Jamal: Oooh… hahahaha. Um, it’s such a simple question and I could give such a simple answer but when somebody ask you that, you know, you gotta think about it. I am… I really feel like what I feel like today, and that is a black faggot who won’t shut his/her mouth! I am a dream, still dreaming. The last born child of Carmen. I am a brother to some, a sister to others. I am loved. And I am forever on a journey to figure out who Jamal is. Sometimes I know, sometimes I don’t know. And I am open to always committing myself to find out.
TEOP: What are some of your passions?
Jamal: I really enjoy music, and creativity. I studied voice in college so I really love singing. And it’s been, I think, a passion of mines since I was little, singing in the church. It carried me all the way through to undergrad and I think I decided to not let it go, but like I think like just like focus on it in other ways. Because I feel like in my undergrad program they were training and preparing students to go out and study voice on a higher level and to also go into the opera world and the singing world and it just didn’t give me what I needed. I just didn’t see myself existing in those worlds, so I feel like I’ve took alternate routes and decided to do with my talents what I will in whatever way I can.
TEOP: What would you tell your younger self?
Jamal: Good question. I would tell my younger self: one, it’s okay to not be okay and not to be normal. And that that is actually what makes you who you are, that you are both things. And that you shouldn’t have to change that to find a place in this world, which you will soon learn as time passes. I would also tell me that love is possible and not the just superficial romantic kind that is often fed to us through media, but a transformative love that looks like loving the you that you are most afraid to share with the world.
TEOP: How do you see your future self? What is future Jamal giving?
Jamal: Ooooh, what is she giving!? Where do I see me in the future? One, I see future me somewhere faggin out, I don’t think I’ll ever stop faggin out. I’m so committed to faggotry, of breaking rules and not following instructions. But also, committing myself to exploring dreams that I’ve written down but haven’t been able to act upon but also to discovering and unearthing what is utterly precious to me.
TEOP: When you use the word faggot, in all of its forms, what does that mean to you?
Jamal: For me I locate myself - and to be clear, faggot carries, historically, a very negative connotation. And at one point in my life I used to hate hearing that word. I would actually like get very emotional when I would hear it because of the negative connotation that it carries. And I think after hearing it so much I became a little desensitized to hearing it. So like, in my college years when I would hear it it would literally be like water off a duck’s back. And it wasn’t until, I would say my senior year in college, I saw someone wear a hoodie and it was like rainbow tye-dye hoodie and it had a red bar with white text that read “FAGGOT” and I was like wow... Like, there are some words that I never thought I would allow myself to reclaim, but faggot is where I feel most home. I use the word because it is an abject space worth exploring, because gender for me is a very racialized and class experience and my body fails both man and woman, and that failure for me is faggotry. It’s what everybody don’t want to be, it’s what everybody wants to move away from, what everybody wants to shame because it doesn’t fit within conventional, traditional, or respectable molds of gender.
TEOP: What are some of the fears you may have as you navigate through life?
Jamal: Um… (Thinks). I try not to move throughout the world with fears. And it’s a place I think I could explore more, but I try to just like live life free from fear. Because I feel like there is so much possibility outside of it. But I think a fear that maybe I could possibly carry with me is, like, not achieving my full potential. Like whatever that may mean, for this life. Just like not reaching that place I am not satisfied with.
TEOP: Who are some of your Role Models?
Jamal: I have like many people who I would consider possible role models for me. My mother, Jafari Allen. My grandma, who is just so full of love and caring. My best friends (smiles). I really am moved by a friend Eddie Ndopu, in South Africa. And that’s it for now because my mind is going blank tryna think of all these names. I’m moved by many people, I feel like everybody gives me so many beautiful things.
TEOP: What is your Favorite Song right now?
Jamal: My favorite song out right now that I can not - I have two, can I choose two!? So right now I’ve been bumping "Hello" by Erkyah Badu featuring Andre Benjamin, Andre 3000. And this song by this indie artist in Detroit, it’s called “Blush” by Adam Ness. Y’all gotta go download it! He out there, but he ain’t really out there, but he out there on the internet. A few people know about him, but y’all gotta get into him. He sings DOWN! He gets me in my feelings!
TEOP: What are some of your Favorite Passtime?
Jamal: We used to (laughs hysterically), and I’m giving this pastime cuz its the first thing that came to me just now. But I used to (laughs) play on chat lines with my sister, we are so silly. So one thing we used to do is get phone books and we just go through and prank call people... Sometimes we find our teacher, sometimes we find people we knew and like cut up. Sometimes I used to do this impersonation and it was always Keisha. So I'd always be Keisha, so we’d call people and cut up!
TEOP: What is some of the best advice you’ve gotten?
Jamal: I receive some good advice, I gotta find one. I think it’s so cliche but the two that keep running through my mind, cuz I can’t think about anything really profound cuz I’m just laughing and giggling, but to be yourself and do what makes you happy. It's like really cliche but it's really…. those two things have brought me the most joy. Just really staying true to what I believe in and hold to be truth for myself and for those around me. And to do what brings me joy and makes me happy. Um, that’s the best advice that has been gifted to me. It’s really simple and cliche, but it's true.