by Emma Ellis
Ashley M. Jones has accomplished many firsts in her life. As the youngest and first Black poet laureate in the state of Alabama, she serves as the face of poetry for the state. Last Wednesday, she recited ten poems for Troy University students.
“It didn’t really occur to me until it was almost time for me to be selected, that wow, we’ve really made it almost 100 years without any sort of diversity,” Jones said.
Jones frequently uses her poetry as an outlet to speak about injustices in the world, and as a teacher at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, she believes that the best way to fight injustices is to arm people with the truth.
“I’m a teacher who really values the truth,” Jones said. “I think that the greatest gift we can give our students is to arm them with reality.
“I think it’s really dangerous what we’re seeing in certain states; what’s being banned.”
In Jones’ most recent book, Reparations Now!, she speaks about past and present hardships faced by the descendants of enslaved people in America. She has said that reparations mean addressing the injustices of the past to hold people accountable for today’s actions.
“I think actually learning history will allow us to see what’s happening now,” Jones said. “Part of the reason why people don’t want us to learn the truth is because they want
to keep doing what has been done.
“If you learn about Bull Connor, George Wallace, all of the people who have done all of the things, you’ll be able to look at people you see now, like, maybe the governor of Florida, I don’t know, and see that he is perpetrating the same sort of crime.”
She says that what we need right now is empathy and compassion.
“If we all just kind of take on the mindset that everyone who’s having problems in our country should be our problem too, maybe we could move forward with more empathy, compassion and love,” Jones said.
Jones was named as the poet laureate in December of 2021 and will remain in the role through 2026.
For more information about Jones and her work, visit her website, ashleymjonespoetry.com.