Interview by Darielle (@darielle333)
Starts at 3:00
Darielle: Before we start, I wanna hear who you reppin? Who’s your community? Who’s your people?
Jewel: I’m repping Black people always.
Jewel: Period. I don’t do the Black and brown, I don’t do the POC. B-L-A-C-K. Period. I rep specifically Black queer and trans people. Specifically, Black queer and trans people who are from the hood, who’ve been told to shrink and dim and be quiet. I’m like no, shine bright, come out the corner, get on the stage, spotlight on you! That to me, is a radical act.
My community are the people who I think society tends to throw away, look over and tell to just sit down. So yeah, that’s my people. Black queer and trans people. From the hood, who grew up poor. That’s who I center in my work
Darielle: Your people is also Brooklyn, right?
Jewel: Oh, PERIOD! Brooklyn all day.
Darielle: I know bitch!!
Jewel: Pre-gentrified East New York. That’s home for me. When I’m in East New York, that’s the bodega I stole from, the one my grandma taught me to get her cigarettes from. And it speaks to what resourcefulness, and resilience looks like in the hood. So yea, pre-gentrified East Brooklyn, all day.
Darielle: All fucking day. As you know, we going through a lot right now. The world is in a point of transition, a point of pausing. What is keeping you well?
Jewel: What is keeping me well, or who I should say, is my culture. I’m very strongly rooted to being Haitian and relying on ancestral energies. I’m thinking about people who came before me who had to make it through worse. People who kicked down doors, burned up shit so that I could be here. The least I could do is try to thrive as much as I can. Whenever I’m feeling panic, I think to myself, Ok.. ancestors got me.
The second thing is my community. People have been checking in on me. My friends been FaceTiming, texting me, literally if I don’t respond to a text within an hour, I’m getting a call: Are you good? And I think that is making me feel more connected to people than ever.
Darielle: So, when it comes down to community. Everybody knows who the fuck Jewel is. Jewel is the person who is building community. Always. What pushes you to make space for Black folks in everything that you do?
Jewel: I feel like I’ve always been a mobilizer. Even when I was a kid. In elementary school, I’d be like Ooo y’all wanna do this? Y’all wanna do that? So I feel like that’s a gift I was given by my ancestors. This is my passion work. This is something I do in my sleep. I don’t look at it and say ok today I’m gonna do this, with a checklist. It feels very natural. It feels very, this is what I’m supposed to do.
When I get on the stage at Ratchet realm and I see everyone existing unapologetically, I’m like, this is the work.
A lot of these spaces don’t exist as unapologetically Black as I created to be. There are other similar spaces that are like QTPOC, but I’m like Black. Period. I get on the mic and I’m like “If you are not Black, you are violating the space. Period.” And there’s no other space that I’ve been in that has held Blackness to the highest regard.
I got tired of hearing “POC” space, why y’all afraid to say Black? Black people are at the heart of this work and this land. And indigenous folks, and there’s intersections in that.
I’m doing it for people who come after me, that will see me curating spaces for Black people, and realize that they can do that too.
Darielle: It’s great to do community work, and at the same time, community can really be trifling. There be some times when I’m like I really be trying to do this work for y’all and y’all sometimes treat me so badly. Especially when you’re a Black femme.
Jewel: Talk about it!!! My thing is it’s very important to have your venting buddies. Your sounding board (with consent: do you have the capacity to be my venting buddy?) You let it all the fuck out. Those are valid, real, authentic ass feelings. But then just like you have stages of grief, you have stages of dealing with trifling ass community members. So the next step is to be like you know what this is bigger than me and this is bigger than them. And all this energy that they’re bringing, just amplifies the importance of these spaces. Because niggas are angry. They don’t love themselves sometimes. Maybe because society is spewing those messages.
So how do you combat that by still showing up, by still creating events, by saying to them Look I know you don’t like me and I don’t like you, but you’re still welcome in this space (Not abusers, because they’re never welcome). But there’s people who come to A Ratchet Realm, who I’ve had little conflicts with, and they’ve come up to me and been like “You know Jewel, I just wanna drop it.” I give them a hug, I say aight it’s cool, enjoy a Ratchet Realm.
Combat the conflict by meeting it with love!