Jamie is a poet, novelist, and a screenwriter. In October 2014, Jamie published her poetry novel, Don’t Date a Writer, and has managed to garner a following of over 6,500 subscribers on her poetry blog. Her work has been featured in several literary magazines under the pseudonym Maj Alyasa. She has also produced content alongside renowned creators, such as Issa Rae of the Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. Now, she is in the process of creating and developing her own web-series.
Read our interview below in which Jamie shares her personal thoughts on life, success, race, and womanhood as a young woman of color creative:
How would you define yourself and your place in this world?
I define myself as a writer. I think my place in this world is to influence public ideology and public thought with my words. That’s all I want to do.
How has your experience as a woman of color affected how you see yourself and see the world?
It’s made me really aware of a lot of things like micro-aggressions, racism, and institutional problems. It’s also made it hard to trust people, especially people who aren’t of color because I feel that my ideology has to differ from theirs because of my experiences. But its also given me a lot to write about and think about. It has given me a culture and a community that I wouldn’t have otherwise, so I’m very happy for it and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
How do you currently view the world and its circumstances?
The world kind of sucks a lot. Sometimes it doesn’t. And it hurts a lot. But sometimes it doesn’t. I think there’s not always a balance because sometimes things hurt more than they feel good or they feel good more than they hurt. But I think that all of the world and life is somewhere in the midst of all of that. Somewhere at the boundary, where pain ends and joy begins and where joy ends and pain begins. I think that’s just life. I think that everything that’s going on in the world and has ever gone on in the world comes from that ultimately.
What’s the hardest thing about being a woman of color?
I think always feeling inferior even if my ideas are better than like Patrick O’Flannagan’s (or any other generic white guy name). Just because I’m not a straight white man, I feel that either my ideas are inferior or other people will think that my ideas are inferior and that I am not worthy. I feel like every time I walk into a public place that is predominantly not-black, I feel that they think I’m going to steal something or mug somebody or generally be a nuisance, so I feel that I’m not welcome in most of the world. I love to travel, but it affects where I can travel because racism is prevalent even outside of the United States and that makes things very difficult.
What do you absolutely love about being a woman of color?
The community; the fact that I will look 20 even when I’m 65, that’s a big one; I like my hair and the natural hair movement. I like the fact that we have a very specific worldview because we experience so much pain. We have racism on top of sexism on top of poverty or anything else we have going on, so because we experience some of the most struggle out of anybody in the United States, we also have some of the most distinct and beautiful and real and down-to-earth and gritty and practical points of view. I love being a part of that and a part of wherever we take the movement next because I think we’re a powerful group.
What and who inspires you?
A lot of writers; Chimamanda Adichie, James Joyce – who’s this generic white guy but I really like his writing, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and all the great black writers. Music also inspires me for the most part, underground music specifically just because the lyrics are really gritty and it’s so low-quality but it’s so easy to share the music. That’s what I want my writing to be: I want it to be easy to share and disseminate. Chicago underground hip-hop, it’s pretty random, but is the thing that inspires 98% of my writing right now.
What do you consider to be an inspirational woman?
Someone who is true to themselves. An inspirational woman could be someone who wakes up everyday and not necessarily knows who they are but knows that they want to know who they are. Particularly like a woman of color; someone who gets up every day and just deals with the world is inspiring because it shows me that I can get up every day and I can deal with the world and I can help people deal with the world.
How would you define your path to success?
When I reach it, that will be great. Right now I’m doing a lot of stuff and seeing what sticks and hoping it all works out. I don’t know what success really is, though. I have three main goals. First, I want to be successful enough to provide for my parents. Then, I want to be successful enough to provide for the family I will have. Outside of that, I want to leave words that are going to hit people and resonate. That’s all I want to leave behind. If I died soon, the main thing I would want to leave behind is words. It sounds bad but I usually care about words more than people, and I feel that words are what make big social change and helps people on a grand scale. Whatever success I get, I’m not going to personally feel like I succeeded because I just won’t, that’s not who I am, which is fine. But after I die or after I stop writing, as long as my words still affect people for a long time and those people go out and affect people, then that’ll be success.
What was one moment that pushed you to work harder for your dreams?
Last summer when I was doing a writers’ residency in Spain, I ended up meeting this older guy there and we ended up hanging out and talking a lot. He turned out to be kind of creepy, but the fact that we talked about life and success I realized that what he was is what I did not want to be. I remember having to navigate that, having to navigate around Spain, and having to be an actual adult for the first time in my life – just dealing with other adults in scary situations like that. It was the first time I felt I was actually living in the world and not just being a kid, so I remember getting on the plane to go back home and feeling really different in one instant and I didn’t know why. But it was the first time I felt like an adult, the first time I realized that writing is important to me and that I want to work on my career and life isn’t just about being appreciated and liked by my peers.
Why do you believe its important for women to uplift and elevate one another?
Because the world kind of sucks. It sucks especially towards us as women of color. It’s really easy to tear other people down, even for me, so it’s important. Life is hard and we have to be here for each other or else we’re not going to make it. And if we make it, we’ll be really lonely without each other.
A Letter from Jamie:
Dear Sister Soul,
My advice to women of color? I wish I had all the answers. I know life experience is important and life experience is truth, but it’s still so hard to feel like my experiences are valuable outside of what I produce.
Can I give a lot of advice? Yes? Okay, thanks:
Mess up. Find friends. Lose friends. Make art. Make music. Write things. Get better at writing things. Share, share, share your creations. Eat a lot. Take medicine if you need to. Embrace your identity. Let it change. Take risks. Travel. Love your family. Love your friends. Love God, and yell at them all. Sing. Pray. Dance. Love the way you look. Change it. Question anything. Go on faith. Do not be afraid to eat double-stuffed Oreos for breakfast.
Forgive my horrible Arabic, but my favorite quote goes something like:
“تدمير معروف سمعتك.”
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. -Rumi
So my advice is: live by that. And maybe do yoga when you’re stressed.
Find Jamie on her website, offcenterwriting.com.