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Jared Paul is a slam poet, social worker, journalist, and organizer from Providence, Rhode Island. Known for thoroughly researched work, poignant presentation, and dedication to craft, Jared is widely recognized as one of the top spoken word artists. Explosive delivery and intense politics have made Jared a stand out on the mic, but nearly a decade of matching those words with constant involvement in direct action off stage, has made him nearly legendary in the world of performance poetry. Jared has helped organize, and participated in, countless social forums, indy-media fundraisers, electoral campaigns for progressive candidates, street theater actions, block letter writing/phone banking endeavors, anti-war protests, labor rallies, and extensive working class lobbies throughout the United States, Canada, & EnglandAs a youth coach, Jared is the founder and coach of the Providence National Youth Slam Team, assisting & encouraging Rhode Island youth to seize the reins of performance art as an outlet for both un-refined creative expression, and as a means of specific artistic statement as well. Jared has participated in and run workshops, slams, and open mics in youth correctional facilities, high schools, community colleges, writer's groups, and universities across America.
Being a social worker, journalist, and widely known for using slam poetry to voice your opinion on many societal issues, do you consider yourself a modern day activist? What kinds of changes are you hoping to achieve?
I don't like the word activist actually. I feel like it implies that there is something extraordinary about getting involved. In a thriving, honest Democracy, understanding your Constitution, participating in the political process, and making sure that elected officials are serving the will of those who voted them into office are average, basic duties. Nothing "activist" about them at all. As for change, I would like to see legislation from Congress banning any U.S. involvement in the invasion of Sovereign nations, including Iran. I'd like to see the 2 party system dissolved, and a national Maximum Wage imposed. Nuclear power is utterly un-sustainable and unsafe, and I think it should be abolished. I'd also like to see the Defense Department's budget gutted and the Departments of Child & Family fully funded across the country. More money for inner city public schools and charter schools; we don't have enough time in this interview for all the changes i am hoping to achieve.
You have some very strong convictions about the environment, our lifestyle choices and the inter-connection between them. One of the things you feel very strongly about is leading a smoke, drug and alcohol free life – a notion that seems to be very important to you. What influenced you towards these lifestyle choices?
Meeting Sage Francis during my freshman year was a big part of it. He was the coolest person I'd ever known, and he was totally sober. It had a big influence on me. Alcohol too often brought the qualities i like the least about myself to surface; it made it easy for me to do things i didn't wanna do and say things i didn't wanna say. I think it's like that for alot of people. Alcoholism runs rampant in my family, as it does in many, and i've witness close relatives in the hospital, in severe pain and close to dying, because of it; a cousin my exact age got severe brain damage in car accident while drunk in the back seat of his drunk driving friend's car. It cost mad money. Most alcohol companies are shitty irresponsible companies and they don't deserve my dollar vote. I don't like being around drunk people. I never like smoking weed, it made me feel all freaked out. I just can't imagine spending any significant amount of my time not sober. I've got too much to do; too many people count on me, i don't ever wanna be in a position where i was too fucked up to help if someone needed me.
How would you encourage someone else to make healthier choices in their own lives?
I don't really. I make the pieces of art that decide to claw their way out of me, and then i present them. I write, blog, perform, and organize; the people who are passionate or drawn to the issues i'm working on are affected in their own ways and we go from there. Sometimes i say things like, "STAY VEGAN! Or I'll cut you in your sleep... just jokin: NO I'M NOT!!" and then laugh hysterically while loading my potato gun. Sometimes this approach is more successful than others.
How do you think the environment impacts our mental health?
In many ways; it's not good for anybodies' head walking around having a 24 hour a day anxiety attack thinking about our unsustainable global consumption and the destruction of our planet; yucca mountain, military testing sights, garbage dumps the size of cities, floating islands of trash in the Pacific... and if we pay attention at all, we know that these things are real, and happening every where. It's enough imbalance anyone's chemicals. Our minds are completely affected by our environments; just like our lives are completely affected by architecture and the spaces we live and work in.
You say in one of your songs that, “fate is what we make”. What would you say to someone who feels powerless in making their own fate?
I say FIGHT THE TIDE. On a regular basis. I say that it's peaks and valleys, and that just being a sentient being that is conscious of life and death is hard enough to handle even if you are strong and well adjusted; so it's ok to feel powerless. Life isn't fair, it's not a level playing field, and the deck is stacked against you often, but that doesn't mean that you can't win. Whether it's your husband, or your wife, or you kids/family, or the anti-war movement, or adopting a child, or environmental issues, or voter legislation reform, or the labor movement... find out what you are passionate about and get involved. Examine what it is you want to change, and then find a place to plug in.
Being a non-conformist and voice for change as you are, how do you deal with the opposing forces that our society provides for the things you advocate?
Like what? Riot cops? Fox Entertainment? Army recruiters? I stay busy. I research till my eyeballs feel like they are gonna fall out of my head, and i stay involved.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada for youth aged 15 – 24 and third in the U.S. Many young people aren’t reaching out for help when they need it. What would you say to someone who’s going through a hard time but unsure about getting help?
That age 17-20 can be the most undefined, lost, and fucked up point of anybody's life; it can feel like such an overwhelming limbo of isolation, but that it won't last forever. I tell them to stay busy, and to get busier when then those type of thoughts are swirling. In the past, with some of the more serious youth i've been involved with and cut right to the heart of the matter and said, "look, we're all gonna die at some point, and once your dead, that's it... it's done, permanently, and once it's done you can't take it back, you'll have all of eternity to be dust in the cosmos, why cash in early when there's so much more you want to see?
What kinds of things stress you out? How do you deal with it?
Ha. Everything that's going on in the world stresses me out. Men in control stresses me out; it's 2008 and 90+% of EVERYTHING (government, military, media, education, police, business, religion) is still run by people with penises. We're terribly out of balance. There are alot of idiot men making idiot decisions that effect us all and i want that to change. I deal with it by staying involved, talking with people (trying not to talk at them), listening, supporting qualified female working class candidates, learning about recycling and different ways to reduce my consumption/carbon footprint. I'm also very much into using my body; humans evolved successfully by exerted a certain amount of physical activity everyday... building, hunting, fishing, cooking, cleaning, running etc. I'm an avid bike rider, it's my major means of transportation, and i ride all over rhode island. I play pick up soccer with my cousins, pick up soccer with anyone willing to play, run, and hike, but most of all DANCING. Nothing feels as natural to me as dancing does. Dance club stuff, house, jungle, swing, salsa, funk, whatever... give me a handle full of my friends and family, good music, and any floor space that passes for a dance floor, and we'll make it happen.
Favorite ways to relax and have fun?
SEE ABOVE. ALSO, Fiction. Reading Fiction is my best vacation.
What can we expect from Jared Paul in the near future? Any plans we can keep an eye out for?
I'm halfway through recording a full length musical album with business partner and good friend Alan Hague. An official Jared Paul literary work of auto biographical creative non-fiction, short stories, and poems is also underway. Alot more touring. Alot more performing. Helping transition the Providence Poetry Slam into an official Non-profit called The Rhode Island Writer's Initiative. I'll be covering the 2008 Republican & Democratic National Conventions for my blog, and a month long trip to Iraq sometime in 2009 to work on a first hand account of year 6 of the war from the perspective of an un-imbedded independent journalist from the arts community.
Words to live by?
If we stay completely unaware and uninvolved the rich men who run this world see it as permission to exploit and steal anything they can fit through the door, and they're actions could very well lead to the rendering of our world's service un-breathable, un-livable, and un-inhabitable. Nobody bat's a thousand, nobody can spend 24hours a day, 52 weeks a year on direct action; we all have families, friends, jobs, and lives, but the time for us to know nothing and do nothing is OVER. WE ALL HAVE TO SET ASIDE AT LEAST SOMETIME EVERY WEEK TO LEARN ABOUT OUR GOVERNMENT AND WORK ON THE ISSUES WE ARE MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT.