Howard poet Colonel-Joshua Higgins, a junior marketing major who goes by the pen name jaziyyah, uses his poems to express his own intersectional individualism and evoke introspective emotion in the hearts of many.
While finding comfort and expression in drawing and poetic journaling, jaziyyah didn’t always know he was considered a creative. It was through the help of his mother and a book she gave him, that he stumbled upon his gift.
“I started writing when I was 11 years old. The way I was introduced to it was actually my mother. She caught me writing little love letters to girlfriends I had, in my room. She was like, ‘so I read a couple of your letters… I think you might be interested in something’. She handed me a book called “Voices From the Soul” and it was a book of poems.” jaziyyah said. With a variety of artists and a plethora of poems, it was this book that solidified poetry as jaziyyah’s craft.
“I remember immediately opening it. And at this time, I don’t know why I said this to myself, but I was like, if I’m going to pick a craft, at my 11 year old age, I need to focus on one. So I could keep drawing or I can figure out what poetry is and focus on that. That was my tool of expression,” jaziyyah shared.
Expression, agency and confidence is what jaziyyah has found through his poetry. Confidence in not only his abilities but in himself. “The moment I got not just comfortable in my own skin, but confident in my own skin, I was able to really just claim everything that was surrounding me,” he said.
The agency to choose one’s path and decide one’s future has long been an important motif for jaziyyah. Through claiming his artform of poetry and his pen name of jaziyyah, meaning man of wisdom, he has been able to embody all of his identities and live in all of his truths.
“When I walk in the room, it’s Colonel Joshua Higgin, it’s not Josh or just Colonel. When it comes to the art, this is a piece of me, and it’s not some random pseudonym, this is also my name, and the name itself has meaning,” jazziyyah said, “I was able to create a multifaceted mirror. When I look at myself, it’s not about seeing different people, but seeing those different sides of myself and being able to still identify as holistically me.”
Through years of diligent writing and daily practice, jaziyyah has transformed his poems from their early days of poetic journalings to empathetic, expressive and accessible pieces of art, as he describes it.
“I would say my style still has that sense of empathy. I try to make it very accessible. I don’t like poetry that when you read it you don’t understand what it’s saying… because I feel like writing in general, [is] supposed to be accessible to the audience because you want them to gain something from it. A reader that just wants to enjoy the art can still access it and still get a message or evoke some emotion from it,” jaziyyah said.
With his instagram, @jaziyyahh, at over 3.9k followers and performing his poetry at many Howard University events, jaziyyah has amassed a huge group of supporters. With a goal to touch many, jaziyyah hasn’t just stopped there, but has brought his poetry beyond Howard’s gates with his recent performance of his piece “RISE” at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund showcase. “I was excited because whew [I] got the scholarship, but also it was really motivating for me. I wanted to do something a little different if they were going to give me my own segment,” he shared.
As an artist, jaziyyah takes pride in not only crafting each piece with purpose, but every occasion to perform his works as a moment to connect with his audience. “I saw it as an opportunity to touch people and I wanted to write something that I felt, again, was authentic. I don’t look at poetry as like a service or like to pay me, I write something and I leave. I wanted it to be an ode to Howard. I wanted it to be an ode to my community and the people around me,” he said, “I really wanted to just inspire and touch people with the opportunity that I was given and convey that artistically.”
Black creatives, like jaziyyah, don’t stop at writing good poems or producing great art, but rather change the way society sees the Black community and in turn see’s itself. For jaziyyah, “being a Black creative as a whole is so much of an experience that it’s sometimes hard to consolidate into whatever art form that we choose. But that is why it’s some of the most recognized work on earth, it’s not an experience that’s just our own it just has that power.”
With all that jaziyyah has done, from claiming all of his intersectionalities to performing his poetry on national television, jaziyyah uses his agency to lastly name his art “inexorable.”
“My Black art is inexorable, immovable, an unstoppable force– it’s like energy. You cannot consolidate it and capture energy and keep it in a jar, it has to be expressive. It has to move. It has to shift, and transform in different ways, ” jaziyyah said.
Orchids&blus, a book and collection of original poems by jaziyyah, will be released in May.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith