I met Joy about 10 years ago. I was selling jewellery at a Tina Marie concert. Joy came around with a friend – I noticed their signing and hearing aids and got all excited.
Our paths definitely cross. We live close to one another, our first born children are almost the same age, we are both smack-dab in between the Deaf and Hearing worlds. Her book of poems is Signs of Life: Past, Present and Future – and it is beautiful.
Joy is my homegirl and I’m delighted to introduce her to you!
Getting to Know You
1. Your name:
2. What’s your connection with disability?
I’m hard of hearing
3. Star Trek or Star Wars?
4. If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?
That’s easy, Paris
5. What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
1. What do you do?
My day job is at a recreation center for Oakland with special needs students and I love it. My all day/everyday life is writing and performing poetry.
2. How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?
I’ve always loved writing and I used to write stories. I became good at writing poetry in middle school and high school. I used to write poems as a journal piece. One day a friend suggested I publish a book, so I composed my poems into a book and got it published a year later.
While I was trying to sell my book at poetry open mic, I learned how to perform my pieces and write new pieces that were performance-ready. Since I’ve been around other spoken word artists, my career has taken off. I’ve been requested to perform at shows and events. My book sales have increased tremendously when I sell them personally.
Currently, I’m finishing up my second book and getting ready to have a book signing party since I wasn’t able to when I published my first book.
3. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself published with at least 3-4 books and working at a community college. I really want to teach but until then, I have to use my God given talent to pursue my dreams.
4. Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?
You’re not morbid at all because I’ve been thinking about this. I want to be cremated because I don’t want people’s last memory of me to be in the casket. I want them to remember me for my kind words, my smile and my thinking.
The blessing about publishing a book is that my words will always be here after I’m gone and people will always get a chance to “know” me. Remember that I chose to pave the way for other disabled artists and people so they wouldn’t have to rely on someone else.
5. Who or what inspires you?
My mother and daughter inspire me. My mother is the reason why I am who I am and my daughter is the reason why I get up everyday.
1. If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?
Nothing! I was raised to believe that God made me this way for a reason and I always knew I had a higher purpose. My family told me everything I needed to hear to get me to overcome my struggles. One thing I always remembered and I always tell this story, my grandfather told me something I never forgot.
I came home crying because the “regular” students did not want to play with me. I must’ve been about 9. He said, “Have you ever been called a nigger?” I replied no. He said, “I’m from the South where they called us that in public and there was nothing we could do about it. Just because that’s what they called me didn’t mean that I had to respond to it. So unless you’ve been called that, then don’t come crying because someone wouldn’t play with you because of your hearing aids. They weren’t meant to be your friend, anyway.”
That shaped my life forever and I went through life proving people wrong. That’s why I wouldn’t go back because I was trained.
2. What do you like about your particular disability?
I love that I can wear different color earmolds and I can communicate with my hands. I can hear too so I’m in between both the Deaf and hearing worlds.
What’s crazy is I love music and I’m blessed to be able to hear people sing and the instruments.
3. Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?
It’s funny because I always applied the X-Men concept to disability. People fear what they don’t understand and sometimes “regular” people need to be accepting of people that are different.
My hearing loss didn’t affect my ability to think and to graduate from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. I have a family and I published a book. I’m no different from anyone else and although we’ve progressed, we’re still behind in the way people think about us. Talk to us and you’ll be amazed how wonderful we are and how our interests are similar to other people. I always say you can’t put me in a box and I love to be around people, no matter if they’re disabled or not, LGBT, their religion and etc. If I can accept people for they are, I want people to accept me for who I am.
4. What single piece of technology makes your life easier?
My hearing aids. Without them, I’m lost. I love music so I’m blessed to be able to hear people sing and the instruments.
Connect with Joy on facebook: www.facebook.com/authorjoyelan
Her website: www.joyelan.webs.com (her book is also for sale there)