INTERVIEW: POET ZSANÉ JHÉ TALKS BEING #BLACKGIRLMAGIC IN CORPORATE AMERICA
Writer, poet, storyteller and actress Zsané Jhé is the epitome of black girl magic. Known for her storytelling pieces that empower African American women, Jhé’s voice is needed in today’s society.
Jhé specializes in character infused narrative poetry, which allows her to dig deep into the emotions of others and share their stories. With spoken word pieces that touch on corporate America, broken friendships, dream chasing and more, she will definitely have you screaming, “Yass girl, I feel you.”
April is National Poetry Month, so we recently spoke with Zsané about how she started writing poetry, why she thinks it’s still an important art form, and the creative process behind her recent spoken word piece, “Black Women in Corporate America are Not in Competition.”
Ericka (EGL): Tell us more about yourself and your love for poetry?
Zsané: I’m Zsané Jhé. I am a writer, a poet by craft and a professional actress. I actually started writing poetry [for] a sixth grade class assignment. I was raised as an only child, so I grew up pretty lonely. My mom and I moved around a lot, so I lived in about 7 or 8 different states growing up and it was really hard for me to sustain friendships. I just remember I really prayed for a sense of connection, and I found it in poetry in that sixth grade class assignment.
Ericka (EGL): You recently released a poetic video called “Black Women in Corporate America Are Not in Competition.” Tell us more about the project.
Zsané: This piece started out as a storytelling piece that was commissioned for a client, but it quickly evolved into an ode to my mother. My mom tirelessly worked in corporate America for most of my life, up until recently actually. While I was knee deep into writing the poem, I found myself wanting to tell her story. That’s what was so beautiful about this piece. I remember I went to [my mother] to talk to her more in depth about some of her experiences in the workplace, and I just found myself in tears. I was in shambles hearing these stories about how as she ascended the corporate ladder, women who looked like her would find themselves feeling like they were in competition with her. Not necessarily because they were pitted against each other like someone told them, ‘Hey girl, look out for this one because she’s on the rise’, but more so because of that crabs in the barrel mentality that some people of color have, like there’s only one of us that can be up there at the top.
Ericka (EGL): In the storytelling piece, you said something that really spoke to my soul. You said, “Being Black Girl’s Magic in the midst of corporate America’s mediocre.” Tell me what you meant by that.
Zsané: I was trying to portray that [as] black women, we have to be over competent. We have to be over qualified to meet our responsibilities and our duties at work, more so than our white counterparts. We have to be magical creatures who are willing to work day in and day out tirelessly to have performance results that are beyond excellent just to compete against our white counterparts who, well some of them, are not even competent enough to even have the positions that they hold. And they get them because of privilege, so our over competence is competing with white privilege.
Ericka (EGL): Equal Pay Day was earlier this month. Why do you think that black women don’t ask for equal pay more often?
Zsané: I think we’re not asking because we’ve been raised and taught to operate in a spirit of scarcity rather than operating in abundance. We have this notion in our heads that worst case scenario, if we do ask, we’re going to get fired. When you’re constantly thinking about scarcity, you’re constantly thinking about these worst case scenarios, you’re going to lose. It’s going to be hard for you to fight that mental block to speak up for yourself because you’re not seeing opportunities in abundance, you’re thinking, ‘Shoot, it was hard for me to get here, so I need to get this right here. I can’t speak up.’ Then, I have to fight against the mental blocks in my head that are saying that they’re going to think that I have an attitude, or that I’m too sassy or that I’m an angry black woman because I’m demanding what I deserve.
Ericka (EGL): How can women move forward in the workplace?
Zsané: To really build towards sustainable impact, we have to create that collective sense of mind and build those workplace support systems that come in hand with making a pack, but we also have to extend mentorship to one another and we have to start sponsoring one another in the workplace because that’s what’s going to move us towards real change.
Ericka (EGL): I love how you brought this piece to life. Tell us why you think poetry is still an important art form in today’s society.
Zsané: I think that self expression and human connection are never going to go out of style. I mean, it’s essential to a healthy quality of life. I feel like humans are always going to need to be able to bridge that sense of connection from themselves to someone else and that’s what’s so great about poetry, and that no one is alone in poetry. You can find a place to be understood and you can find a place to connect with anyone, so that makes poetry timeless.
Zsané Jhé is definitely a forced to be reckoned with. You can visit her website, www.zsanejhe.com, to hear more of her spoken word pieces and you can also follow her on Instagram @zsane.
Checkout this amazing storytelling piece below!
Written By: Ericka Smith, News Editor (IG: @iam_erickasmith)