In honor of Women’s History Month, we are continuing to recognize and celebrate women through our Top Ten Most Inspiring Women Series. We’ve interviewed many amazing women and we’re excited to introduce you to Erica Jones, a visual artist & emcee.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m a visual artist, and my focus is in murals and large paintings. I’ve got two associate degrees, I have one in drawing and painting, and I have one in graphic design. I’m also an emcee; I’ve been rapping for about 10 years on and off now. And, I have my own brand of apparel and sell merchandise.
“Success is not measured by money, but stability.”
How do you define success?
I would say being able to do what it is you always set out and love to do, and then being able to sustain from that. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re filthy rich, or the most famous person on Earth or anything like that. I know a lot of small businesses that are thriving, and they can live day to day with doing what they love to do. I feel like success is not measured by money but stability.
What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
I would say people’s reactions, the joy people exude whenever I finish or complete something. Or something that’s been on their heart and mind that they feel like they want to share with me, I feel like that’s the most rewarding.
I remember when I was working on the mural of Oluwatoyin, this woman stopped by and she just had to look, and she was like, ‘this is really beautiful.’ She was like ‘I’ve been going through something so I’m really depressed, this really lifted my spirits.’ She said ‘thank you,’ and walked away. I was just like, wow, because in my head I’m just like, alright I need to get this done, because I was working 9-10 hour days to get it done. But it was those types of comments that were like, alright, so I’m heading in the right direction.
What change do you want to see in the world and how do you aid that cause?
I would like to see more compassion in the world. I feel like a lot of us are just functioning based off of these unwritten rules that society has placed upon us, and we’re all kind of just frustrated and tired. We kind of take it out on other people not realizing that we’re all literally going through the same things on varying levels, but we just don’t see it that way because we’re focused on us. It’s understandable, you need to make sure you’re taken care of, but just a little compassion and empathy goes a long way.
I think painting murals in the community gives people something to digest and think about as they go about their day. Whether they’re walking down the street just looking around, it’s just something that brings them peace or some sort of solace. A lot of us are walking around pretty angry, so I hope that my artwork can continue to inspire people, and just ease them up as they go about their day.
Can you tell us more about the art and what inspires your artwork?
I would say my life and the things that’s been going on in the world. I also do a lot of research, I’m very big into history in general. When it comes to the media, I try to highlight entertainers, or artists that you don’t really care about too often or never got the credit that they deserve. Or even everyday people, it doesn’t have to be celebrities of any sort, but to give them a spotlight too because we’re all, you know, the people. Whether people realize it or not, the general population says what’s yay or nay as far as what’s accepted and what’s not.
Can you give us an example of a way someone didn’t get credit for their work and how you would highlight that?
Last year, Joe del Tufo, Jonathan Whitney, and Eliza Jarvis had come together to do a series of murals around the city of Wilmington where the walls were boarded up after the George Floyd riots got out of hand. They asked me to paint something; they kind of gave me free rein, they were like ‘whatever you want to do.’
I chose to do a painting of Oluwatoyin Salau. She was a 19 year old Black Lives Matter activist down in Tallahassee, Florida that went missing. She was found slain a few days after she had went to Twitter and spoke about some sexual assault that she was dealing with, that she was in danger, she feared for her life. A few days after that, they found her with an elderly woman, they were both slain. In the heights of the George Floyd riots and everything, part of it got overshadowed. It was only a couple of months after she had been murdered that I chose to do it. In addition to painting Oluwatoyin, I also wrote the names 400-500 black women and girls that had also been murdered over the course of time that didn’t get proper just do or any sort of backing. I just really wanted to give them a platform and let them know they hadn’t been forgotten and their names are heard also.
“You need to make sure you’re taken care of, but just a little compassion and empathy goes a long way.”
Tell us about a turning point in your career and how you pushed through it.
Now that I’m in my later 20’s, I would say my early to mid 20s, I found myself. I knew I was capable of doing great things and doing things that could impact change, and change things for a lot of people. But I was always the type that focused on taking people with me and making sure people were building and growing with me. That set me back a lot because I put so much emphasis and thought into other people, like I was getting lost in other people.
It took some pretty rough experiences for some people, for me to realize, I don’t really need this. Everything that I said I was about to do, I can just do it myself. And I will. Once I had to cut some people off, as cliche as that sounds, once I separated myself for people, I really went and let that pain and anguish fuel me to do what I needed to do for myself.
It paid off tremendously in a lot of ways. It was about finally buckling down and doing what I needed to do for me because nobody else was gonna do it for me. Nevertheless, everybody can’t go with you.
Why Erica “E.Lizé” Jones is On this List
“We were excited from the get-go to see another creative in our list of nominees. But after doing more research and learning more about Erica’s work, we were just stunned. What she does is so important — giving a voice to people, especially African-Americans, who have been passed over and in such a beautiful medium that people can’t ignore it. Erica is only in her 20s, yet she paints and creates music with the empathy and expression of an old soul, with experience, passion, and empathy beyond her years. We’re watching her… in that totally not-stalking kind of way.”
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