We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamal Douglas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamal, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Here’s how I think about risk: take them as much as possible, no matter how big or small. It could be jumping out of a plane to shake up things (which I am planning on doing soon), or starting to write that tv show you’ve been sitting on (which I have a few). I believe that if you desire it, then you can obtain it. Often, the desires that we grow to fear the pursuit of, are ones we were fearless of in our youth. As the world conditions us, we begin to limit ourselves out of fear of success or failure. However, when you take the risk, that being the first step to manifesting your desires, each obstacle is a learning opportunity guiding you towards your goal with the greatest benefit for you. Be present and your creativity will inspire you through the intense work that is important for you to be your strongest at your personal zenith. Taking risks is the very thing that has molded my life/career, and it will continue to do so. Growing up in poverty, in underserved communities, I never had all the resources that would seemingly set me up for success. When I chose to go to college, my family could not afford tuition, but I knew that my education was important to me, so the first week of undergrad in 2006, I obtained 3 jobs, while being a full time student. When I hit a personal wall with my creativity as an actor in 2013, I auditioned for all the top MFA grad programs, and the school I felt least qualified for was the program I received a full scholarship to. I was the only person of color in my class and I used my voice to be sure that I had what I needed each step of the way, choosing my personal integrity over everything, as often as I had the awareness to do so. When I made the choice to move to LA to pursue TV/film in 2015, taking a step back from theatre, I was walking straight into my fear of failure, which is why I did. I wanted to face my fears because I knew that would make the best out of me. In life, I take risks in love. I am an empath and wear my heart on my sleeve. This year has been tough for everyone globally. When I could feel my heart hardening and things becoming dark due to the triggering trauma of Black Lives Matter and the pandemic, I took my first step into therapy and began work with a life coach. Doing the work to heal myself has been the most challenging risk I’ve taken. To look at myself and really learn to love me for me, as I love others for them. To seek and find my purpose here for humanity. I choose authenticity. Being yourself in life will manifest your destiny that you create along with the universe. All the risks you take are for you, and never against you. For every downfall, you learn the most on the way back up.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a writer, poet, educator, and actor. My purpose in life is to create art with a heart for change and equality for voices unheard. To see into the hearts of us, reflecting the complexities of humanity so we can grow as a world. In love. This year I was brought on as a board member with SAY, the stuttering association for the young, and aside from working as a teaching artist and head counselor for many years, we have just begun The Spark Project, which I am excited about. The Spark Project is a new initiative with SAY working with alumni 18-24 building a show around the power of this moment. The change we are shouting for. The change that we will get. We’re raising our voices and collaborating through writing, movement, music, and visual art to be the change we want to see. In the end (new beginning), we’ll tour. Once the world is open. As a proud queer Black man, I want to tell the stories of vulnerable Black men. I want to show the true, colorful depiction of us. The complexities of our beautiful human. I am writing poetry that embrace us. Working on a few pilots. Using my words daily to open up the truth in us. As an actor, I do the same. Seeking and accepting work that lift our voices. I’m proud that I am authentically moving through my life with the courage to be me in my art, freely. Surrounded by many willing to do the same, showing me the way. I do not believe that any journey is easy, but once you get to a place of acceptance and do the heart opening work of getting to self love, you see what this life is worth for you. That has been me navigating adversity to get to my truths. Finding power in my no and what I choose. Not the worlds influence, but my heart’s. Personal freedom of mind. An adventurous journey with many twist and turns, tears and fears, and worth breathing through. Seeing you. I am in the daily process of balancing, learning that I am not my thoughts or emotions, but the observer of them where I find my choice. My purpose. My power. That has brought me peace in this painful time, with peace and pain being side by side. Meditation has been reconciliation. As an artist I am grateful to see these things (as much as I am conscious to) because it helps me reflect us more truly in my work, believing that we are extensions of one another. I work daily to free me, so that I am reminded daily of what it means to fight for us to be free as a society.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My friends and I are the best time ever. We’re artists, so the light that we illuminate when together is never ending, full of laughter, introspection, love, and all around stimulating company. Feeling the fresh breeze at Zuma beach is often a thing. I love that it’s away from the city and you really get the calm of your surroundings. I live in the valley, so taking the Santa Monica mountains over to the coast, is a scenic gift. Bliss. Afterwards, back in Sherman Oaks, we’ll have dinner and cocktails at Tipsy Cow or maybe Stout Burger. Either would be a great thing. I’m from the east coast, so my visitors often stem from there and we like to get closer to the city, and the noise. Comfort LA is my absolute favorite Black owned organic soul food restaurant in DTLA. In a covid free world, they have dope open mic nights, performances, and various programming bringing community together. Need a food truck, hit them up. I kickback at Echo Park lake often. Good energy there and you get the cool kids and the cool weirdos. A perfect world. A Comedy Show at the Laugh Factory on Chocolate Sundays or someplace my buddy Trevor Joyner is performing. A morning hike at Griffith. We really just kick it. I like to explore new things and get lost thrifting. Always ending with a bonfire at Dockweiler beach to reflect on the week that’s been. Lots of food. Gracias Madres. Vegan. So good. Oh, and next summer I cannot wait for the hopeful return of the epic day party Everyday People at Le Jardin. That party is a vibe every time. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am a teaching artist and board member at SAY (the stuttering association for the young). I would like to give a huge shout out to the youth of SAY for showing me year after year what it means to listen, love deeply, be brave, be bold, and be authentic. It was when I began working with this organization 11 years ago, that the child in me began to heal being a witness of their open hearts. I knew I had to begin to open my own. My mother, Brenda Douglas, for making the sacrifice to alter her life by choice to raise me and my brother. For throwing me in every dance contest that would pop up, which she will still do to this day. Most of all, for always validating my voice when I spoke truth to power.
Other: SAY.ORG to make donations for The Stuttering Association for the Young. In 20 years, we’ve never turned a young person away because of money. Something we aim to never have to do.
Lee Gumbs Riley Rose J.T. Seaton