In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called Black Girl Power... The Future Is Bright. Every day, phenomenal black women from different industries will be featured to tell their stories—revealing how they became who they are, showing what they have accomplished, and pinpointing how they navigated their careers. Black women deserve to be celebrated 365 days of the year, and we hope that this series will inspire everyone to believe in the power of #blackgirlmagic.
Jasmine Mans has been writing poetry since she was in middle school when her parents sent her to orator classes. “Every Wednesday, I’d sit in the basement of this church learning poetry, poise, and performance,” she says. “As a young person I was intrigued by how I could make my audience feel.”
Throughout her adolescence, Mans was inspired by Tupac. “His rhyme and unapologetic style. His provocative storytelling,” she explains. Mans attended a predominantly black art high school, but her “first experience with whiteness came in the form of debate competitions.” Mans was a proud member of her school’s speech and debate teams, which weren’t exactly recognized as the cool clubs. Even then, she viewed herself as a rock star and the same can be said today.
Now, the 24-year-old author and poet is based in Newark, New Jersey. In 2012, she published her first book of poems titled Chalk Outlines of Snow Angels. Mans is constantly mentoring young poets and even taught creative writing at her alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for its First Wave initiative program. (In addition to her BA in African-American Studies, Mans was also the recipient of the Star Ledger from New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Arts Millennia, and the New York Knicks Poetry Slam scholarships and awards.)
Mans has also shared the stage with artists like Janelle Monáe and Mos Def as an opener. Try to get on her level and take notes from the interview, below.
How do you maneuver your industry as a black woman?
Could you describe a moment where you felt like you defied the odds?
How did you grow into your black identity?