An Interview with Kima Jones

Your mama didn’t play Teena Marie? Betty Wright? Gladys Knight? Anita Baker? Black Moses? What was your mama doing??
— Kima Jones

It was late night, shortly after 1am, on December, 15, 2014. D'Angelo had just surprised his fans with the iTunes link to his brand new album Black Messiah - his first official body of work since the release of Voodoo in 2000, so this was a ridiculously huge deal for music lovers around the world. If there's one thing music is good for doing, it's bringing people together. It is truly the universal language. I have bonded with many a folk solely for their love of music. See, there are music lovers, and there are music lovers. This is where Kima Jones, writer and founder of Jack Jones Literary Arts, comes into the picture.

When something major happens in pop culture, people instantly take to their social media accounts to either rejoice or mourn, depending on the event. Truthfully, it's one of my favorite reasons for being part of today's social media world. D'Angelo's new album was the #1 trending topic that cold December evening, and it felt like a family reunion of sorts. Everyone live-tweeted their emotions for the album for hours into the night as they all listened to each track, absorbing all of D'Angelo's magic, and from that evening, I witnessed so many musical bonds form. It was beautiful, and one of the most memorable moments of my social media experience. We were all collectively fan'ing the fuck out on social media, including D'Angelo's industry peers.

I usually take full advantage of social media; I like to do searches of trending topics to see what other people are talking about. It's also my way of discovering real music heads, and reading other peoples' perspectives on various topics. That's when I discovered Kima.  It's one thing to express your love for music, but I really dig people who go completely ape shit over music the way I do. She was live-tweeting the album that night, and was so passionate about each song that it made me say, "Let me follow this girl! This is my kind of music lover!" Almost three years later, and I've yet to mute or unfollow her. This is huge, people.

I have such admiration for women who aren't afraid to follow their dreams and are consistent in pursuing their passions; women who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. I recently chatted with Kima about her love for literature, her book publicity company Jack Jones Literary Arts, music (of course!), and her self-care rituals.

BE:  Who is Kima Jones?

KJ: I am a book publicist, literary advocate, poet and writer, but my most important role in life is Auntie. I have six nephews and two nieces, and they are the best part of my world.

BE:  When did you discover that writing was your passion, and when was that moment when you decided, “I think I want to do this for a living?”

KJ: I’ve written since grade school, but writing never seemed like a practical career choice for me. I grew up working poor and had my first job at age fourteen. We were taught to be nurses, social workers and teachers, all very respectable pursuits. Having the biweekly paycheck was more important to me than creative aspirations, but as I got older and became less and less fulfilled by my various jobs, it became clear to me that I needed to do the work that made me feel good about myself. Saying that, I had no interest in being a starving artist, so my first question before transitioning away from a 9-5 was, "how can I do this and eat?"

BE:  Tell me more about Jack Jones Literary Arts! How was it birthed?

KJ: Thanks so much for asking! Jack Jones Literary Arts is my life. I have a background in marketing and healthcare, but, again, I wasn’t fulfilled or happy. I decided to take my marketing knowledge and use it toward a life I wanted: a life in books. Many writers that I admire would publish books and within a few weeks, you’d never hear of the books again. Though I had never worked in publishing, I felt that I knew enough as a marketer to make a difference. I opened Jack Jones, a Los Angeles-based book publicity company, as a kind of antidote in March 2015. Three years later, I primarily work on projects of literary fiction, poetry and memoirs by black women and women of color. I’m pretty proud of the books I’ve worked on and am deeply honored to be in the same orbit with so many writers whom I love and respect.

BE: How do you handle writer’s block?  What is your method of getting (and staying) inspired to write?

KJ: The only way to write, to get inspiration and to beat writer’s block is to read. Read constantly and read writers who are better and smarter than you. Read diversely and by diversely I mean across race and cultures, across genres, across genders. You should be reading long fiction and short fiction and poetry and journalism and creative nonfiction and YA. Don’t discount anything.

BE:  Let’s switch gears.  Top five favorite hip-hop music producers. 

KJ: Yes! Well you know I love Dilla with all of my heart and soul, so he’s number one. I would never front on a Primo beat. I have to shout out Timbaland because Missy changed my teenage life. RZA and 9th Wonder round out the list.

BE: A woman after my own heart! Dilla is King.

BE: Since Black Messiah brought us together in a virtual sense, I’ve got to know - what’s your favorite song from the album, and why?

KJ: “Betray My Heart” is my jam of all jams because it’s “Spanish Joint” 2.0. “Spanish Joint” is hands down my favorite D song, and one of those go-to feel-good jams like Kenny Loggins’s “This is It” or Earth Wind and Fire’s “Fantasy.” Something about those songs makes me feel stronger, like I can change the course of the world. “Spanish Joint” saved my life a long time ago. It’s a part of my marrow now.

BE: Let’s talk self-care. With all that’s going on in the world and social media (it gets heavy on here at times), what’s your method to preserving your peace of mind? What are some of your rituals when life gets to be too much?

KJ: I wish I had something more wise to say or give, but my advice is to lean on your girlfriends. I would not have a world or a life without women. I’m blessed to have three sisters. We talk every day, all day in a group text. I begin my days with “Good morning, sisters.” They have supported all of my life and career choices. It’s also important to generally know when you’ve had enough. It’s okay to take a mental health day and cry. Doing that can prevent a breakdown down the road. Know your limits and be vocal about them. On days when it’s overwhelming, I call one of my sisters or a good girlfriend and say, “I’ve done as much as I can do for today.” Don’t let money make you feel trapped either. Being good to yourself doesn’t mean spending money. You can spend money, but being good to yourself might also mean ending a toxic relationship. Look outward but look inward with the intention to improve.

BE: This is beautiful advice, Kima. Thank you so much for this. Sincerely.

BE: Speaking of self, what do you love most about yourself?

KJ: My smile, because it took a long time for me to appreciate it. I consider my gap my family legacy, passed down from my father and his. I love that it’s a part of my face. I feel lucky and chosen because I’m the only child of my siblings with my father’s gap. I also love my work ethic. If I say I’m going to do it, it’s done. And there’s so much more that I intend to do.

BE: Your gap is legendary. How about a favorite quote; do you have one?

KJ: “I have never been contained except I made the prison.” - Mari Evans

Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths | Jack Jones Literary Arts