community Detroit

Summer Issue Spotlight - Jassmine Parks

Tuesday, August 04, 2015 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

Written by: Jennifer Oquendo 
Jassmine Parks is an amazing writer and spoken word artist with a unique style and love for life and all its ups and downs that comes with it. Her poetry and writings are so deep and intricate it would move even the strongest men in their seats. She has a way with words that truly impacts her audience which of course comes with first hand experiences of life full of blessings and difficulties. 

Growing up Jassmine encountered issues that not only affected her but also molded her into the woman she is today.  Because of those experiences, Jassmine has found such a connection and desire to help kids and young adults that deal with family struggles, domestic violence, discrimination and sexuality.  The difficulties of life that she faced did not stop her from exceeding. 

With determination, she received her G.E.D. at the age of 16 and received her bachelors from The University of Michigan. Jassmine has an extensive amount of experience in writing and is currently the member of the 2015 Detroit Poetry Slam Team. Besides that, she was published in The University of Michigan- Dearborn’s journal, Lyceum and is in the process of completing her first full collection of work. Writing is something she loves but she wants to experiment with other forms of art such as acting, speaking and modeling.  I was thrilled and excited to be able to get in touch with such a passionate artist and get to know a little more about her.

Halfstack Magazine: What is the program you are currently working on and what is it about?
Jasmine: My program, Phenoma!y, a Phenomenal Anomaly, is still a new program. The program is a safe space for adolescent youth. It is intended to provide a trusting environment for the kids. I set up the program at a charter school in my own hometown, Romulus in Metro Detroit, Michigan. I am still in the process in which I am taking the necessary steps to turn Phenoma!y into a non-profit organization.

HM: What made you start it?
Teenage life is a confusing and overwhelming time for some youth. In a sense, it is the shedding of a childhood that hinged on dependency (physically, mentally and emotionally). In another light it appears to be a proverbial threshold leading into adulthood. Adolescents are learning to be more independent and responsible. At the same time pre-teens and teenagers are detaching themselves as the extensions of someone else, such as a parent. They are attempting to establish the foundation of their own identity. It is best that they have a safe environment in which they may come into themselves.

I am passionate about working with youth because they hold the future (ours, theirs and proceeding generations) in their hand. It's important that they are properly equipped to enter the world as responsible, confident, self-sufficient members of society.
Throughout my youth I struggled with issues of poverty, housing stability, adoption, an incarcerated mother and a plethora of other things. Though intelligent, my behavior and dismal living situations were not conducive to an education setting. Only being viewed as disadvantaged and underprivileged led me places that allowed me to reflect and evolve. Though temporary, at different stages of my growth I had certain people in my life that were willing to provide guidance and compassion, absent pity or judgement. To them, I am thankful because I may not be where I am without the push and accountability.

HM: In relation to the theme of our issue, what are your thoughts on self-love?
In learning how to love myself I have been attempting to incorporate the power of vulnerability, authenticity and transparency into my life. Vulnerability to me is the ability to risk possible pain to be rewarded with the positive emotions such as happiness and peace. Authenticity allows for a person to strip themselves of the layers that we tend to hide behind. It allows for one to be seen for who we are, without explaining it away or offering excuses to appease to others. Transparency is being comfortable in one's own nakedness and giving others the choice to look or not.

HM: Have you found yourself ever disliking your appearance? If so, how did you overcome that?
Beauty is so subjective! The traditional beauty standard is measured against white women with blue eyes and blonde hair.  I've never felt fully comfortable in my own skin with such an impossible bar. I'm a brown skinned black woman, with dark eyes and dark natural hair. I try to reaffirm aspects that make me beautiful and sometimes it means loving my imperfections and redefining what I find beautiful that day. I have not evolved into total comfort of my body and some days that's okay.

HM: Nowadays the media claims that in order to be beautiful, you must be physically perfect. What are your thoughts on this?
The media is in the business of controlling perception and selling advertisements. They have accomplished that! Even though it is unrealistic perception is reality. Unfortunately these portrayals of women contribute to esteem issues for our gender. It feels like a superficial based distraction. Commercials target women in such a way that we feel compelled to augment ourselves in an overwhelming quantity. Ads make us so self-conscience of our appearance as an individual that we shy away from political injustices. Why should I care about who makes my bra and its padding amount more than I do the wage gap? How does the size of my butt help decrease sexual assault?        

HM: What would you say to people that struggle with body love?        
Find the unique aspects of yourself that you think are lovely! Accentuate them, exaggerate them. I like to find new beauty marks on my body in odd places.
Also affirmations work! You have to combat the negative outlook from yourself and others by staring at yourself in the mirrors, sometimes stark naked. Find at least one thing you love and refuse to comment on what you dislike. Leave yourself notes. Look up women who resemble you and are successful in loving on their imperfections. Remember that perfect is unobtainable by anyone, even the beautiful ones in ads are photo shopped. 

HM: Have you used your poetry in relation to self-love, body love or self-acceptance? Or have you had any instances where you were going against the typical beauty standards?
One of my favorite poems that I have written is called the Topography of My Love Lines. The work narrates the struggle that I had with the stretch marks that came from pregnancy. It wasn't until my daughter, Ja'Nya (7), would come up to me every day and lift up my shirt and squeeze my belly. She told me that she loved my "flabby bell," and its chubbiness and the stretch marks. Every day! I was SO uncomfortable. She told me that they were beautiful because I birthed her. The more she did it, the more I began to see the beauty in them myself.  The poem serves as a story in which Ja'Nya explores my stretch marks (love lines) and in that I also explore the beauty of self-outside of the societal imposed beauty standards.

Jassmine is not only a positive example to women but she is also a reflection of how women should view themselves on a daily basis. There will be days when we will totally dislike our appearance but Jassmine reminds us that it’s okay. A little affirmation goes a long way!

To read more articles like this, check out our Summer Issue HERE.

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