In this first of three Artistic Legacies films, Jordyn Jay shares what led her to create an artistic organization during a time of social reckoning in the United States. That organization, Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, is now an international organization. But its roots are deeply local and deeply personal to Jordyn. As she gets ready for a groundbreaking event at the Brooklyn Museum, Jordyn reflects on the emotional journey that led her to create space for hundreds of Black trans femme artists around the world.
CREDITS: CREATOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: IMARA JONES | PRODUCER: TILER WILSON | PRODUCER: RUBY ROSE COLLINS | PRODUCER: SOPHIA KIAPOS | EDITOR: GRACIE SIMONETT | DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: NICHOLAS LATTIMORE | ASSISTANT CAMERA: ETIENNE PELISSIER | SOUND MIXER: ZACH SALEM-MACKALL | COLORIST: MICHAEL SCHATZ | DIGITAL STRATEGIST: DANIELA “DANI” CAPISTRANO | SPECIAL THANKS TO: JORDYN JAY AND BTFA | APPEARANCES: ANGELICA ROSS, MISS MOJO, MILA JAM, MISS SHALEA
ABOUT ARTISTIC LEGACIES
Artistic Legacies explores the power of the Black Trans Femmes in the Arts (BTFA) collective through the stories of Founder Jordyn Jay, artist and musician/songwriter Iman Hill, and ballroom legend Kimiyah Prescott. This three-part docuseries shows how these members use artistic expression to change themselves and the world around them, bringing hope to the most of the marginalized at a time of unprecedented violence and political attack. Artistic Legacies points to how we can create brighter futures by using what’s already inside each of us. The 200-strong BTFA demonstrates how to manifest these possibilities.
JORDYN’S STORY: TRANSCRIPT
Jordyn Jay: You know, it would be great to just give Black Trans people the same opportunities that you’re giving other people, but also understanding that Black Trans people don’t have housing background, people don’t have health care, Black Trans people are missing a lot of resources that it takes to be an artist and be able to create in a sustainable way. I’m Jordyn Jay. I’m the founder and executive director of BTFA. BTFA stands for Black Trans Femmes in the Arts.
Our inaugural fundraising gala is coming up tomorrow at the Brooklyn Museum. We’ve been planning this event for about eight months now. I’m originally from Jacksonville, Florida. Theater wasn’t really something that is big in Jacksonville. It’s a little conservative.
The arts were a space for me to feel like I had something of value and I had something special about me, and also that I didn’t really have to hide the things that in the outside world may have been kind of looked down upon: my femininity, my boisterous mass, my obnoxiousness. Those were all things that were strengths in that space, and that made me feel affirmed.
I think the first seed that was planted was my senior year of undergrad. I was studying under Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, who is the founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center, and she was teaching this course on cultural equity and institution building specifically in New York City. And so we learned about the disparities in funding for cultural opportunities for people of color. I started to really think about, okay, what could a cultural institution for Black, trans and Black queer folks look like? That was really centered in the arts and that acknowledged the resources that we need that are often kind of overlooked in both the art space and the organizing space.
There was also this misunderstanding that Black Trans people are starting from a deficit. But then what about once those issues are addressed and they’re solved, are we acknowledging the humanity of Black trans people and the desire and the passion that Black trans people bring to the table?
Jordyn Jay: Absolutely stunning. Oh, this is lovely.
Jordyn Jay: I hosted a meet up calling Black Trans people that worked in all areas of the arts, and only eight people came. And then that got us to summer of 2020. And there was obviously a really big cultural shift. And so we posted on our Instagram that we were raising funds for supporting Black Trans life organizations. And the next thing I knew, the post was being shared by a bunch of celebrities. And by the end of that week, we had raised $1,000,000. I thought the IRS was going to burst my door down.
Jordyn Jay: Getting down to crunch time. Some people are late. The sky is falling. Can you ask her what she needs help with from there?
Jordyn Jay: We began to offer grants to Black Trans femme artists, as well as having programing in-house. We are working with artists that are nationally recognized.
Jordyn Jay: Absolutely.
Mila Jam: We don’t know what tomorrow is bringing so we are here, We’re supporting you, and if you need us, lets us know.
Jordyn Jay: Dear Lord, please help us to all have the best energy and positive attitude to deliver the best show we can.
Unidentified: And to my transcestors, may you be here with us in spirit this evening here at the Brooklyn Museum, we’re touching spaces and places that we have never done before.
Jordyn Jay: Amen. Oh, I love you.
Unidentified: Now, let’s give it up to the one and only Ms. Jordyn Jay.
Jordyn Jay: Thank y’all. The story of why BTFA keeps going. It’s not our trauma. It’s not our pain. It’s hope. Before I started. If I didn’t have Trans community. I would see stories of our sisters being murdered and I would hear numbers like 35. That was the life expectancy for Black Trans femmes. And I would wake up every morning with that number in my head. And I thought that was it for me. I thought that was all I could accomplish was 35. But now, I have a family and I have a community and I have a reason to keep going. I thank you all for giving me hope. BTFA represents over 200 Black Trans femme artists in five different countries.
Announcer: Jordyn Jay, we present to you, the first Octavia St Laurent Vision of Excellence Award.
Jordyn Jay: I think that my job on this earth is to make people feel loved. And so I hope that anyone who comes into BTFA feels out love and knows that they have somewhere they belong.
WHY TRANSLASH HONORS BLACK TRANS WOMEN
Black trans femmes have historically been the first to stand up for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, while also disproportionately facing the most anti-LGBT+ and anti-Black violence. We at TransLash want to give our Black trans femme siblings their flowers 24-7. Our #BlackTransArtisticLegacies campaign is part of our mission of telling trans stories to save trans lives.
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