By Bianca Viana
The NAACP Image Awards is an annual ceremony with the intent to honor outstanding performances in five different categories, including film, television, theater, music and literature. This year marks the 53rd NAACP Image Awards and one of our own community members is being nominated for their Outstanding Literary Work. Jacqueline Jones LaMon, Adelphi’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), has been nominated for her poetry collection “What Water Knows.” The Awards will air on BET (Black Entertainment Television) Saturday, Feb. 26 at 8 pm
“What Water Knows” is LaMon’s third poetry collection and she said she is “extremely honored and grateful that the NAACP has chosen to recognize my work, along with this amazing panel of nominees.”
LaMon said she drew inspiration for this collection of poems from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Her own home and community faced a lot of damage, but something beautiful came out of this: unification. LaMon and her neighbors came together to rebuild their community as one again.
LaMon discovered her passion for writing poetry at a young age after an introduction to the works of Walt Whitman in the third grade. However, it was later in life when she really expanded on her passion for poetry, “reading everything I could get my hands on and studying how poems are crafted.”
As the vice president of DEI, LaMon works hard daily to aid in the advancements of diversity and inclusion resources and programs on campus. Yet, she still tries to make it her priority to schedule time for her writing.
“I try to write daily, mostly very early in the morning, before the day fills up with turning my attention to other peoples’ needs,” she said. She described her writing as a practice. “I don’t give myself the luxury of relying on inspiring motivation; it’s something I do every day. I’ll give myself prompts. I’ll make lists. Sometimes I’ll write about something that’s happening in the news and play, 'what if…' I’ll read work by other poets and writers. I’ll go for a walk. I’ll watch TV.”
If LaMon does find herself struggling to write, she uses that as her inspiration to write. “I might write about feeling stuck—and how that inertia shows up in our lives. The important thing is to get pen to paper, keys on the keyboard and work through it.”
She said her work is very important to her, but she doesn’t write with the sole purpose of ensuring her readers take away a lesson from her work. “I write a lot of narrative poetry: poetry that tells a story, and persona work, poetry written in the voice of others.”
LaMon wants each reader to “walk away feeling that they have experienced a variety of perspectives and been exposed to different times, different places—they've had valuable experiences as a result of reading my work.”
As an activist, LaMon believes that each individual has the ability to cultivate change and she hopes that her poetry can inspire the younger generation of activists. She strongly believes that “all of us contain multitudes of gifts and talents. It is up to each of us to recognize, cultivate and utilize those talents for a purpose that will advance us as a society.”
She added that activism starts when we observe ourselves and the world around us. She asks: What is it that you notice in your life? Ask yourself what it is that you can do to impact change and make a difference, beginning with one small step. Every individual has a platform and even though it may not feel as if your voice holds the power to enact change, it does.
“You may not have a million followers on social media, but you have the ability to say something when you see someone you know being bullied or mistreated,” LaMon said. “Change does not need to start on social media or with the public. We all have the ability to start change in our own home. You have the ability to disagree with a family member who may say something about a group of people that you feel is wrong. Make art. Write a paper.”
These actions are what LaMon referred to as necessary activism and is ultimately “the very beginning of dismantling societal beliefs that foster systemic oppression. Those are the actions that will contribute to changing the world.”