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Poetry in the Age of Mass Resistance: With Alex Elle and Jason Reynolds

We are taught to be strong. We are taught to be relentless fighters and advocates. We are taught to carry our crosses and have room for someone else’s. But we are not taught to feel joy. In this age of mass resistance and protest, it has become increasingly important to choose yourself and preserve your peace. We are all tasked with the responsibility of saving our communities when often we do not have the space to take on more. There is power in our words and what we choose to share with the world. But it is easy for our words to be stifled in the face of adversity if we aren’t rooted in authenticity and bravery.

Jason Reynolds and Alex Elle are two talented writers that call the D.C. area home. In choosing to be storytellers and advocates, they have touched millions of people around the world with their messages of self-care and bravery. They challenge us to unpack the choices we make and empower us to fill our lives with unyielding and unprecedented joy.

Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds

Alex Elle, a renowned author and self-care advocate, has dedicated her career to empowering people to stand in their power.

“In order to tell other people’s stories, we have to tell our own. We cannot pour into our communities if we have not filled up ourselves… How can we be in community with other people in disenfranchised communities, in underserved communities, and be depleted? And serve them good? We can’t. I don’t believe that that is giving our best selves to our community.” – Alex Elle

It is easy to forget about yourself in your pursuit of social justice and change, but perhaps our best play is developing radical and unwavering joy. Our resistance is our joy. And our joy is the freedom to exist in our most authentic selves. According to the New York Times best-selling author and poet, Jason Reynolds, activism is an “inside-out” job.

“What good is it for you to pretend that you’re going to be able to hold down the community as a whole when you’re not fortified to hold down yourself?”
– Jason Reynolds

Our story is the most powerful asset we own. We can choose to share it and use it to move others, but it will always belong to us. Despite its influence, our story is fragile and malleable, especially when we are put in positions that compromise our joy.

“As black and brown women, we’re supposed to just show up and grin and bear it and then make it happen when a lot of the time we don’t know how or we don’t want to. And we feel like we don’t have a choice but to do it, but to hold it down. But what if we don’t want to hold it down?”
– Alex Elle

In order to survive in this world, we must have the courage to choose to stand in our truth. Thought-leaders like Langston Hughs, Maya Angelou, and Audre Lorde utilized the art of storytelling and poetry to move their communities and champion for social reform. As the world evolves, and we continue with this outward focus, our pursuit to ensure that our neighbors are safe, has resulted in a failure to protect our peace.

“Black joy is the most powerful thing in the world… We have always found joy. We’ve always found laughter. You’ve got to in order to survive in a country like this for as long as we have, under the circumstances.”
– Jason Reynolds

Our amour must be laced with courage, coated with patience, designed with discernment, and fortified with joy. Our ammunition is our voice and our strength is our story. There is power in authenticity and using the weight of our words to transcend our circumstances. Likewise, there is power in listening and being intentional in how we navigate the noise of the world.

“Sometimes it would behoove us to be a little more thoughtful in our activism. A little more thoughtful in our championship. A little more nuanced in our arguments.”
– Jason Reynolds

Advocacy starts with listening and making sure we are serving communities only after truly hearing and understanding their needs. Likewise, we must reflect on our own needs and decide whether we are ready to receive the hurt, pain, and trauma that has penetrated the souls of black folks. In our activism and resistance against injustice, our strength lies in our ability to be unmoved by hateful messaging and stand in our unapologetic truth. Our activism is our ability to share our stories. It is our self-awareness and constant reflection. It is our funk and jazz rooted in the soles on our feet. It is the breath we take before taking a large step. It is our poetry in the age of mass resistance.

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