Today we’d like to introduce you to Jo Di.
Jo Di, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m one who strongly believes that life is all about the journey we take, the character that we develop and the story that we get to share because of those experiences. I grew up in a small city about 15 minutes from downtown Birmingham, AL, Brighton. The bulk of my childhood, I focused my attention on my love for reading and creative writing. At school, I was what most would have considered the “teacher’s pet,” but in actuality, I have just always had a love for learning as much as possible. I have always been fascinated with the idea of intellectual growth and the connections between how literacy (reading and writing in combination with focused research) can lend a way to understanding culture and the deepest parts of ourselves as well as our connection to society. My mom, who is an early childhood educator and my father, who is a pastor, both instilled in me the importance of learning and developing mentally and spiritually. As I continued to grow throughout the years, these were the attributes throughout my childhood that stuck with me the most and contributed greatly to my development as a consultant, educator and advocate for holistic wellness by means of artistry and education.
Although in elementary school, I participated in writing contests and class wide spoken word competitions, it wasn’t until high school that I really began to get serious about my established love for poetry that began as early as third grade when I first recited “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou as an speech project/assignment. In high school, when my friends and I petitioned to start our school’s first poetry club, Writer’s Block, I felt as though I had accomplished something for a new set of creatives among the school’s culture… I remember feeling empowered that I was blessed with an opportunity to contribute to creating a safe space for writers…creative thinkers… and since then, I’ve dedicated my voice and career to finding ways to establish collaborative connections that will give way to productions of creativity….
As a culturalist, content developer, networking liaison and educator, I developed to become the consultant and owner of JSEforyou.com I am today. Ironically, teaching has always been one of my career goals, however, through my personal development as a writer and professional experiences, I’ve learned so much more about my own culture and how our artistic voices influence society. In college, I double-majored in English (concentration: literature) and Secondary Education (concentration: English Language Arts); initially, I wanted to travel as a journalist and pitch stories about modern life and society then return home and teach at a local college. Those plans changed for me when I became pregnant with my daughter as a freshman.
I eventually transferred colleges after my daughter was born so that I could be closer to my family/support system. When I moved, I got romantically involved with a childhood friend and we were involved in a short-lived marriage filled with emotional turmoil and toxicity. I gave birth to my son and shortly after filed for a divorce due threats of physical and emotional abuse. It was then that I realized that my move to the projects (public housing) in the southside of Bessemer, AL would be the toughest three years of my life as I rebuilt my entire identity… I reimagined my vision for my life that was temporarily halted… I made it my goal to put my purpose to live and create above anything else.
When I first graduated from college in 2013, I was a 23-year-old single mother of two wondering what to make of myself with the newly earned degrees. I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from a four year college at the time, so my decisions I made professionally were also due to not only the inspiring hope I gained from family, but the wisdom and guidance of professional mentors that took a chance to invest in me based upon the potential that they saw within. In 2013, I was consistently discouraged that “no one wants to hire English teachers right now” and “there isn’t any money in education”. However, I graduated on a Saturday and the Monday after, I landed a job the same day of the interview…. And I’ve been teaching in public schools in Birmingham since. This, for me, was proof that I was walking into my exact calling as an educator and a nurturer of writers/young creative minds.
As a poet and educator, I am always looking for ways to establish collaborative connections and ways to highlight the creativity of young minds by introducing assignments as well as opportunities to share unique stories. I spent my first three years as a 9th and 10th grade English teacher…then the next three years as an 11th and 12th grade English and Advanced Placement teacher. My experience as an inner city school teacher has granted me opportunities to hear the thoughts/voices of today’s emerging creatives… this has inspired me to continue to advocate for platforms upon which stories from those who don’t have polished backgrounds can be shared… stories that help to better understand what it means to be a person of color, striving to understand identity and placement in society… Often, I bring in speakers, creatives and other writers to influence my students to be true to self and share their stories to strengthen our culture by means of inspiration. In 2015, I became a fellow educator with the Red Mountain Writing Project, which is a part of a national program that focuses on the objective of further developing student writers and provides professional development for educators to incorporate more literacy in learning. We worked in collaborative teams to present lessons that use reading and writing to cultivate minds as well as create more engagement in educational settings. This new network opened my eyes to the overall need for similar resources to be available for aspiring content creators even after high school.
In 2017, I started jseforyou.com as an international resource platform, offering my services as a freelancer for others who want to get serious about strategic planning in order to focus on content development. I began by selling customized planners for events and personal projects/growth. In 2018, I published my first solo collection of works entitled Welcome to the Queendom: a collection of poetic perspectives. The book is a collection that focuses on themes of growth, (self) love, identity and womanhood; I include reflective notes to engage readers in culturally necessary conversation starters, however the reflective notes can also be used as prompts for self-reflective journaling. For the book-signing/release, I hosted a networking event at which I introduced others in Birmingham who are interested in artistry and education to my good friends and collaborative partners who reside in GA. My development as a professional writer and consultant has grown tremendously as I continue to work with like minded creatives such as my good friends Jai Ross, educational program director, journalist, spiritual coach and owner of Universal Moon, LLC and aforementioned Peter Parker, Paine College alumni, veteran, mentor and author of A DFRNT Story. Although these connections are the primary reasons that I may come to Atlanta for collaborative purposes. Each time I am in Atlanta, I am reminded of my personal childhood connections to the city and what it represents for southern culture all together… In my younger years, travelling to Atlanta from Birmingham on the weekends meant perhaps just a day away to spend time with family in Dekalb county, a trip to Six Flags, shopping discount fashion at the underground mall…
As an adult I now realize that for me, the city has always stood for more… I have a deep appreciation for not only my valued current connections to Atlanta, but the fact that Atlanta has in a sense become the “mecca” of southern, black culture as it inspires even an emerging population of young, student creatives.
As I continuously strive to teach and inspire young writers and creative minds in Birmingham, it is my goal to help them see that their goals are attainable. So, now, as a theatre arts instructor, I am making it my personal obligation to go above and beyond to make resources available to them. Through my personal growth as a creative, I have developed through experiences, projects, events and collaboration in a way that has blessed me to help others to see the importance of valued expansion to strengthen the relativity of the stories we hold… We carry stories that can unite us in order to produce social change and continue to make hope contagious.
Has it been a smooth road?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a freelancer and developing business owner is facing the reality of having to overcome fear. Starting out my career as a newly divorced young mother was not the easiest thing to deal with, however, given the dismal situation of my marriage I knew it was best regarding what would make me stronger. I struggled to overcome anxieties associated with the pressure to “get it right” when society’s expectations of single mothers aren’t necessarily held to the highest respect… I had to fight hard to remind myself it is okay to take time to make sure I’m okay… Exhaustion has always played a role… my entire adult life has in a sense been centered around the well being of my children… learning to trust loved ones to help and upholding my promise to myself to ensure my own wellbeing is where it should be so that I can pour from a full cup instead of an empty one has been key to overcoming. I don’t look at my obstacles as struggles, rather opportunities to grow and further develop my story. It is because of the hardships that I not only work harder, but I work to also advocate for the importance of maintaining the overall wellness necessary to be available as a resource for the community….
In order to fully operate in artistry and as an educator, it takes a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit. My awareness about the importance of this balance came when I learned about my health conditions, stress-induced hypertension and a heart murmur. Because of my family history of high blood pressure and cardiovascular health issues, I made it my goal to learn how to be authentically healthy which led to a mental breakthrough/shift necessary to lose the excess weight and begin my wellness journey whole heartedly. I share inspirational tips regarding wellness because I am one who thoroughly understands that it is hard to shift the mind to unlearn and relearn what is best for the body…mind and spirit.
We’d love to hear more about the business.
The mission of JSEforyou.com is to provide services and products that represent who clients are and how they feel; that includes: small business solutions, educational resources and creative content development services related to arts and entertainment. JSE- Jo Di’s Stationery Essentials is an online store providing specially crafted journals and planners to start self-improvement through reflective journal writing or get into a goal-driven mindset to accomplish short-term and long-term goals. Various Signature Services offered through my site include custom artwork by me. The JSE – Updates blog is available to keep up with exclusive product details, service discounts and specials. The lifestyle brand @SGfitma is dedicated to highlighting fitness motivation, healthy meals (meal replacement smoothies and weight-loss tea prep services) and discount merchandise/deals to look out for. To stay up-to-date with literature/publications, events and creative content, follow the blog page @MelodicPoetJodi.
JSEforyou is a logistics brand that focuses on bringing art, entertainment and education/business solutions for your instruction, events and content development needs. Jseforyou develops events and business content that focuses on the aspects of art, entertainment and education in a way that promotes holistic wellness (mind, body and soul) which includes socially influential writing, entertainment/event logistics, educational resources for well being and professional/ personal development.
The overall goal of jseforyou is to continuously aid in the development of programs and business that enrich the lives of employees, clients and the community we serve through art, entertainment and educational resources. This includes:
Art/ entertainment business/ educational content development
Proposal/ grant writing for businesses/organizations and community events through art, entertainment and education
The vision is to establish a collaborative network with artists, businesses and educational brands to provide ongoing content development and management support services.
What sets my consultant services apart is my focus on the opportunity to become well through artistry… creating is therapeutic… and that is why sharing messages that can offer healing through creative content is key.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Within the next 5-10-year, educational holistic wellness is my overall goal…with a focus on healing the mind, body and spirit through artistic expression. For the past three years I have collaborated and conducted research with DRUM the Program, a nonprofit African drum and dance organization that focuses on positive identity reinforcement. My development with this organization’s advocacy training programs has helped me to realize how I can continue to grow as a culturalist and mouthpiece for young creatives/talent. I would like to personally see a strengthened connection amongst southern entertainment collaborative efforts and establishment of lasting/ongoing projects to highlight the unique stories to share in music, film and theatre productions as well. There is healing in creative expression. I would like to continue to share ways in which we as a culture can seek healing through artistic expression as a way that can unify us… and that takes a great deal of advocacy and educational awareness to the benefits of such an approach.
Peter Parker and I are finalizing a second edition to his novel A DFRNT Story which highlights the importance of family, education, and motivational support systems that help to overcome obstacles while pushing towards success. Jai Ross and I are completing final edits of our collaborative project, a reflection guide that emphasizes how to overcome emotional upsets and seek spiritual healing in order to remain focused on life goals. With each of these projects, it is my goal to continue to support the expansion of the messages embedded by following up with supportive content/events that promote the spread of our love for healing through sharing our stories of inspiration and self-accountability with a focus on holistic wellness and growth. Our dedication to artistry and creativity is what has given us this opportunity as writers, so we look to continue to share that message through the projects that we develop for our communities.
My more personal goals for expansion of my brand is the continuation of projects such as my current blog series On Romance. I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead to produce ongoing content that reveals the human experience in a way that serves notice to elements of poetry and art. In the very near future I will be starring in a stage play/short film, “Beyond I Do” by writer and educational director, Dr. G. Jones-Mason; and also, be sure to look out for a short film and web series I’m currently working on as codirector with an old high school friend who recently started an entertainment label.
- Welcome to the Queendom – $18.99
- Website: www.jseforyou.com
- Phone: 256-369-3016
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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