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Using Spoken Word to Express Yourself as a Student

    • Using Spoken Word to Express Yourself as a Student

      What makes your story unique? Graduating senior Janay Kelley shares her work.

      We all have a voice, one that is unique to our individual experiences and interactions with the world. Our power lies, in part, with that voice and the way we choose to use it.


      “The night is so full of promise…”

      A visual representation of Janay’s poem Tight Rope done by Jasmine Watson.


      “I used to live on this street called Nelly…”

      Death of Hip Hop, an original piece by Janay, performed by Janay.


      “But who will step in and say something?”

      Funeral, another example of Janay’s original work and range of performance.


      Janay Kelley

      Janay Kelley is a graduating senior at White Station High School, located in Memphis, TN. She is graduating with honors. Janay will be attending Rhodes College in the fall and has a library of anime suggestions for those new to the Anime genre. Janay is a traveling spoken word artist and an award winning filmmaker. Her work is guided and rooted in social activism. A change of schools shifted Janay’s perspective on what a school can and should offer, she found herself as a liaison for black and brown students at her new school to ensure an equitable student experience, regardless of complexion. A proud member of SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) and the Shelby County student congress, Janay walks the line of warm/strict and makes it a point to get into rooms with people who can not only answer her questions but also partner to do something with the answers. Janay sees her mom as her North Star and profoundly believes that catfish and spaghetti are a meal and not two separate entrees. She’shad OSHUN’s “Graduate” on repeat, followed closely by Willow and SZA’s “9” and Kali Uches’ “I Want War (But I Need Peace).”

    • My ability to remain positive in the most challenging situations is the favorite part of my personal story. I am a first-generation college graduate and the first person to attend college in my family. I had no money and even less guidance on navigating the predominately white space of my private, liberal arts college.  Although I entered the school with a full-ride merit-based scholarship, it did not cover living expenses or tuition increases, so I worked two jobs throughout my entire college experience.  It was difficult to navigate these spaces alone while working full-time and attending school full-time but I was able to do it. It was an adjustment period but I was proud that I was able to, not only complete school and become our family’s first college graduate, but excelled there!  The level of resilience I learned during that time would support me throughout my entire career and is the same mentality that allows me to work as a self-employed education consultant. My work now is to provide pathways for others, inside my family and out, to achieve their personal goals as well!

    • I love the different perspectives, tones, and themes in Janay’s poetry and writing. Super savvy the Death of Hip Hop and all the references for the intergenerational groups in the industry!

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