Today we’d like to introduce you to El Jay’Em.
Hi El, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Hmm, my story. That’s a tough one for me. I don’t like speaking about myself lol feels a little weird. I am a cultural engineer, I design, create, and activate positive thriving spaces in the community. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to Hampton University for my bachelor’s, where I graduated in the top 10 of my school in 2011. I then took a trip into real life after college and learned that my degree was a nice mantle due to the missing x-factor known as the experience to back the degree. (That’s the part teachers, and college recruiters leave out during your senior year of Highschool. Experience coupled with the degree is the key!) After college, I waited tables for two years and worked other jobs not in my degree field to make ends meet. Then two years later, I heard the song all me by Drake and that launched me into my modeling career, which took me to the fashion runways of Washington DC, and New York City. I decided to further my education, I earned my Master’s from Georgetown University in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. While attending Georgetown, I worked as a licensed teacher in Southeast D.C. charter schools. Being a teacher unveiled me to the world of social justice and injustices my students faced daily… As a classroom teacher, who has taught in both the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and South Africa. I witnessed the negative societal impacts of not having structural and cultural support in the community. I bore firsthand sight of the negative impacts of food & literacy deserts through the fate of my students. That threw me into action and started my advocate and activist journey, I started a literacy campaign called Bookapalooza, and I then discovered and partnered with We Act Radio, whose partnership, amplified the campaign and turned its result into a bookstore called Charnice Milton Community Bookstore which is housed in the famous Bus Boys & Poets in Anacostia DC. During that time, I joined the We Act Radio family as a new radio personality and Jr. Partner. In 2018 I participated in the MS. Black America pageant and was crowned Ms. Black America DC. During my reign, in 2018 I lost my best friend Tierra East to gun violence in Cleveland OH. That led me to found Speakezie Go Hard; a cultural entity that provides conflict resolution to victims of violence through art therapy. Speakezie has serviced over 25k in Washington D.C., Cleveland Oh, and New York City, NY, with healing vibes for almost four years. Speakezie is impactful because it directly targets the trauma and heals it with art therapy. Speakezie allows for individuals to be unapologetically authentic both on and off stage. Now Speakezie in partnership with the community collective “Together We Rise”, we are advocating to get Gun Violence ruled as a public health crisis in Cleveland OH and a strategic plan known as Project Ripple implemented to end gun violence in Cleveland. Gun Violence is a public health crisis, not a crime, and proper resources need to be in place for communities to thrive and not just survive. Speakezie Go Hard provides not a band-aid but the soul surgery needed to heal gun wounds you can’t see. And that is how we have arrived at the moment known as here and now. 🙂 lol.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Hell no! Without pressure, the diamond will never form… right.
So, it has been extremely challenging but I had to realize that once I define my success and not compare myself to others, I then will begin to flourish. A most recent struggle was understanding pace and grace. Pace means understanding what’s for me is for me and what’s mine is mine, I do not need to rush. Also, pace means being mindful of the open doors I choose to walk through, every open door isn’t meant to be explored, and every room doesn’t require my presence. Therefore, I had to understand how to move intentionally and strategically. Understand the root of what I need vs. What I want, as well as question why I want certain things. The real challenges will always be internal. but that is a part of the process, it’s the pressure needed to form the diamond, don’t get me wrong now, I do not have it figured out. If I know anything is that I don’t know lo, and I want to know everything I don’t know. Therefore, I am learning daily, I just make sure to be present with the moment and deal with today. Challenges exist, and anyone saying they haven’t and experiencing all glory is a damn lie, lol. The key to challenges is about how you handle and react to them; not about how many you experience because challenges are going to happen. As my uncle says: if there one thing you can count on is for something to go wrong.” At the end of the grand scheme, it’s about you— how you define yourself and shine in your present moment daily.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
In short, I am a cultural engineer. I design, create, and activate positive cultural spaces. I activate through my work with Speakezie Go Hard. I practice it at my consulting firm LJM & Associates, where we specialize in DEI strategic planning. I also channel it through my artistry such as my Poetry EP “EVO” which can be streamed on all platforms except for apple. (Due to some weird snafu that doesn’t even deserve the time to explain it, find me on Tidal and Spotify lol). I am most proud of my work with Speakezie, I firmly believe that we can get gun violence ruled as a public health crisis in Cleveland Ohio, and the strategic plan Project Ripple implemented to end gun violence in the city, and make communities whole again. “Evo” is another proud accomplishment; it is my soul in physical form and meant to provide mental libration to all those who listen to it.
What sets me apart from others? Is that a real question? I believe that question requires me to compare myself to others; comparing yourself to others is. Violent acts against oneself, just as the only validation needed in life should be limited to parking. Simply put I am a line that cannot be defined, a circle that cannot be contained, or better yet a soul that is untamed. Ase
How can people work with you, collaborate with you, or support you?
Follow me @eljayem_ljm or @Speakezie on Instagram. Also, if you are in Cleveland Ohio we are looking for places to host educational seminars on Project Ripple. You can email email@example.com to volunteer to host or for more information. If you want to become a sponsor or host a Speakezie Go Hard please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little bit more about Speakezie Go Hard
In History, a speakeasy is a hidden establishment where guests can have the experience of discretely engaging in a Prohibition Era experience.
The community’s Speakezie…Go Hard is a cultural entity providing conflict resolution to victims of violence through the use of art therapy.
Founded in 2018 by El Jay’Em, Speakeze.Go Hard has become a cultural movement in Washington, DC combating racial injustice and gun violence by providing a platform for community members to use music, poetry, and artistic expression to entertain and heal the community. Since its conception on September 28th, 2018, Speakezie has had the privilege to serve the community as a violence interrupter, and offer gun violence prevention. Speakezie has provided conflict resolution through the use of art therapy to over 15k victims of violence throughout the nation, as well as brought awareness and raised funds for over 30 social justice issues, and provided a platform to over 700 artists and counting. Speakezie utilizes live art, live music, bands, poets, emcees, hip hop artists, actors, independent films, and other expressive art forms to provide high-impact conflict resolution and trauma relief through restorative justice practices.
Our program centers on restorative justice, trauma relief, and conflict resolution for victims of violence through the use of art therapy, and seeks to bring awareness, pride, and inspiration to each view, participant, and audience member. Art Therapy allows for the victim to directly target their trauma and promote healing by combining the mind and body through the channel of art. Each month, Speakezie…Go Hard hosts a show at We Act Radio in Washington, DC, and fills the space with individuals from all around creating a diverse demographic reach from ages of 18-70.
Speakezie has been in existence since September 2018 and seeks to bring awareness and fill the gap in the lack of support and resources for the aftermath of violence. The result of this blooms trauma and destabilizes communities of color economically, socially, and culturally.
In 2021, Speakezie expanded from S.E. Washington D.C. to the local hoods of Cleveland Ohio. Since February 2021, Speakezie Go Hard has already provided a platform and space for an estimate of 3k according to data.
This year 2022 Speakezie has expanded its franchise and has launched in New York City, breaking into a new city, and market for community healing.
Speakezie’s vision is a multiracial world, a democratic society, free from trauma, oppression of all forms, and exploitation, in which people and communities of color thrive with power and purpose.
To the untrained eye, Speakezie…Go Hard may appear to be your everyday, popping up every month, run-of-the-mill open mic. However, upon your first vibrational encounter, you see and feel the difference. Speakezies’ open mic strategy builds relationships with talented local artists to reestablish and strengthen internal community relations and ties to encourage healthier residential environments.
Speakezies’ organizational structure is composed of an Executive Directors team, board members, and sponsors. Speakezie produces power at the grassroots level by utilizing strategic communication to influence public opinion on issues of race, democracy, and social justice. Speakezie…Go Hard is a 501c (3) with an annual fundraising budget of $75k.
Donations and love made in the areas below allow us to provide and produce for a full year.
Production Cost Include
Master of Ceremony
Tickets for Charity Benefactor
Speakezie is not an entity meant for capitalistic gains. Speakezie functions for the people! To take action to answer a question asked by Fred Hampton (who is a victim of violence) “Why don’t you live for the people? Speakezie lives for the people. Therefore, we take pride in our transparency of what donations fund. Speakezie is the crown jewel of the community. We hope we have earned the pleasure of your time, remember to always Speakezie…Go Hard!! Thank You, Speakezie… Go Hard Executive Team.
- Community Love $0-500
- Gold $1000
- Platinum $1500
- Diamond $5000
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @eljayem_ljm or @Speakezie
- Youtube: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCivpTofJODUciV1kHNsXFFg
- Other: https://songwhip.com/eljayem/evo