie, even though she’s no longer here. She was a poet and she was a music genius. She wrote, arranged and produced all of her music except her first album. Her music is timeless. Since she left, I’ve been listening to more old-school rappers, like Whodini, MC Breed, Richie Rich, Ice Cube, and many more. I miss the lyrics and the beat that these new rappers lack. Also, I’ve been supporting more local artists like Kev Choice, Mistah FAB, and other Bay Area artists to show them love and support. I want to support them for giving back to the community.
RWM: Do you have a favorite author?
JE: No, I don’t. At one point, it was Terry McMillan but as I continued to read more books, I learned to appreciate them all for their writing and ideas. I tend to love biographies more, like Huey Newton, Michael Eric Dyson’s books. I love history so to read real life experiences not told in history books, brings me to life.
RWM: What do you love about the bay area?
JE: It’s home. It’s diverse, even though we are losing that. We are close to everything. Oakland is in the middle of it all. We aren’t far from Los Angeles by flight and a road trip is always fun.
RWM: Name a few spots people should checkout in the bay?
JE: Support events by local artists. Too many to name but every year, there’s the Life Is Living Festival in Oakland to honor the Black Panther Party’s anniversary. The open mic scene is dying due to lack of venues and high rents (gentrification). Check out Yoshi’s, Sweet Fingers in San Leandro, Liege in Oakland. I’ve been out of the club life for a minute so I don’t know where to go out like I used to, unless I get an invitation on Facebook or I see fliers on social media.
 RWM: As a woman of color from a community with a history shaped in part by social change and progressive policies; how are you impacted by the challenges that impact many of the male counterparts of your community?
JE: The challenges that affect my male counterparts in my community affect me too because I work at a community center and I am trying my best to keep the boys active and keep them off the streets. When I worked in education, it was my job to let them know that they were smart and could be successful. I praised the fathers who showed up to their children’s school events to let them know that people are seeing the positive images of Black men in society. I am around Black men who are vocal and work in the community to make an impact. It starts with us and the more we are out there, the children can see that we are making an impact. It truly takes a village to change things and hopefully, we are slowly getting rid of the negative images of Black men and boys.
RWM: What was the motivation behind your book “Holding On To My Pride”?
JE: I wanted to talk about gentrification in Oakland and be the voice for so many of us who love our city. I published Life Is A Canvas a few months prior to writing Holding On To My Pride and I wanted to do a sequel, but make it relevant to the times. It takes place 9 years after Life Is A Canvas and it’s mostly my story and the natives of Oakland who are dealing with gentrification. After reading so many articles on the impact of gentrification, I wanted to write a short story about it. It was so easy to write because I did enough research on it and experienced it enough to let it come to life. Again, inspiration found me and it was written in one month.
RWM: Where can people find your work or be informed about your next performance?
 Joy Elan (www.authorjoyelan.com). I have a youtube channel and many ways to be found. Link to my books is www.amazon.com/author/joyelan. Also, I write occasionally for Broke-Ass Stuart on social topics that I want to shed light on.

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