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Ja Nelle Pleasure has said some people who know her well “call me a unicorn.” Why? “I believe it is because I do so much.” For more than 30 years she has immersed herself in the arts, filling roles at various points as a dancer/instructor, jewelry artist, poet and recycled clothing designer. She teaches dance, sewing and jewelry-making classes in Champaign-Urbana, striving to help young and old alike learn to express themselves creatively through movement and other avenues. About eight years ago she started a clothing line using recycled materials and has done fashion shows across the United States. Pleasure has three children: Joshua (9 years), Ian (12) and Aria (14).
See why we think Ja Nelle Pleasure is a Chambana Mom to Know
Q: In case we have readers who aren’t familiar — what is spoken word poetry?
Spoken word is an art form that uses the ability to speak/preform your poems in any way, shape, or form before a live audience.
Q: What is the message you want to impart on audience members during your spoken word performances?
What I try to do every time I share my poems is to share my heart, my life with others. It is a way for me to connect with my community and in a way become vulnerable and to show others that being open to others is a way to heal yourself.
Q: I read that you started spoken word to overcome a fear of public speaking. Wow! What tips can you give now to others who suffer the same fear?
You know I wish there was a magic formula to this art. Public speaking is very difficult but I am very blessed with the community we have here in Champaign-Urbana. So many welcoming platforms, take for instance Soul on Sunday and CU Poets and not to mention Open Scene Open Mic. All of these have been amazing in welcoming newbies like myself. So if I could tell anyone who has a fear of speaking come out to open mics especially the ones I’ve mentioned. They won’t be sorry!
Q: Who are your favorite poets? Do you have a favorite poem (by one of the them)?
Audre Lorde I would say is one of my favorites. There was a poem I saw of hers when I was homeless and on a bus and it spoke to my heart. It is called Making Love To Concrete, and another fave of mine is The Black Unicorn.
Q: You are a very versatile artist. What do you consider your “favorite” art and why?
If I am being completely honest Dancing is my favorite of all the “artistic” things I do. In dance I can lose myself and really set free my fears and anxieties that I face on a daily basis and to everyone else it just looks like I am dancing. ( I am sneaky like that)
Q: In what ways do your kids impact your art?
Wow good question….OK how to respond. My children are a source for inspiration and frustration that allows me to work through this thing called motherhood and life. I know some folks will poo poo me sounding negative about my kids but without the learning curve of being a parent I don’t think any of my art would evolve or be interesting at all. They are apart of my very being, every little thing, be it a word they would speak to me or a picture they would draw or even the fights they would have all impact my art some in positive ways and sometimes in a negative way, but I am always learning. I think once someone stops learning they stop living.
Q: Name some place you’ve never been before that you would love to take your family – and tell us why.
I have a few places that I haven’t been to in all my travels but the few places I would love to take my babies are Ireland. My children are part Irish and I think it would be amazing to see that country and all its glory. West Africa would be my second choice because part my family history began there. Then Japan, I fell in love with Japan and the culture so much while in college, my competitive dance partner was Japanese he had some influence on me as well, I also have Asian ancestry (Indonesian) it would be nice to discover more about that part of my family history.
Q: It’s the weekend in Champaign-Urbana, what are you doing for fun with your children?
Well now that is it cold most of our family activities include game night we have a lot of board games, cooking we love cooking from different parts of the world and experimenting, or crafts whether it be painting or building things from the recycling bin. However when the temperature is warmer you can find us outdoors either at Dance Music Therapy (another cool thing to do in this town) Parks, or at the library, we love to read.
Q: Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I am a complete introvert. True story. No one will believe me because of the things I do. I dislike crowds, yet I love people. I know, head scratcher for sure.