All Black people deserve to have their stories shared, cherished and respected. However, other outlets must be created when there is a lack of something. Although built out of necessity, these mediums become beautiful patchworks that contribute to the overall fabric of our community.
TransLash Media is a non-profit organization that generates, supports and treasures the intersectional stories of the trans community. Founded by Imara Jones, the organization's work educates folks about the trans community and ultimately saves many disenfranchised lives through the innate power of storytelling.
Jones spoke with EBONY about the world of TransLash Media and how far the Black community still has a ways to go in the quest for true liberation and equity.
EBONY: What sparked the creation of TransLash Media?
Imara Jones: I often tell people that I allowed my life to tell me what I should be doing versus thinking that this is what I'm going to do and imposing that on the world. When working in independent media, I'd gotten funding a bunch of produced pilots and different concepts for various funders who were looking at ways to experiment with different news ideas. Then in 2018, I got the idea for TransLash and started building from there. At first, I called in a favor from a friend of mine and we started making the first couple of documentaries that I named TransLash which was short for transgender backlash. Eventually, the response from people snowballed and gave me the confidence to do more and more. It's grown exponentially over time.
Oftentimes, storytelling from the vantage point of an intersectional Black identity becomes a burden on those who have experienced oppression. How do you navigate this?
I think part of my ability move through these challenges is because I come from generations of teachers. That's why part of the work I do is to educate. I think that that allows me to feel less burdensome because I think the culture of teaching is just a part of how I grew up without realizing it. I wish it were as much out of service as out of a sense of responsibility. I'm a person who has had a certain amount of education and has developed really important skills. I feel like I have a responsibility to deploy them to the community I'm a part of. I feel deeply honored to get to do the work I do and that people trust me with their stories. I feel honored that people take the time to listen to me, read my words or watch me on video. That's a deep honor.
It also allowed me to create the podcast The Anti-Trans Hate Machine. This podcast gives me a sense of agency because I can put these skills to work in a way that can inform, elucidate and empower. I feel empowered when doing the series, which helps me a lot. I think that the thing that got me wondering about the anti-trans hate machine is where these things came from? To focus on oppressing trans people is a strange obsession. Most people don't wake up thinking about one and a half percent of the population, just like most people don't wake up thinking about redheads, for example. That's how I began the journey of unpacking and really looking at the ways in which the powers that be were manipulating race, the stereotypes of Black women and then weaponizing those in really powerful ways through funding mechanisms, politicians and a whole host of an entire infrastructure on the right to drive these issues home.
While our community has made many strides, we still undercut our true success from antiquated ways of thinking. How do you believe we can restructure the narrative of liberation within the Black community in a way that challenges people to think more vastly about freedom and identity?
I think what's interesting is that a lot of Black people think that freedom is just a Black version of what white people have. That's not the model for a world that's going to work. People need to really work on the ability to be able to imagine and want to have a society that truly works for everybody. It's like when Gil Scott Heron said, "the revolution will not be televised," he really meant that the revolution takes place between the ears. No one sees that. That's beyond the gaze of anything external.
We are the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. The moment you tell a different story about yourself, you become a different person. So I think there has to be a revolution in imagination, which is why I do the work I do. I want people to see alternative ways of being. That is the promise of freedom and liberation for all of us. The violence that's visited upon Black trans women is so narcissistic and dark because most Black trans women are murdered mostly by people that know them through intimate partner violence. We need to create new possibilities and vision—that's essential.