J Mase III Gives Keynote Speech for Queer History Month

Last Wednesday, poet and activist J Mase III took the stage at the Alumni Lounges in a Women’s Center-sponsored event to spread the word about discrimination against the LGBTQIA community.

As he stepped on stage, J Mase remembered the people who made mistakes in his life and delivered poems and comedic haikus about those people, to which the crowd responded with poetic finger snaps, chants and applause. J Mase allowed the audience to explore the depths of his mind through poetry and ultimately left the audience with a message about intersectionality.

Dressed in forest green dress pants, a true-blue button-down shirt and a navy colored blazer complete with black shoes, a dyed mohawk and bow tie, J Mase’s appearance was a manifestation of his colorful personality.

To open the event, J Mase recited a few poems that grabbed the audience and incited applause, laughter and praise. Afterward, J Mase gave a brief lecture about intersectionality and how he and the LGBTQIA community are being marginalized by employers, business owners and others in positions of power.

Intersectionality is a term that describes the way different types of discrimination operate together in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia, class and the like. For example, J Mase is a black transgender man, so if he were to experience discrimination, it would not be based on just his race or gender identity; intersectionality means that J Mase would be discriminated against based on both facets of his identity.

“I believe in heart, head and feet,” said J Mase.

Head is acquiring knowledge and studying to learn about the injustices the LGBTQIA community experiences. The feet mean physically getting out there and organizing to try and make a change in the world. Lastly, is the heart, describing how J Mase aims to motivate people to want to help and get the attention of citizens and lawmakers to prove that there is discrimination happening in the United States.

Right now, 29 states can legally terminate an employee solely because the employee is gay; 34 states can legally terminate a transgender individual. States closest to New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania do not have laws against gender identity discrimination.

The National Center for Transgender Equality did a study that revealed for a black transgender, such as J Mase, there is a 28 percent unemployment rate, which matches up with ex-convicts, whose unemployment rates fall between 25 and 40 percent, according to a study by Business Management Daily.

The self-confident, rowdy poet talked about his struggles growing up in a Christian/Muslim household. It was hard for his mother to come to grips with his lifestyle, and J Mase admitted that he and his mother had spent years not speaking while still living in the same house. He explained that growing up in South Jersey, he experienced forms of discrimination, mostly race-related, but always stayed motivated by people who were persistent and goal-oriented. Despite having passed away about a year and a half ago, J Mase's father was also always in his corner throughout his life, despite the fact that they often did not live together. 

The audience gave J Mase their utmost support throughout his performance; and the night concluded with a round of applause for the keynote speaker and a brief dance session before the audience departed.

The event was hosted by Queer Peer Services Coordinator Yovanna Garcia, and sponsored by the Women’s Center. All this month the Women’s Center has put on events in respect to Queer History Month, which is celebrated in October, Garcia explained.

“Although Queer History Month is celebrated in October, we hope to continue the message in the future,” said Garcia.