Before the Storm Series Presents: Jade Green

Interview by Kindred

Kindred: What makes you come alive?

Jade Green: I love a good storyteller.  I love hearing and talking about liberation.  And food.  Food makes me come alive.  Lately, I’ve been into comfort foods – sweet potatoes, shrimp fried rice, spicy food.

Q: Where are you from?

Green: I spent most of my childhood in a small town called Lawson, MO.  It’s forty minutes north of here.   It’s a very small town.  Closest neighbors in either direction were a mile away.  Lived on a highway.  I was the only Black kid in town.  My mom had ties to Lawson, MO with her being white.  Up until fourth grade, I had a very interesting time relating to friends.  Getting told a few times, 

“Oh my parents said I can’t play with you”.  

That sorta thing.  There are more Hispanic families there now.  I saw one Black family there within the last two years.

Growing up there I developed some skills.  Like [today, for instance], I’m going to build a little hoop house for the plants since it’s supposed to snow tonight.  So I’ve got some knowledge about stuff I’m thankful for.  But I’m good here in the city for now.

Q: What’s your experience living in Kansas City compared to growing up in Lawson?

Green: In the city, there are more types of people, so everything happens more.  The likelihood of me getting stared down in a busy store versus being stared down in a store for being the only Black person there is less.  [Yet] there are haters everywhere. Still, when you’re the only kid turning dark in the summer with curly hair it makes you an easy target for prejudice.  

Colorism in Lawson vs in Kansas City

Green: I was a more ready target in Lawson.  Whereas, coming to the city to visit my dad, it was cool.  My Dad’s side has a wide array of colors in it, so it felt good.  They’re a mixture of Black, Cherokee… we all have different shades.

When I started in the work environment, my first job on the plaza, I was favored, while in my second, I was expected to blend in.  [Growing up], we didn’t go there very often, so I was excited to work there. 

I was promoted to shift lead and given all these responsibilities.  Being eighteen, wet behind the ears, I’m like,

“What is this?  Alright… cool… thanks…”  

My coworkers were dark skinned, Black, way more qualified, and worked there longer than I had.  Not knowing the context of anything, one of my coworkers I became friends with was like, 

“I think our manager has it out for me.  I’ve been working here three years.  Anytime he calls out sick, I do all his duties.  You’ve been here a few months and he promoted you.”

My response was quitting, finding another job on the plaza.  I got a job at an “upscale dining establishment”, whose appeal was to a predominantly white clientele.  Every employee was expected to conform to expectations and beauty standards.  Even the guys had to have their hair slicked back or shaved.  They were particular about staff image.

It was strange seeing how colorism works over there too.  There were no Black people in management.  One day, they said,

 “Your hair is too frizzy.  Go on in the bathroom and wet it down with water.  Slick it back.”  

I said, “That’s not how it works.” 

They said, “Well, then you need to go home and do something about it.” 

 So I did, losing an hour of work and who knows how many tables.  

Relationship w/ Music

Kindred: When did you become aware of music?  How did it start for you?

Jade Green: Growing up, I was [often] in the car.  All my memories from childhood I was either in a car, cleaning, or cooking.  During those times there was music.  I tie a lot of my memories to music.  A lot of my memories are of Destiny’s Child, the ElePHunk album by Black Eyed Peas, OutKast…  Those memories stand out to me. 

My main bag is vocals. In high school I had to get a discipline or else I was going to end up in a different place from where I am now.  That for me was opera and vocal training.

So for me a lot of just formative years are wrapped nice and neat in little packages for my brain to access through music.  For example, the Supa Dupa Fly album.  Every time I hear anything off of that album, I get in the mood to clean, scrub, condensing notes, etc.  

As a kid, I didn’t talk much but I would catch melodies and sing all the time.  At a really young age, I knew I wanted to sing and write music.  

Honestly, as I get older, I keep thinking about the possibility of me writing more than singing.  In 2020, I lost my year, mostly the uprising, the constant state of panic, needing to get something to someone, this hectic radical desire to care-give beyond even my abilities.  I was doing street medic work at an action on the plaza and inhaled a bunch of tear gas.  It messed my throat up for months.  It sucked.  I had two masks on and tear gas still got in.  It’s not a joke.  Tear gas is like a cute name for what it is.  

Thinking of those events, I’ve been reconsidering what it means to rest. It has me in this cocooned state, which is great because it gives me different permissions to rest.  I am generally really outspoken.  Someone needs a speaker or someone to sing, I’ll do it.  But now I’m like let me let you know. I’ll see.

Singing has always been a huge part of how I express myself.

Today in the Life

Kindred: So you’re involved with The Black Creatures.  Any other groups? 

Jade Green: Yeah.  I’m also a bassist and vocalist for Arquesta del sol Soul. It’s a project with three EmCees, bass, drums, trumpet, guitar, and keys.  It’s afro indigenous funk.  We’ll start rehearsals back up Saturday.  I’m really hyped for that because it’s been so long.  

Ever since the pandemic started, I’ve been feeding this want of a hardcore project.  Something very rock, very blues, very 90s type, like screamo, political action type shit.

Q: What do you bring to each group?

Green: In the black creatures, writing is split down the middle.  I do lead vocals and Xavier does all the sound design. For Arquesta –  MC, bass, writing, scheming.

Q: Watching you perform, there’s a reverence you inspire in the audience and also have a tenderness you operate from.  What have your experiences been as a performer?

Green: Part of it is “tear the band aid off, you still have anxiety, but once you get out there and belt the first note you’re good.”  The other part is a ‘fake it til you make it’ kind of thing.  You get out there and you’re like,

 “I’ve been on this stage before. I know what I’m doing.  I’m competent.  I can sing. Right? RIGHT?  Let everyone know.  People showed up for this.”

The tenderness is a sort of trust-fall into actually doing my dream in that moment.  The whole point is to be able to share a story and feeling.  

Q: Jade, What / Who do you identify as today?

Green: I am a Black person with a dedication to healing myself and the environment around me.  I don’t necessarily conform to any gender rules or notions.  I RESPOND to Jade, Hey You, That Dike over there…  just about anything, if it’s with love.

Being in the city gave me access to understanding my gender more.  Also getting involved in community work that’s not explicitly queer, but are explicitly Black or Indigenous.  I’ve relearned to respond to she and her.  But I’m mostly they and them.

Many thanks for Jade Green for joining this series. Next up on the Before the Storm Series: Adeta Marie, Saturday May 15th.

Kindred, blog writer for the Before The Storm series.

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