Jordan Zolliecoffer

// Legacy
One Mic Night was all it took for Jordan to find her voice, purpose, and legacy she wants to imprint on this world.
Volume 01 Issue 05
March 4th, 2019

“Because my words will remain with you, far after I’m gone”

Who am I?
Do you really want to know
What this skin has gone through?

I never considered myself a writer. In fact, I still have trouble identifying with that term. I can rarely write on command, nor hone in on my creative juices to produce new pieces weekly. Sometimes, I keep all my thoughts in my head. However, when I have something to say or the weight of an emotion becomes unbearable, I become inspired. 

I didn’t start writing poetry until my freshman year of college. I kept a journal before, but that was mostly for writing my thoughts. My true art did not manifest until I battled one of my biggest demons. Not many people know this, but during my senior year of high school, I experienced an intense episode of depression. I was in such a dark place and did not know where to turn to. Although I won this battle and thought this part of my life was over, this inexplicable weight came back in full force with a new name.

Anxiety: an opposite manifestation of depressive characteristics where one exemplifies high-achieving qualities and displays themselves as “completely alright” when asked; one may also experience intense episodes of panic attacks, worry about what others think of them, or consistently overthink.

Anxiety works in mysterious ways; one day I could feel absolutely motivated, while on the other, the sheer desire for perfection plagues my mind so much that most accomplishments appear mediocre. Instead of addressing these surmounting emotions, I allowed the toxicity of my thoughts to render me paralyzed, wishing that all the negativity would go away. The mere thought of talking about my issues with someone would send me spiraling.

So I began to write.
I first jotted down ideas (well, more like scribbles) that developed into something further. Although it was scary to put my thoughts to paper, it also came as a relief that I no longer held onto what entrapped me. It was during this peak of feeling overwhelmed that I converted journal entries into stanzas. The stanzas turned into performative lyrics that I began to share. Each performance lifted a burden off my shoulders, and since then I haven’t stopped. Here, I didn’t have to worry about judgement.

Open Mic Night: Denver, Colorado
I held my black and white poetry book in my trembling hands. My voice had gone dry. The audience stared at the petrified statue before them and questioned who let this shy girl on stage. I finally opened my mouth. The words flowed out of me without any guidance. I reached my final stanza and let the final words echo:

So lay your head now.
Feel my arms wrap so close around you.
And when the sun comes up and kisses the sky blue,
Know that there’s someone waiting to say,
I love you.

The words vibrated through the auditorium, silencing the room. Everyone got up from their chairs and applauded. I gained my voice that night, and began to realize that I have a gift emerging.

On stage, I call myself Legacy.
Why the name? Well, it actually comes from my father. My father and I have similar personalities; while we may butt heads, we understand each other. One night, he told me how proud he was of all of my accomplishments and overall confidence I possess. He called me his Legacy—the last of his children who will carry the memory of our family. The last one to uphold the significance of what it means to be a “Zolliecoffer.” I have trouble articulating the power behind his words, but seeing the awe in his eyes of witnessing the woman I have become, is enough for me.

It’s that same indescribable feeling that my audience experienced after listening to my poetry. You may not remember the words exactly, but you definitely remember the way each word struck a chord with you—a persistent feeling that lingers with you.

So yes, I call myself Legacy, because my words will remain with you long after I’m gone.

I write because it gives me a purpose. I perform because it empowers others. I continue doing what I do because poetry is a form of healing. My best friend once told me that “the world has given you some much reason to resort to hate, but here you are creating something beautiful about the inexplicable.”

Not everything I write will be agreeable, but to each her/his own. I may not be your everyday creative writer, but I will write what grabs your attention. I put truth to paper and watch it flourish under the awe of listeners. And that right there, is worthy enough for me.

I write the truth here.
And it comes out in poems.
This is where I’m free,
Although it may not always be
In the end, it’s all

Ikechukwu: I have a lot of questions to ask you, it has truly been a while since I have last seen you. You left me to go abroad! How was that experience like? What did you learn about youself?

Jordan: LMAO it has been a long time! I haven’t seen you in person since graduation! But life has been good to me! I can’t believe it has been a year since I have been abroad. I was truly blessed with the experience to travel and live in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. I have to admit I was really nervous going abroad, as I have heard that not many Black women have great experiences in foreign countries. I was curious to know how Spaniards would receive my Black identity, and if many had interacted with a Black person before. My nerves calmed once I met my host mom, Felicia. Felicia literally made me feel like I was home, and she treated me like her second daughter. She showed my around the little city of Alcala de Henares, and even introduced me to her extended family and close friends. Even more, we went on a 5k together! One of my greatest takeaways from studying in a different country is trusting my gut more, especially when traveling; I had to rely on my senses and “street smarts” to navigate my way around different cities. I also became way more extroverted and made friends with locals. Even more, I was able to travel to countries I never thought I would have the chance to visit. The most memorable was both France and Italy. I cannot accurately express how studying abroad changed me, as it was more of a spiritual change within me. I remember not having as much confidence in my abilities before leaving, but now I am like “if I could navigate the confusing subways of Paris, travel up the winding cliffside of the Italian coast, and push myself to become fluent in Spanish, everything else should be a piece of cake.”

You have such a strong stage presence. Did you take any acting lessons or was in an environment where you had to perform? Or is it all natural?

So ever since I was young, my sister actually pointed out the fact that I have a talent for acting. Since I was a toddler, I would remember lines from movies only after seeing the film once! I remember one time I quoted an entire scene from the movie BIG MAMA’S HOUSE with Martin Lawrence (lol!)and my sister said, “You all need to enroll her into acting or something.” Ever since then, I began performing in theater and made a few commercial appearances. I would say that theater allowed me to significantly develop my confidence in using my voice as a powerful mechanism for art. One of my main lessons from theater is how to hold yourself while standing in front of others. One of my theater teachers would say, “Plant your feet and no swaying back and forth (which I was prone to)! There’s nothing that looks more uncertain than a person shifting their weight during an audition.” That message stuck with me and generalizes to pretty much everything I do. If I am giving a speech or performing in front of others, I make sure to plant my feet and BREATHE. But all in all, it took practice to gather up the courage to speak in front of others--especially on such vulnerable topics that I do discuss.

A lot of your written works takes shape exploring your femininity and what it means to be a Black female in this world. To me, African/Black women are the strongest people on the planet. What propels you to explore who you are externally?

There are so many narratives about Black women or what it means to be a Black woman in the media these days that it’s no wonder that many women find themselves confused about our remarkable identity. More often than not, media outlets portray Black women through overplayed and degrading stereotypes, which ultimately lead to negative perceptions about the Black identity. My poetry addresses these issues of conflicting perceptions of what it means to be Black. Moreso, how Black women specifically must navigate whether or not to conform to societal expectations or branch out and discover her identity for herself. My main objective with my writing is to provide affirmations for other women who look like me when a society around them will not appreciate their value. I am determined to rewrite the narrative of Black people--one that is told by us, for us.

How do you cope with anxiety now?

Honestly, my anxiety is a constant battle. The worst thing I am doing to not combat it, is not talking about it. While I am the type of person to not really open up to people, I think even talking about it here in the magnizine is therapeutic. Moreover, I am starting to talk more openly about my anxiety to both family and close friends such as explaining how my symptoms manifest and why some tasks may be difficult for me. Unfortunately, I cannot simply “get over it” or be 100% cured from anxiety, but each day I develop skills to monitor and ease the symptoms. For now, I continue to write when the going gets tough, especially during this time of transition.

What about Denver, Colorado still stands out to you? What were you doing there in the first place?

I’m still shocked that I even got up on stage! Before then, I rarely shared my poetry, let alone in front of an audience. After that performance, someone slide me a note (that I still keep to this day) about how my poetry has inspired her to continue not only writing, but fighting to see a brighter day. Her message made me realize that I am not alone when it comes to facing emotions that are hard to process. Her message confirmed that when I get on stage, at least one person resonates with what I am saying--and that is all that matters at the end of the day.

Denver, Colorado is a pretty interesting spot to end up in honestly! Back in 2016, I was a delegate for Loyola University Maryland at the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference. The conference consisted of workshops that developed our skills as students leaders, seminars with guest speakers, as well as a full day of community service. At the end of the conference, we had an open mic night, and that is where my story takes place.

I still have the poem we wrote together. We were in the voice booth going back and forth. The chemistry was definitely there. I suppose now’s a good time to share it, no? Although we still have to work on the visuals one day.

Absolutely! We have such a strong piece and everyone needs to hear it. Hopefully our visuals will be coming very soon!

What’s your writing process like once you catch a creative high?

I literally can’t stop writing! It’s like I have the verses ringing in head and they won’t stop until I write it down on paper. Sometimes it is much more messy, like I have to write a whole paragraph then weed out the “juicy” lines and convert them into stanzas.

Can you speak more on the type of relationship with your father?

I laugh because my dad and I are so alike and different at the same time. We have the same temperment, same humor, and same manner when it comes to dealing with our emotions.We have not always been close and do often butt heads; however, I think after I went away for college, our bond has grown much stronger. At the end of the day, I am daddy’s little girl and I can always count on him to be there for me. The same goes for him--everyone in my family knows that I am my dad’s sidekick, especially when faced with a conflict. I will stand up for my dad in times of trouble and I know he will do the same for me.

What does Zolliecoffer mean to you and your family?

My dad has always instilled into his daughters that to be a Zolliecoffer is more than a name--it is the legacy of our family. Because our surname is unique, one can easily associate anyone with the same last name as a relative. As such, it remains important that we bring honor or  good reputation to our surname. I know this tradition of honor may seem antique, but I am appreciative because my family doesn't want me to settle for less.

What does legacy mean to you? What legacy do you envision the world to see?

For me legacy means leaving your mark on the world long after you have departed. A legacy could be physical such as a commemorative plaque or a written piece of work, or something more symbolic such a child. Like I said at the beginning of the article, I want my legacy to consist of my audience taking away something valuable that I said with them into the future. One of my future goals consists of implementing institutional change through public policy reformation. Therefore, the legacy I envision for the world to see includes social change that has lasting, positive effects for marginalized communities.

You’re in your last semester of school, you’re applying to law school...a lot of change is happening. How are you feeling?

Definitely stressed! While I am enjoying my senior year, there is a level of underlying stress that comes with one’s final semester at college. One of my preoccupations includes the uncertainty of where my journey will take place next. As I apply to law school all over the country, I do not know whether I would continue living in the DMV area or move back home to Los Angeles. Also, this will be one of the last semester that all of my friends will be located in one area. Although senior year is filled with major transitions, I am excited at the same time because I will be entering the “real world” soon. Soon, I will be practically applying my skills and knowledge in a career that I am passionate about. Ultimately,  I feel prepared to take the next steps into my future.

Why law school? What do you want to accomplish in the long-run?

The spark to attend law school fully ignited after going abroad. Once I came back to the States, I started looking for internships that alloted me the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the legal system. That is when I found the non-profit organization Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). KIND is a pro bono immigration office that offers free legal services for migrant youth. Not only does the organization protect the rights of such a vulnerable population, but it also publishes relevant research surrounding the implications of new immigration policies on Black/Brown individuals. During the summer, I decided to take a chance and apply for their Legal Intern position. This chance turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I have made! I enjoy working at KIND because the staff has a significant amount of women of color in charge. The office environment also encourages a close-knit staff, where each member feels appreciated (which is particularly helpful due to the stress involved with a lot of our cases). I have worked at my internship for almost 7 months now, and each day I strive to attend law school. In the long-run, I wish to understand the legal system so that I may find the flaws and provide solutions. I am particularly interested in specializing in immigration, public interest, and entertainment law. 

You’re a LA native, I just moved to LA this past October. LA is such a different vibe than the east coast. What do you love most about LA?

I love my city so much! You have probably noticed by now, that Angelinos are pretty relaxed individuals. If we can, we’d pretty much be outside all day. I love that if you are an actual LA native, there’s an instant connection and pride that we share with one another--especially in urban populations.

What made you want choose Loyola?

It’s funny because I did not intend on going to Loyola Maryland. To be honest, I was worrisome to come to Baltimore, as the Baltimore Riots of 2015 was the same year as my high school graduation. However, my dad made it a purpose for me to see the real side of Baltimore. During the summer, my family visited all over the city including the Westside. After learning about the history of Baltimore as well as interacting with the residents, I began to find comfort in my new city. In the end, I chose Loyola because I wanted to get away from my high school years back in Los Angeles. I truly wanted to immerse myself into Black culture as well, and Baltimore offered a rich history of our people.

What places have you been to around the world?

My family loves to travel! Not only do we enjoy seeing new sights, but we love learning about the culture and viewing the city from the perspective of residents. So far I have traveled to:

Montego Bay, Jamaica
Kauai, Hawaii (if that counts lol)
Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Madrid, Spain
Toledo, Spain
Asturias, Spain
Florence, Italy
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Venice, Italy
Paris, France
Niche, France
Toronto, Canada
Ontario, Canada

What is the next destination you want to visit?

My next destination would have to be to the Motherland of Africa. I really want to go back to my roots in Senegal. Particularly, I hope to see the African Renaissance Statue in Dakar. Additionally, I want to follow my dad’s footsteps and visit Nairobi, Kenya. I remember as a child that my dad would instill the importance of going back to Africa and to pay no mind to the media depicting our Motherland as destitute. Also, I want to reveal in the beauty of our people’s work.

You were Chief Elder (President) of Mosaic, an environment that “breeds sisterhood.” You helped create this world for Loyola, which is a legacy you will be leaving behind. What does Mosaic mean to you and what do you want others to get out of it?

I have always wanted to be apart of something that was bigger than myself. Furthermore, in regards to social advocacy, I knew that I wanted to make a lasting effect on my campus rather than an one-time event. For these reasons, Mosaic signifies as a permanent space for marginalized voices to feel heard. Myself and along other driven women recognized a lack of resources and support for our women of color on Loyola’s campus. For me, Mosaic defies what it means to be an organization on campus, as we transformed what it means to host traditional programming as well as incite thought-provoking conversations not normally discussed on Loyola’s campus. For instance, one of the most memorable events we hosted included our conversation about Women of Color in the LGBTQ+ community. Given the recent ban of trans-individuals from enrolling into the American army as well as threat to marriage equality, we decided to host an event focusing on how the LGBTQ+ community has been received in American society as well as the people of color community. The night of our gathering, the room was packed with students as well as faculty. Everyone saw a need for this conversation and came wanting show their solidarity for both women of color and the LGBTQ+ community. On this day, I realized that Mosaic has continuously provided a space where no other organizations had previously provided. We challenge our members as well as guests to participate in conversations that do not have a simple answer. We aim for conversation starters, because ignoring political issues will ultimately affect our everyday interactions with each other.

Who are your idols and mentors?

I would have to say that I have different mentors for each aspect of my life. For my personal journey, I would have to say that my sister, Chandler, is one of my greatest mentors. She is currently in her doctoral program for clinical psychology and continues to publish significant research for her field of study. I am a proud sister because Chandler paves the way for me. In other words, I know that I can achieve greatness because she has already done so. Chandler also represents my second-half, as we consistently make time for each other in our busy schedules.

On the other hand, my professional idol would have to be our First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama carries herself with such class and elegance that I hope to embody in the future. I also marvel at her resilience, as she remained collected despite the negativity directed at her family.

// When all is said and done, WHO IS JORDAN ZOLLIECOFFER?

This is always such a tough question for me to answer! At this point of my life, however, I am content in knowing that my story is not yet complete. The complete story of who is Jordan Zolliecoffer has just about reached chapter 22 with (God willing) more chapters ahead. Yet, I do know this: I am a resilient, young Black woman with dreams of achieving social change in our society. I am a young Angelino who lived in a tale of two cities. I am a passionate writer who seeks to put truth to paper. I am determined advocate who speaks up for the lost voices. I am a healing individual who is conquering her demons of anxiety one battle at a time. I am a believer. I am going places. I am me.