She rocks the mic...
Literature Alive Storyteller Jemini brings smooth spoken word to the masses
By Shana L. Calixte | Posted: October 12, 2005
If you've ever been an early morning listener to FM radio, then your ears may have already met the morning voice of Toronto's urban music station.
Co-host of the Morning Rush on Flow 93.5, Jemini has been rocking the mic for many years, with her various talents as a spoken word artist, public speaker, activist and radio talk show host.
A native of Grenada, Jemeni (born Joanne Gairy) grew up in the small Ontario town of St. Catherines and moved to Toronto to pursue Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University. Her introduction to the airwaves and growing love for the political and powerful messages of hip hop music brought her to volunteer at CKLN 99.1, Ryerson's campus radio station. After working on and producing various shows at the station for over 8 years (including the show Dropping Dimes and being the only female voice on the hip hop show, the Powermove), Jemeni moved on to a bigger radio challenge: Flow 93.5. She was recently honoured with a Canadian Urban Music Award along with her co-host Mark Strong for the 2004 radio media personality of the year for her work at the Toronto station.
Yet the “Spice Girl” (nicknamed so due to her Grenadian heritage) isn't only known for her radio work. Jemeni has another love: writing and performing.
"I don’t even see myself as a poet as much as I do a storyteller.” she tells Lisa Yeung in a 2000 interview.
“It’s like, I’m going to give you a message and hopefully you’ll laugh and catch the message.”
And the laughter as well as the message is found in most of her spoken word poetry, where for many who roam the spoken word and underground hip hop scene, she is well known. Her witty and humourous piece, No More Dating DJs (which is also available remixed by DJ Nick Holder as well as on a Honey Jam CD compilation) won her a 2004 Spoken Word Recording of the Year Award at the Canadian Urban Music Awards.
Jemeni has also been published in several magazines, anthologies and compositions. Her award winning 2001 poem about racist police brutality, America Eats Its Young, can be found in the Def Poetry Jam publication, Bum Rush the Page, a book of political poetry. Some of her best known works have been put to music such as her smooth and sexy piece Tabanka which is featured in the 1999 CD release, Word Life: Tales of the Underground Griots.
And fortunately, Jemeni's love for the word has also inspired her to open up spaces for other young female voices, like her own. She is the co-founder of 10 year old PhemPhat Productions (with Ebonnie Rowe and D’nise Harrison) aimed at breaking through the 'old and new boys club' of the urban entertainment scene by producing shows that feature a wide variety of local female talent. PhemPhat produces the local Toronto showcase, Honey Jam, which has featured over 70 female artists, including Motion, Jully Black and Nelly Furtado.
"We wanted to foster a space where women felt comfortable. The whole idea is to be a voice for those who haven’t had a chance,” said Jemeni, again in the 2000 interview.
Jemeni has most recently participated in the sketch comedy group, Dat Girl Sho is Funny (a Plaitform Entertainment production by Trey Anthony) which is not her first time on the stage. She also participated in the successful Vagina Monologues (originally created by Eve Ensler). She also has a larger project in the works, as she will be appearing in Kojak, the 1970s television series being remade for the big screen. She has also been awarded a Caribbean Woman of Excellence Award.
Watch out for Literature Alive's documentary, Jemeni in the City. Dedicated to her work and community, Jemeni is an inspiration, and generously shares her talents with us in this documentary.