Moore and More
From poetry to rocking to motherhood, jessica Care moore is a creative force
Published: January 9, 2013
From the outside, it seems stunning that, in 2013, quality musicians are still being overlooked or even held back because they are both black and female. One would hope that society is now capable of seeing past that sort of prejudicial nonsense. Apparently not. "Are you kidding me?" asks Moore. "If they're not singing R&B, the industry doesn't know what to do. We have amazing vocalists here in Detroit and they don't all want to sing R&B, some want to sing rock 'n' roll. It's music for God's sake, but it's still that complicated. Thankfully, because of the Internet and other resources, we are able to break through. I thought about making it just 'Women Rock', but it's easier for a white girl to get a deal, no question about it. The Alanis Morissettes and Didos, but I like all those girls. I wish that they would come help Black Women Rock. It's fucking hard for us to get the record deal. [Local singer-songwriter] Mayaeni's on my show. She's breathtakingly beautiful and talented. What else do you want? With Black Women Rock, we're trying to create a network to help women across the country. The dream is to be able to make those international connections, and some kind of a summer music camp here in Detroit where they can come and teach. We need more girls. I can't find a black girl who plays a strong lead electric guitar here in Detroit."
That, according to moore, is what Black Women Rock is all about — the desire to show people that black females can rock as hard as any white dude. Just give them a damned guitar and watch them smash down those boundaries. "When we do a Black Women Rock show, people are left stunned because we play hard," she says. "Even my entire production staff is women and it's a beautiful thing because that shit runs smoothly. We've gotten it down. We have played festivals where they would normally book white-boy indie rock groups. We get the biggest turnout too. The organizers worry that just black people are going to come, which is so ridiculous. Who doesn't want to see women on stage in high heels playing rock 'n' roll. Who doesn't want to see that? My friend said, 'Jessica, I'm the whitest woman in the world and I love Black Women Rock.'"
Moore, now 42, says that her outlook on life changed dramatically when she reached her 40s. "I think when I turned 40, it changed the way I look at men and love, and the things that matter to me. A maturity sets in. All my woman friends who were past 40 told me it was going to happen. I got to the point of saying exactly how I feel about something. Clarity has set in. With my art, I'm dealing with the urgency of wanting to get more work out. I'm recording like crazy now. I used to be very careful about recording. My voice is now mature enough that anything I say I can go to my grave with. There were things I wrote in my 20s and even my 30s that I couldn't write now. Now, I can say something and I'm not afraid of what I'll think of it when I'm 80 or 90. I'm not going to be regretting those things. I have a book of poetry coming out, and I'm editing an anthology. Because I'm older, I'm aware of the need to put my legacy in front of me. I've been busy publishing new authors. I want to really focus on getting my writing out."
Moore has actually been looked down upon, ridiculously, throughout her career, and not just because of her gender or the color of her skin. "Because the way that I became known wasn't through literary journals, I don't always get respect," she says. "I became famous on that stage and it changed my life. I have friends in the academic community who love me. I've taught at all types of schools, Ivy League and everything. I've been doing that for years, so I've been in that world but not of it, and I think that's a great position to be in. I know I'd be a cool-ass teacher if I want. I don't know if I'm old enough to want to do that to myself. I'm doing what a lot of university professors want to do — living as a full-time writer. That's what you want to do. You want to teach, and I like teaching in jails and juvenile detention centers. I love being in the jails and prisons. Using poetry as a foundation, we can get our kids interested in going to school. I'm able to get to those kids. Not everyone can do that, but I go in there and I know that I can. As I get older, that's some of the work that is more important to me. Getting my presence known in the intellectual world. The thing is, I'm also a snob. I'm so highbrow when it comes to theater. I can't stand mediocre playwriting. If something isn't really edgy and provocative and the storytelling isn't well done, then I hate it. I'm like that with film. I can't stand the typical films that are put there. I don't see myself in the story so I'm not interested. As a poet, I'm very critical because I know the greatest poets in the country. They're my friends, they're my peers."
That raises an interesting question. Isn't art completely subjective? Is it not the case that there is no such thing as bad art, just art that you don't like? Moore doesn't think so. "That's bullshit," she says. "There's such a thing as bad art. There are museums even in Michigan where I stare at shit and think, 'What is this?' The art for art's sake thing is bullshit. I don't believe in that at all. I come from a blue-collar Detroit place. When I became a poet full-time in New York, my brother would ask what my real job was going to be. I say that I want to be a poet and they're like, 'What the fuck does that mean? What are you talking about? What are you gonna do for a living? Where will you get your money?' The concept of being an artist puzzled them. I think like an artist, but at the same time, I have a job. Sometimes, it's work. Going to the postbox to mail stuff out — this is work. Writing isn't like work, but there is work involved in it."
> Email Brett Callwood