Poet, activist and yoga instructor, Yolo Akili, 29, received their Bachelors of the Arts in Women’s & African American Studies from Georgia State University. He is currently on staff at Decatur, GA based Men Stopping Violence, a social change organization that advocates stopping violence against women. He has participated in many social justice conferences including The State of Black Gay America Summit held in Atlanta in 2009. In 2008 they was awarded the “Unity in Community Award” from Unity Fellowship in Christ Church Atlanta and has been recognized with other awards for his activism.
Their work has appeared in publications such as Aquarius Atlanta, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Recently they completed Purple Galaxy, a collection of music and poems, and their first feature length spoken word album. The album is a unique blend of uninhibited eroticism that explores the boundaries of gender identification. This summer they will tour the nation performing tracks from the album. They recently spoke with me and here’s what they had to say.
How did you become in social services work and/or become an activist?
Honestly? It was a feeling of imbalance and injustice. I first came into race consciousness and the awareness of our history as people of African descent mobilized me into wanting to help create a different reality for us. That consciousness grew then into awareness of gender, sexual orientation, class, disability and the rest is history. My desire is to help create a world where every being is valued and loved and to help foster systems and societies that reflect that same ethic. Hence, I became an activist.
Why do believe activism is so important?
“Activism” I believe, is the myriad of ways in which we resist society’s narratives that attempt to subjugate our expressions and possibilities. Thus I think it’s extremely important that we all as human beings continue to question our world and reality to help further the growth of ourselves and each other.
Tell us more about any current projects that you are working on, including any challenges and how you plan to over come them?
So many to name! Well first I am working on “Poetry Videos” for several tracks off of Purple Galaxy including, “Concretely” and “To My Teachers.” Then I am touring the country this summer in Atlanta, Harlem, Los Angeles, San Francisco and more so there’s a lot of good stuff coming up. I am also working on a revamping of my blog “Envision This!” As far as my biggest challenge, it’s to be still. Even as a yoga teacher I often get caught up in the “I’ve gotta be busy doing something” lifestyle.
What motivates you?
Healing, joy and sometimes pain motivate me. Mostly just possibilities and alternatives that offer us a chance to love motivate me too.
I’ve had the chance to listen to some of your poetry where do find your creativity?
It just comes to me often from emotions and feelings. I’ve been reading and writing for as long as I can remember and poetry has been a medium that helps me express some of my deepest desires and feelings.
I read on your website that you’re a yoga instructor, tell us more about that:
The first thing I would say is that no matter how stressed your life is, you have to make time for you and your own well being. You have to make the intentional choice not to invite stress into your life and sometimes that can be a challenge. Once you make the choice to stop creating stress in your life I would recommend you just try out a yoga class, preferably at a yoga studio and not a gym. Yoga studio’s tend to be more “breath and healing centered” and gyms tend to be more aerobic. Experiment with that and find what works best for you.
To watch Yolo’s performances visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39Flw6BBwgA&feature=related
Purple Galaxy is available iTunes and Amazon.com or by visiting www.yoloakili.com