The Art of Being True: M³ Anthology of Writings


Front cover art by Eden Girma, expansion of the heart

This anthology was made possible by generous support from Nancy and Joe Walker and mediaThe foundation. Support women and non-binary musicians and their stories.

M³ Summer Solstice 2020 Cohort One Collection


Last year, I was approached by acclaimed musicians and composers, Sara Serpa and Jen Shyu, to join them on their new journey as founders of Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (). The mission of this organization, which supports performer-composers of underrepresented gender identities, gave me an opportunity to further my personal mission of creating new spaces and platforms for voices that do not fit the traditional mold and status quo of what jazz and creative musicians should be. 

There is beauty to the act of creation. It is the opposite of destruction which degrades and pulls down the pillars of happiness, contentment, and stability. Though creation can still have its challenges,  I was intrigued to witness women and non-binary beings pour their hearts out amid the uncertainty and strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this said, all of the cohort members of have achieved much in their own right, but I believe that they deserve much more recognition, community and encouragement, which this organization’s important work addresses and provides.

I had the pleasure of guiding and editing the writings of this inaugural M³ cohort, which featured Eden Girma, Anjna Swaminathan, Erica Lindsay, Caroline Davis, Maya Keren, Sumi Tonooka, Lesley Mok, Romarna Campbell, Tomeka Reid, and Val Jeanty, along with Jen and Sara. These artists are not primarily known as writers, but they gave their all while contributing to this anthology, and offer insightful, intelligent and beautifully written pieces that are inspiring and mesmerizing. 

There is no glass ceiling hovering over this project and platform, and the cohort members were able to sail through the artistic and literary skies to find their voices. I could not be more pleased with the work they’ve done, and I look forward to continuing to see these human beings grow and evolve after experiencing such a healing communal safe space.

Women in jazz and creative music fight through the disparity of representation, and it takes bravery to work in such a medium and male-dominated realm. This anthology is a testament that art must prevail within the prison of other’s perceptions. They made work that pushes back and weaves stories and visions of their own perceptions and understanding of the world. I honor and thank them for their strength. – M³ Editor and Chief, Jordannah Elizabeth


1. Poem, Eden Girma, ‘To speak in memory’
2. Essay, Anjna Swaminathan, ‘The Sun Itself: Expanding my Horizons as a Queer Multidisciplinary Being’
3. Prose, Erica Lindsay, ‘Sonic Creation’
4. Essay, Sara Serpa, ‘Motherhood in Music in 10 steps: The Invisible Work of Mother Musicians’
5. Poem, Caroline Davis, ‘Aretes of the New Cyrene’
6. Essay, Maya Keren, ‘Reminder to Self’
7. Essay, Sumi Tonooka, ‘Remembering Philly Joe’
8. Essay, Jen Shyu, ‘Zero Grasses and Fertility: Your Backstory Is the Real Story’
9. Essay, Lesley Mok, ‘Liberalism in Music: The Limits to Representation’
10. Essay, Romarna Campbell, ‘Stream of Consciousness’
11. Essay, Tomeka Reid, ‘Tomeka’s 5 Favorite Quarantine Recipes’
12. Essay, Val Jeanty, ‘Sonic Ritual’ Continue reading


Billie Holiday and the First Hundred Days

President Biden has made new promises to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racial divides which can undoubtedly result in releasing a new season of reassurance to the ailing and marginalized community in Harlem World and countless regions in American society, but there should be a level of patience and skepticism within our collective mind. Yes, an era of chaos, abuse, sabotage, and dishonesty has ended since the swearing-in of new power and Biden wants speaking honestly about the healing of our hearts and minds, but he can never truly understand the trauma of oppression and the terror that has been bestowed upon us as a people. Kamala Harris understands, but we must wait and see if she and the president can create solid policies that will withstand a possible entrance of a conservative administration that historically arrives after the reign of a Democrat president.

When it comes to the pace of our culture, I think of what Billie Holiday said in an interview on Night Beat with Mike Wallace in 1956. When asked about why she thinks Jazz musicians tend to die young and so early she said, “…we try to live one hundred days in one day and we try to please so many people, and we try to – like myself, I want to bend this note and bend that note, and sing this way and that way, and get all the feeling and eat all the good foods and travel all in one day, and you can’t do it.” Continue reading

Cyclical Season Reading List #1

We live in a new era. The world is grappling with the presence of a dangerous pandemic and our natural course, our ingrained natures cannot fully be expressed. We have a new relationship with the concept of free will, and yet, isolation has given us the opportunity to emotionally and spiritually stretch ourselves through introspection. 

It’s difficult because we have to balance our inner work with the challenges of caregiving, parenthood, and professional and financial responsibilities all within our four walls. I’m not saying anything new. We are all connected through this very real and somber predicament and we must remember to grieve with the intention of becoming better than we once were. 

Personally, I am lucky enough to have communed with many wise women, those of different ages and ethnicities who, in an organic conversation began to recommend books to one another. The book that began this pattern of sharing was “Codependent No More” by Melody Beatty. It was helpful because we find ourselves living behind closed doors for days at a time with people we love, and it is easy to slip into a toxic cycle, and on the other hand, we also have a chance to explore our independence like never before.

Here is a compiled reading list from this circle of women who have inspired me to embrace my vulnerabilities and to look within. – je


Cyclical Season Reading List #1
Continue reading

MLK Left Us a Guide to the Mountaintop

As we sit in remembrance of the spiritual activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., America finds itself unable to reconcile the true identity of the people as we continue to be split along racial and socio-economic lines, it is important to focus on what MLK left behind: a proverbial roadmap to freedom and independence. 

Morally and practically, King thought non-violent protesting was the most sufficient way to enact resistance towards Jim Crow and legal segregation. At that time Black people were only approximately 10% of the population and held a sliver of the country’s possession of firepower, therefore, which would inevitably cause a quick demise if a race war was to be entered into.

It was also King’s goal to combat the legal system which regulated and allowed the humiliation of Black people to go mostly unchecked, protecting white supremacist attacks and terrorism towards Black people. It was in his mind to change the law, which would change the destiny of the country and his people.

We see the remnants of the ideals and understandings working today as Black people took to the polls in Georgia to overturn the senate majority from Republican to Democrat. We see this as a Black and Southeast Asian woman prepares to take her seat as Vice President.

But as political victories become more prevalent, the shadow side of our country’s vision of reality it starkly and almost immediately combatted by misguided, far right-winged, racist vigilantes who will do anything to show their disdain for the extension of power towards marginalized people by committing heinous acts like overrunning the White House, hoping to cause the stir and perform a coup to keep their white supremacist interests intact. Continue reading

P / P Essay: Everything Is Of Consequence (II)

Two of Pentacles, various tarot visual interpretations.

For many years, my favorite words to write were “it is of no consequence”, but as time has gone on, as I have matured and grown I realize that everything is of consequence. The choices we make, the words we share, the emotions we project create ripple effects throughout our limited Universes. I say “limited” because many times, we cannot see past our noses and navigate our affairs unaware of the lives that flow and exist in far off lands like India, Estonia, and remote villages in Africa.

The global mind is not acknowledged or encouraged in American culture – we are not taught to stretch our imaginations to fantasize about the different cultures that share our human nature but go about their tangible experiences in very different ways. The consequence is that our capacity for empathy is not tested, irritated like a metamorphosed crystal and elongated to reach the inner and outer reaches of our imprisoned souls who cannot expand without mental, emotional, and spiritual exploration.

During this technological renaissance, it can be daunting to figure out how to be kind to multitudes of beings. How can we be a good human being to everyone we encounter? How do we cultivate discipline over our emotions and desires to put other’s needs before ours? And when we contemplate these thoughts, a bigger question arises of do we want to? Do we have enough energy saved, reserved, and structured to serve those outside of our immediate purview?

How do we reconcile the rift between our public and private lives and personas? Continue reading

P / P Reading List: {TERSE. Journal’s} Literary Arsenal

A new reading list from our friends at TERSE. Journal

Grunge black and white distressed textured background

When I was traveling a couple of years ago, I sent about a quarter of my library to my mother’s house in the Rocky Mountain region. My books sat in her guestroom for a year before I called her and inquired about have them sent back to me.

I’m back to writing full time after a brief stint of teaching, and with the attainment of many writing and reporting assignments, I feel naked without my collection to help me sort through and research to hone the basis of my thesis and tones for my essays, screenplays, and stories.

Whether I’m writing about a Black women jazz musician, an ethereal novella or writing an essay to assist other writers in finding methods to smooth their literary paths, I’ve known since I was a girl that a robust library of diverse books (that only you can curate via your own tastes and literary needs) is essential to growing into a successful writer.

When I received the full list of books that are patiently waiting to be reunited with my eager and voracious fingers, palms and eyes, I thought it would be good to share some of the books I own and love.

Not many people get to see my process. I wanted to take a bit of the veil down between myself and other readers and writers to ensure that we, in even the smallest of ways, stay connected. Continue reading

P / P Prose: Going From Here


Oh, it has been a somber and sobering time. Disease is ravishing the lives of many and the stoicism of the white global class is facing a reckoning brought on by the catalyst of a brave martyr – who has succumbed to the brutality of Black reality as countless have before him.

We all know the recap. We all know what is to be conversed about, debated and potentially dismantled over the course of many moons.

I have concerned myself with much, but I have tried to move as carefully as possible. I have been doing my best to care for my health, I have been managing to keep up with deadlines and appear as refined as much as I deem appropriate.

I don’t have a lot on my mind right now.

I have much to do but all I can think about is how to move forward beyond this very minute.

Going from here.

Where I go is a consequence of my thoughts and decisions but in the micro moments I interplay between rest and a manageable pace.

My heart skips beats now. It’s never done that before. I can’t drink more than two cups of coffee a day because my body is on alert. I want it to be calm. I want to reassure my heart that it is safe. I don’t think it’s worried about love. I think it’s being attacked by those who don’t know what love and yet find it pertinent to demand attention that my heart doesn’t want to give. It’s being violated.

Such is life.

On the other hand, my heart is going out across the Universe. It’s working overtime. I’m going to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise twice a day to nurse it, to feed it. It takes small, incremental fixes and patience, self love.

We’ll be fine. Going from here.

Safety, Consciousness and COVID-19

1836727_456716311123582_892491538_o (1)

The global consciousness has been fraught since the beginning to time. Nonetheless, today in 2020, we are all faced with decisions we are not prepared to make. I would like to be a voice of encouragement to take every step with thoughtfulness and the responsibility of working together and within ourselves to make the best decisions for the greater good.

We are in a digital age of instant commentary and quick reactions, so we will have to relearn how to take time while simultaneously being open to a constant stream of information.

We at Publik / Private are safe and remotely run. We have not had any events on the docket for the last several weeks and my personal lecture opportunities have been postponed.

I will also practice as much social distancing as I can. I am part of a close knit community and cooperative.  We have all met with one another a couple of days ago to collectively plan for the future.

Make sure you have food, clean water and a positive outlook that this pandemic will be contained within the next few weeks as we all respect the observance and advice of biological professionals.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Publik / Private and our protocol, feel free to reach out.

Thank you for reading. We’re all in this together.

Jordannah Elizabeth

Executive Director

Publik / Private

P / P Reading List: 8 Books for General Self-Education

I find it to be fateful that I lost my teaching job a couple of weeks ago. I had been eager to get back to writing full time, which, in turn would allow me to pull Publik / Private out of its forced hiatus. There are so many hours in a day, and I was at full capacity taking a few college courses and teaching part time. I could not write as much as I desired and Publik / Private had to take a backseat to my daily affairs for a number of months.

Nevertheless, all of that is behind me now and I am at ease. I am not in dire straights or frantic because I saved accordingly for such a time as this.

Almost immediately after I got notice about the job, I headed to the bookstore to re-up on material. I still frequent the library as well. My logic has always been, if you are going to write, you have to read. It’s the only method I understand when it comes to producing a lot of work for a foreseeable future.

I’ve chosen 8 books out of the dozen I have acquired over the past 6 months. They are for my self-education. Some of the books teach me how to work on my craft of writing, others educate me on feminism and masculinity, and some are classic collections. They are my Source of Self-Regard, and a list that I think is worth sharing. Moreover, it’s been ages since I’ve written a reading list, which is a practice I did often in the past. Continue reading