TheBlackManCan is back Atlanta, GA to bring you another Exquisite Woman feature. We bring you a woman who is exploring her appreciation of life through writing. We proudly present to you Author and Educator JoVonna Rodriguez. JoVonna’s love for expression is rooted in a love for community, service, and fellowship. She has recently published her first book PRONOUNS. JoVonna sits down with TheBlackManCan to discuss her passion for writing, student blog, important skills for elementary students and her book PRONOUNS.
TheBlackManCan: You explore your appreciation of life through writing. What are some topics you enjoy writing about?
JR: Writing topics come to me in spurts. They can range from random things I observe, to lyrics of a song, people I watch, experiences, or public events/news. I love to watch trees when I write, I believe they speak volumes we often overlook/ignore. Trees bear history, hold secrets, and have witness countless acts of love, justice, and fear. Sometimes music lyrics, lines, or even one word can inspire me to write. In those moments, I tend to push boundaries in attempts to portray an image or feeling that the line/word has inspired.
TheBlackManCan: When did your passion for writing begin?
JR: I am the middle child of two boys. Both of my brothers are into music and so as a young girl I remember my older brother teaching me about rap and hip-hop. He made me listen to Wu-Tang, Dead Prez, Ghostface, AZ, The Firm, DMX and Nas. I can remember writing lyrics in a notebook over and over. From then on I kept journals exploring everything, I was roughly 12-14 around this time. I never took my writing seriously until I went to college. Before college, writing was just something I did, not something that I felt could be cultivated. After I accepted it as a natural passion, I never stopped writing.
TheBlackManCan: Your pen name is Joski Diesel. Can you tell us the meaning behind your name?
JR: Haha, wow this is a great question and the first time it’s been asked. A lot of people could not pronounce my name growing up so I’ve had over 10 nicknames. One of the most popular has been Jovi. When I went to college, my closest friends started to say Joski instead of Jovi. I added the Diesel to the end for a “last name” that was symbolic for what I represented: Reliable, Realistic, and Long Lasting.
TheBlackManCan: You have developed a love for community, service and fellowship. What prompted a love in these areas?
JR: In high school, I was a strong voice in the Black Student Alliance, helping to change the perceptions within the school environment. My involvement in community affairs didn’t really start until I joined similar groups in college and started to actively tutor every week, attend events, and program volunteer activities. After college, my two years with AmeriCorps really solidified my passion for giving back. Not only did it feel good to donate my time but also over the course of my program I could see the effects of service in neighborhoods, on students, and within organizations. I didn’t just believe in the power of unity and service but started to actually bear witness to it.
TheBlackManCan: You have a blog www.wtnxt.blogspot.com that showcases student written work. How empowering has it been for students to see their work online?
JR: That project was a turning point for my students. They went from hating writing, feeling like it was meaningless and redundant, to actually enjoying their sessions and posts. It made the process more important because others would read the final result. It made writing rewarding and the students accountable for their thoughts. Showcasing their words help open others to the mind of children on social issues, local events, and random topics in ways most people overlook. We tend to forget that children understand and never forget anything. It was a place where they could be heard.
TheBlackManCan: How have you adjusted from living the majority of your life in the northeast to that of Sunny Atlanta, GA?
JR: I can remember when I was a child visiting with my grandfather in Savannah during the summer. It was always hot and bugs were everywhere. It was so different from the cold winters of Upstate New York. I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in Atlanta permanently, until I tried moving back to my hometown after college. That experience helped me to see the pro and cons of my decision and most of all the rich culture that thrives in Atlanta’s art scene. I haven’t moved back since.
TheBlackManCan: Share with us the meaning behind the name of your book.
JR: Inside my book you will find a page with the definition of a Pronoun. It reads, “Found in multiple languages used as a replacement or substitute for nouns and noun phrases i.e. I, You, He, This, Who What.” My book, Pronouns, includes a piece for everyone and every experience. It captures life, and pulls stories together that can be interchanged with faces, names, or pronouns. I wanted a book that anyone could open and find something that speaks to them personally. A book that can be passed around communities between generations and everyone still make each moment with its pages memorable. Pronouns is that book for me.
TheBlackManCan: What kind of content can be found inside of your book?
JR: Pronouns starts off with a chapter full of poems that inspire me to write. The next chapter “You” includes my dedications to writing or my odes to the craft. Then I get into specific chapters on gender related experiences, She, Him, and Us (Love poems). The chapter entitled “Them” is a collection of poetry from incarcerated Black Men. This chapter is especially important to me because it includes poems written by one of my brothers. The rest of the book includes chapters that highlight community issues.
TheBlackManCan: Where do you see yourself and your writing career within the next 5 years?
JR: First and foremost I will always be an educator in some capacity and help give back to my community. Over the next few years I hope to release a book of love poems, and a memoir. I am working on research about my family tree and would love to see those stories manifest into published works as well. I think its important to explore the truths of our lineage even if those truths lead to other’s secrets and lies.
TheBlackManCan: Who are some mentors that have helped you get to where you are now?
JR: I can’t really say I’ve had one mentor who made a huge impression on my life. More so, there have been people along the way whose impact has been priceless. In terms of my family, the honest and open relationships I had with my mother and brothers help toughen my drive in life.
In addition, I was blessed to be around an abundance of strong educators in college who’ve made it acceptable to love learning, literature, and studying.
Ms. Bell, my college English professor, believed in my writing so much by the end of the semester she sent my papers to the author of one of our books we read. I never forgot those moments and sent her my book after it’s release. And my college advisor, Dr. Siddle Walker’s advice one day when I found myself crying from being stressed working so much to make it through college. She told me some of the best rewards come after struggles. These are some of the memories that keep me motivated as an educator and writer, knowing that once someone believed in me enough and I should do the same for the next person.
TheBlackManCan: What are the most important skills parents should help their children develop while in elementary school?
JR: Perseverance, passion, purposeful doing, and learning.
Today we are living in a time where kids are seeing, doing, and experience things in the “adult” world far too early. Regardless of whether these incidents can be avoided, children need to learn how to get through the struggles that arise. Focusing on things they enjoy (passions) and finding purpose in their actions, even at an early age is a remedy for any low point. Every child is not going to love school, but they should understand that learning comes in every form and experience.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young girls?
Find Your Release.
Showcase Your Passions.
“We as black men must carry and tell the life long story and uplift black women whenever we have opportunity to do so”, theblackmancan.org has a firm belief that this holds true. Throughout the world there are exquisite women who are making remarkable contributions to society. We want to take the time to highlight an exquisite woman each week. If you know a woman that should be featured please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org In that email please state who you are and why you are nominating this person. Please leave your contact information and the contact information of the individual you are nominating.