Freedom. Peace. Justice.
"That's what I really stand for," explains poet Venus Jones on a recent evening. "Why can't I have the freedom to be me?"
It's a message Jones has spent more than a decade spreading through numerous performances and published work and the Tampa Bay community and beyond.
This weekend, Jones' message will reach the ears of thousands in Los Angeles.
Jones is one of 24 artist who will perform at this year's Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival. In its 19th year the annual event draws artists, performers and entertainers from around the world.
The festival's mission is to create an environment for women's voices to be heard. Each year hundreds of artists submit their work to be considered as performers.
Festival organizers reached out to Jones. In 2006 Jones, a long-time Westchase resident, authored "She Rose (on a journey from girl to Goddess)," a collection of poems, prose and affirmations. In 2009, Jones launched "Kwanzaa 7 Days, 7 Principles Poems and Affirmations for Everyday Living," an album that mixes affirmations, song and meditational music — all set to the Nguzo Saba, or "Seven Principles" of Kwanzaa.
Recently Jones performed her original work for several black history and women's history month events in Tampa.
"I like to be the bridge from the past to the present," she said.
To prepare for the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival Jones rehearsed at her home for a select group of peers.
Her Los Angeles performance theme is "Poetic Solider" and will combine the works of She Rose along with paying homage to notable poets, including Chilean activist and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda.
"He stood for justice," Jones said about Neruda. "I'm an artist who loves to create for social justice."
Jones is set to take the stage at the festival on Saturday, March 24. The LA Women's Theatre Festival is a non-profit that not only showcases talent each year, but also sends volunteers into the community to educate youth on the arts.
Being selected to perform at the event has boosted Jones' confidence in her own talent.
"It encourages me...it means that I'm being exposed to a wider audience," she said. "The fact that I've been waging peace has not gone unnoticed."