Interview

Talking to jessica Care moore: Rockstar, Artist and Poet lends voice to new dance film “Our Bodies Back”

“The poem is written for Sandra Bland, but all our daughters…means all the girls, women…who die in police custody and we will never know their names”.

 ‘This exquisite collaboration has moved me to tears more than once. I am honoured to see my poem come to life through the bodies of genius woman & this multi-disciplinary, visionary team of artists. Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor…we embody these women, we tell their stories.’  jessica Care moore

Meet the multi-talented jessica Care moore  the founder and CEO of Moore Black Press, executive producer of Black WOMEN Rock! and founder of the literacy-driven, Jess Care Moore Foundation. The internationally renowned poet, playwright, performance artist, and producer joins forces with Sadler’s Wells and the Hip-Hop dance pioneer Jonzi D to create the powerful dance film “OUR BODIES BACK”, an ode to black women’s bodies, a tribute to Sandra Bland, a cry out to the injustice Black women face across the diaspora. This renowned artist is the 2019 and 2017 Knight Arts Award Winner, 2016 Kresge Arts Fellow,  NAACP Great Expectations Awardee,  and an Alain Locke Award recipient from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Moore is the author of The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto,  Sunlight Through Bullet Holes, and  the  critically acclaimed Techno Choreopoem, Salt City. Her work has been published in numerous literary collections and she has performed on stages all over the world, including The Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the London Institute for Contemporary Arts. jessica lives and writes in an historic Detroit neighbourhood with her son King Thomas. Alt was lucky to have an exclusive UK interview with this great voice who uses her “art” to speak out. And if there ever was a time to speak out it is now. ( Main image credit: Annistique Photography) . Link to watch our bodies back here it goes live 11am BST today 19 August.

ALT: Our Bodies Back is a powerful title tell us where it has its roots?

We Want Our Bodies Back is the title poem from my fifth book, We Want Our Bodies Back that was released on Harper Collins/Amistad March 2020. The poem is dedicated and written for Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was one of us. Her murder in police custody should not have happened. Breonna Taylor should still be alive.  The poem was a response to that feeling of frustration we all feel as mothers, as black women in this country. 

Still image Dance Film “Our Bodies Back” Bolegue Manuela (b-girl Manuela) 

ALT: How did the collaboration with Jonzi D and Sadler’s Wells come about?

Jonzi reached out to me about a collaboration.   I did my first European tour with him and Paul Beatty in 1996. I know his work as dancer, as emcee, as curator…during this pandemic, artists who are used to working…being on the road are suddenly on the ground.  I quickly said “yes.”  I wanted to collaborate, and I knew we would create something powerful together.

ALT: Why did you choose dance as a medium to tell this story?

I love putting poems in dancers’ bodies. I’ve done it with other work in the past. I write chorepoem, in the tradition of Ntozake Shange. The last one was “Salt City” A Techno Chorepoem. This  particular work was Jonzi’s vision, and I trusted he would do the poem justice. It’s such a gorgeous collaboration, Chilling to the bone, some moments. 

ALT: What drives your creativity and why do you use your work to speak out on racial injustice?

I’m a metaphorical daughter of the Black Arts Movement writers and poets. I’m inspired by my people, our stories, our strength. We have survived so much. My art is a weapon, it’s my superpower, and I have always used it to liberate, to free us from the systemic oppression that attempts to destroy us. The injustices are not new. This is my job as an artist.

ALT: When did you start writing poetry?

I’ve been writing stories since I was around 9 years old, but poems became my joy in high school. 

ALT: In the video there is a line in the poem that says “we want our daughters back” can you elaborate a bit on that line?

The poem is written for Sandra Bland, but all our daughters…means all the girls, women…who die in police custody and we will never know their names.

ALT: What does the new presidential running mate say to you about America right now are you optimistic?

I am absolutely fighting and voting for the first BLACK woman Vice President.  I am doing what I must do, because people are dying in our country and this dangerous regime is responsible for the divisions and misinformation hurting us in tremendously painful  ways.  We have moved backward in time.  Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are a step back to some sanity, some sense of normalcy.  No time for divisions or arguments right now. We must get our country back, and then continue to fight for equality in all forms.  

JCM blue note – credit Victorious DeCosta

ALT: What are you most passionate about right?

I’m passionate about motherhood, my family  and staying healthy. I’m also creating and finding ways to balance the matrix we are living in now, with some peace, some love.   I’m collaborating with a few artists right now. I have a new techno music project out with Jeff Mills and Eddie Fowlkes, The Crystal City is Alive.  I’m writing, always writing, and creating. We must. A wonderful theater artist Daniel J. Watts recently said, “Artists gonna Art.”  So, yeah, I’m passionate about creating the next…

ALT: Has Covid-19 been a pivotal moment for you ?

Covid19 – I live in Detroit…we are a black city. We were hit hard by Covid19. I have lost many close friends, it’s been devastating.  I was in shock for weeks; my tour was cancelled. I was on my way to the UK in May, the University of Wolverhampton. Everything changed.  I had to use my art to keep going. I mean on a basic level.   I have been working non-stop during the pandemic. Speaking online, being a voice for people trying to learn how to be better humans, being an activist, teaching, growing, trying to inspire people with poems, honesty, possibility. I love poets. We are necessary contributors to this moment in time.  

This is a reset for the planet. I pray we all use it wisely and come out on the other side, better humans. 

More about jessica here: jessicacaremoore.com  blackwomenrock.com 

Created during lockdown and filmed remotely, Our Bodies Back is choreographed and performed by Axelle ‘Ebony’ Munezero in Montréal, Canada; Bolegue Manuela (b-girl Manuela) in Hanover, Germany; and Nafisah Baba in London, UK, in response to moore’s poem We Want Our Bodies Back, from a collection of the same name published in spring 2020. Our Bodies Back will be available for audiences all over the world to watch on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage via Sadler’s Wells YouTube channel from 11am BST Wednesday 19 August 2020.

Credits: Sadler’s Wells’ Digital Stage and Breakin’ Convention present Our Bodies Back in collaboration with Jonzi D Projects and BCTV

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