The youngest and first Black Poet Laureate of Alabama, Ashley M. Jones, visited Troy University and recited poetry for students.
Jones, who is 32-years old, has made Alabama history by being both the youngest and the first Black poet Laureate. When Jones was young, she believed that all the “firsts” would be accomplished by the time her career took off.
“I didn’t think I was going to be the first of anything,” Jones said. “I assumed, you know, as someone who was born in the 90s that all the firsts will be done when I’m an adult.”
“There’s no way we will still be doing firsts so it didn’t occur to me until it was time for me to be selected that I was like “Oh, wow! We have really almost made 100 years without any sort of diversity.”
With being the first Alabama Poet Laureate of color and the youngest, Jones hopes that new faces from diverse backgrounds and younger ages will inherit her role. She believes that age does not make a person an effective poet or leader.
Jones is also proud to be a Black woman who is breaking barriers and setting an example for others in her community. She did not grow up learning about many poets of color.
As a result, Jones hopes she can be an inspiration for aspiring writers.
“If there is a little Black girl out there who is like me, little seven-year-old Ashley who just wanted to be a writer,” Jones said. “If she is able to see me, and think “Well, I can do it!” then I am happy.”
“Even for just one little girl out there somewhere. I am happy to do that.”
Jones read 10 different poems she wrote for TROY students, some of which reflect American history. Jones read her poem “Manifest Destiny” which tells the story of America.
“With that one, the reason I don’t give any specific names or anything like that is just so the story can be told and received as it is,” Jones said about the poem. “I did some research for this poem, and many others, every poem in here [ her book, “REPARATIONS NOW!”] has history. “
“I think sometimes when we learn about the history of our country, we get a little caught up in what we already think and what we were already told instead of looking at the facts.
“So, my idea with that poem was to just tell it as a story so you can enter it without those preconceived notions,” she said.
Jones believes that learning about the injustices of the past is important so we can hold ourselves accountable for today’s actions. She believes we can do this by learning history.
“Part of the reason why people don’t want us to learn the truth is that they want to keep doing what has been done,” Jones said.
Ashley M. Jones’ books are: Magic City Gospel (2017), dark thing (2019), and REPARATIONS NOW! (2021). They may be ordered from her website.