There is hope. I breathe a deep sigh of relief as I click off from my conversation with the Black Diamonds Scholarship Fund scholarship winner Joyalise Shelton. Joyalise is a grounded, intelligent, focused teenager. Yep, teenager. I am wholly impressed with this young lady. Her future is very bright and it makes me see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for this next generation. Joyalise’s winning essay expressed her interest in working in the entertainment industry in management capacity. She hopes to create a firm that only deals with POSITIVE artists. Artists whose messages are created to inspire and uplift. Positive artists with positive messages. This goal really hit home with me as this subject has been my personal soapbox since the inception of Positive Black Images.
Joyalise graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and soon thereafter left L.A. to start summer classes at University of Tennessee to start on her degree classes. It took a while for our calendars to coincide because of Joyalise’s class and study schedule.
But she was worth the wait…
PBI: Man! You’re at school already? Do you have an off switch?
JS: I know, right? I actually just finished my summer classes. I got a head start on completing my required courses and took English 101 and Public Speaking 210. Both were mandatory for the B.R.I.D.G.E. program so I’m happy to get them out of the way. My last class was yesterday.
PBI: Public Speaking huh? That’s a challenge for some people. Did you find it hard to conquer or are you a natural?
JS: No, I get a bit nervous with public speaking. This class required TWO big speeches. It was a lot. Plus the work was individualized and no ‘speech teams’ so this was all independent work. I think I got a decent grade in the class but it wasn’t easy. Last time I checked it was a B.
PBI: Were you a good student in high school?
JS: Yes I always did well in school. I was a B student.
PBI:What was your school environment like?
JS: I was bused 30 minutes away to Alexander Hamilton High School every day; from Inglewood to Culver City. I remember that bus leaving at 6:40 in the morning and me SO not being a morning person. It was a struggle!! Overall it was a good experience. I made great friends and I had a lot of fun. I was also enrolled in the Music Academy so there was always something creative going on along with the books.
PBI:Wait... a music school as well as Hamilton High? JS: Well, the Music Academy was part of our high school. There were several different learning communities on the campus and Music Academy was the one I was involved in. There were also branches for Humanities, Business and Technology, and Communications and Arts. In middle school I attended a performing arts school and I ended up going to the high school they fed into. I was involved originally in choir, then later dance.
PBI: Does that mean you’re a good singer?
JS: I sing but I’m not a great singer. I enjoyed it a lot though.
PBI:Was there a heavy emphasis on education in your house growing up?
JS: I was always told “you are going to college” all the time growing up. It wasn’t a question of if but where. Definitely not optional.
PBI: And you held it down all those years? JS: I was a good student through the years. In middle school I was pretty independent and held my own. In high school I kinda started slacking, trying to hang out with my friends and get off track. My folks stepped in and made it clear that it was business first and then fun. That’s when they got real strict.
PBI: Youhear so much about high school girls getting sidetracked and having babies at very young ages. No offense but, how did you avoid falling into that statistical category?
JS: It was a combination of my parents and myself. My parents were always open with me about sex and we always had an open dialogue when it came to that. So there was less temptation to sneak around and take risks. I was lucky because my friends didn’t have it like that.
PBI: Well you made it!! The big G! Graduation had to be a great payoff for you and your parents.
JS: Yes, one of the best days of my life so far. Very exciting and kinda sad at the same time. It was sad knowing that I won’t be seeing my friends again or at least for a while. But very exciting that I would be starting a new chapter with college.
PBI: How is your summer experience at University of Tennessee going? I'm sure there are some distinct cultural differences between CA and TN. How are you adapting?
JS: Tennessee is TOTALLY different. Knoxville is so small in comparison to Los Angeles. Even compared to Inglewood. Their “strip” that’s the main drag here is like a regular street in L.A. They dress a lot different than I’m used to in L.A. I’m more into fashion and shopping and they don’t do a lot of that. They wear athletic wear every day and are rarely what they’d call “dressy”. It’s not BAD how they are, just different than what I’m used to.
PBI: What has your experience been as far as getting to know people in a new town? Have you made new friends?
JS: Yeah, I have two friends that I like that I’m close to. And a few that I hang out with. It’s been a transition but I’ve started to feel settled in. Everyone is really nice here so it makes the new environment easy to adapt to.
PBI: Sounds good. I’m sure you miss home though, I’ll bet?
JS: I do. I miss my mom and my friends. The phone calls are good but it’s just not the same as hanging out in person. I won’t be able to go home to L.A. until December but I have family in Atlanta that I go to see as often as I can. It’s three hours ride from Knoxville to Atlanta but my cousin drives up to pick me up and we get to spend time hanging out.
I’m really close with my dad and I call him almost every day. I guess I’m something of a daddy’s girl and it’s always good to get to talk to him and have that slice of normalcy that I’m used to.
PBI: OK, switching lanes a bit. Your essay reads like you have an affinity for giving back. Where does that stem from?
JS: In my 8th grade year I signed up for the Delta Academy a club sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. We did community service projects and worked at personal growth. The Delta Academy merged into the GEMS program. That stood for “Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully”. I got an appreciation for giving back through my experiences with the Deltas.
We also used to feed the homeless through our church, Greater New Bethel Baptist Church in Inglewood. That was a very humbling experience for me. I remember when my mom would tell me I was going on those outings, I used to get soooo irritated. But when we would actually go to Skid Row and see how they were living… it was eye opening. I really got an appreciation for my own situation and life and saw that there is always a need to be a presence in the community.
PBI: Is that why your essay was about being a presence in the community through steering the message in today’s music?
JS: It is. There are a lot of irresponsible messages and artists out there just saying some of EVERYTHING! They try to say that they aren’t role models but kids are listening. Kids that aren’t mature enough to realize that what they hear on recordings isn’t real; they don’t know what to disregard so they end up trying emulate the records they listen to. Whether the artists acknowledge or accept it or not, they have an impact on the community.
I want to work with artists that accept that responsibility. Not only that, but that want to actively give back to the community they come from. Be a presence with something positive to contribute. Clients like that would be dream clients for me. I want to be part of changing the conversation in today’s music.
We couldn’t be more proud of this outstanding young lady. The sky is truly the limit for her. Congratulations to you, Joyalise, and to your mom and dad!! Be blessed!!