Today we’d like to introduce you to Jay-Marie Hill.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
I grew up in a sweet Bay Area (California) family unit held down by my mom, Feliz, and her ongoing, four-decades-and-counting marriage to my dad, a Luther Vandross-sound-alike – I swear he sang at every single wedding ever when I was a kid! My parents and siblings gave me an incredible, spiritual foundation and truly taught me what love could look like.
As I grew up and forged my own path away from the traditional church of christ’s teachings, I still found myself magnetized to communities held together by the premise of our divinity being worth fighting for. Along the way, I was blessed to attend Stanford and have rubbed elbows with my share of heroes and other impactful people. But, it has disproportionately been Black women and Black trans-led spaces that have taught me the most about love and spiritual power, and it’s so important for me to name that unapologetically. They have taught me to embrace that holiness comes in so many incredible forms, including my own.
I have always lived some intersection of faith, sports, and music. Growing up I’d attend church 5-6 days a week, play music in all the school bands, and still find time to compete in all the sports (soccer, volleyball, rugby, basketball, shot put, and hammer throw, to name a few.). Sadly, I’m a lil accident and injury prone, you could say, so my athleticism as an adult looks a lil different than when I was younger. From almost dying (and being deemed a Make-A-Wish kid) at 14 years old, to knee surgeries at 11 and 19, in addition to a few cracked/broken bones here and there, I’ve been through it! So adulthood has been about creating a delicate balance that keeps me healthy enough to share my gifts joyfully, regularly, and in community.
Ever since my start as a Kindergarten classroom teacher and theater major, I have felt called to create spaces that provide folks with enhanced access to their own spirit and power. Given this life-long intersection of body, mind, and spirit, right now, my work looks like writing and performing music, coordinating bicycle rides and tours, and consulting on organizational development and community mediation with a transformative justice lens.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I am grateful that I’ve been exposed to the underlying messages of power, freedom and love through music and song for as long as I can remember. Even when the church or my mentors’ teachings didn’t line up, I could still feel the undercurrent of what Spirit is capable of speaking through them. The other smooth parts are the moments of direct affirmations of incredible mentors. Folks like Chinaka Hodge, Sonya Renée Taylor, adrienne maree brown, dream hampton, and other accomplished humans – who have done a lot of consistent, hard work to create art and guidance for our times – have been sweet, generous guides to me and my loved ones along the way.
As for the rocky parts: it has been a humbling journey to learn the signs of when someone is really only out for themselves. I’ve always been trusting and curious about what is possible, so much so that my loved ones can affirm I used to be a little bit naive in all that curiosity. One thing you learn in this game of life is to practice valuing yourself first, which can be tricky when you know you are one of a kind in a region or generation. It can be difficult to manage the added weight of learning to imagine your potential beyond what you’ve been told or modeled is your worth, but ultimately, that’s life!
That truth that people can only meet you as far as they have met themselves is real. So, I’ve had to learn that my real work is to hone my presence and discernment, so as to best make room for my magic. I am grateful for the gift of manifestation, and the ability to see where exactly I must make reality intersect with what I say I believe in order for my opinion and skills to really count in this lifetime.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
The creations I have most recently manifested include the (National) Black Trans Bike Experience, the statewide MO Ho Justice Coalition, and singing & performing original music like my 2021 single I Wanna Love and most recently, my first-ever full album entitled Love is No Fool, which came out the same day Beyonce released her project RENAISSANCE – July 29. Similar to Bey, my project is 16-tracks! My EP is a compilation of original and cover songs that I wrote, produced, arranged, and recorded live with a band in front of an audience here in St. Louis.
Recording the album live was important to me because I felt it would help leave an offline record of living and loving through the grief of this pandemic. We have all spent so much time alone and been holding so much grief, but music has been a balm. I wanted to share this project from that regenerative place, and to do so with other incredible artists by my side was such a blessing! My 2021 song I Wanna Love also speaks to relieving some of this pent up energy in a time where love feels out of reach or hard to prioritize. For the I Wanna Love music video, it was important to me that it was co-created by other Black queer folks/Black women (shoutout Nyara Williams and Datiana Guerrero for answering the call), so as to fully and respectfully hold the healing energy embedded in my work.
I would say what sets me apart is my unique voice, talents, body, and the ways I create art/spaces that enhance healing and feeling. I create these portals – first – to affirm Spirit’s instruction to be a vessel for these varied-and-holy creations. Second, I create spaces to witness and to help grow affirming communities that can serve as a soft landing from the places where the world hasn’t yet caught our wave. I know that I love the possibility-modeling-space that Black women and Black trans folks have made for me, and so I strive to make that same healing and permissive space available to others. As my lyrics on the Love is No Fool EP title track Love Is, say:
“When you say you love, you create a world, where there’s no shame in that love/
No shame in my love.”
This is my charge to all of us but to myself, first. I seek to create portals outside of the lifetimes of shame or (spiritual) violence we’ve come to expect and carry with us. My prayer is that my work is a healing offering for all those who care to walk through it in soft-hearted witness.
Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
In my experience, mentors are simply attracted by good, powerful, and purposeful public products. Think, create, share, rest, repeat. The right people to help shape you will come directly to you.
As for networking, as my Stanford classmate and Black theater mentor Jo-Issa [Rae] taught us all – hustle across!
- Holy. Merch ($2-$50)
- BTBE Merch & Bike Lessons ($25-30)
- Organizational Consulting & Mediation (inquire for rates)
- Website: www.blacktranscend.com
- Instagram: @jay.marie.is.holy
- Facebook: https://facebook.com/jay.marie.is.holy
- Twitter: twitter.com/Jay_Marie
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCck3vQZoz-nANSMQIQ5jeeQ
Z Gorley Eli Ndoumbe Tyler Small Jon Gitchoff