Writing is the one thing Monica "MJ" Jenea can count on when life throws its hurdles. The urge to write when life gets tough comes from her desire to express herself in the way that feels most natural.
As a self-published author, Jenea has utilized her gift in writing to articulate the raw emotion that comes from her life experiences.
"One of the things I noticed was that I write most when I am upset," Jenea said.
Her first book, Virgo Moon, originally began as a journal in which Jenea could write about her life. The book delves into her journey with love, identity, and the complexities of being a Black woman.
The murder of George Floyd in 2020, was a life-altering event for Jenea. The release of the minutes-long video of Floyd confirmed the suspicions she had about the state of the world and the continuous perpetuation of racism.
"There is still unnecessary violence that takes place,” Jenea said. “We still aren't past that."
Following the murder of Floyd, Jenea wondered how she could spread a message of unity. After a phone call to her father, her worries were eased.
"I remember feeling unsure of what to do but knowing I wanted to do something," Jenea said. "I called my dad and talked to him about it. He told me, 'Just write. You're a writer.’"
Jenea sat in her car for hours with a notebook and pen. Fear, anger, and sorrow flowed out of her pen. Parked in the grocery store lot near her apartment, Jenea used what little light was left in the day to write.
Using her voice to convey a message of unity was her ultimate goal. Being a proud Black woman has always been at the forefront of Jenea's identity, as it has shaped her perspective on the world.
Jenea has spent the last year promoting Virgo Moon. She invited her friends to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her book and opened the invite to everyone.
Jenea's gift of writing comes as a surprise to no one, especially not Keanna Cowper, co-owner of HighKey Stepp AZ and a friend. Though not an avid poetry reader, Cowper relates to Jenea's utilization of journaling as an outlet.
"The thoughts stay in my mind, and I don't know how to vocalize them,” Cowper said. “I find myself journaling most during sad times."
Romina Khanipour, a fan, attended Jenea's book signing and expressed her admiration of poetry, which comes from the emotions she feels while reading stories. Virgo Moon only fueled Khanipour’s admiration for Jenea.
"It's raw and real. You really get to be in someone's mind and emotions and can help you figure out your own,” Khanipour said. “I think a lot. I may not be able to speak it, but I can write it."
Jenea and her audience establish common ground with the use of writing as a way to articulate and process their thoughts during life’s challenges.
The significance of writing and journaling in Jenea's life led to her dedicating her book to people who use creativity as a tool of expression and unity. Jenea's perseverance and strength are found in self-expression.
"It felt like therapy when I finally released it," Jenea said.