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Boss Up!: Munirah Safiyah Jones

TSD #Access901 columnist Joy Doss. Photo: Demarcus Bowser

Content creator, writer, producer and self-described “cool auntie,” Munirah Safiyah Jones burst into the digital landscape in 2018 with the “Juntland” series, followed by the “F-Boy Defense 101” video.

A little context for those who may not know:

Junt is a Memphinese term that has been a part of our cultural lexicon since around the 1980s. It can be a person (stout junt = voluptuous woman), place (“That junt was packed”) or thing (song, outfit, etc. “That junt fie/fire.”)

Now, F-Boy. I will let you fill in the blanks on the F-word. But Dictionary.com best has the best definition:

The guy who doesn’t respect women, but relies on them heavily. He’s distant, doesn’t care about other people’s time, and won’t commit. He’s self-absorbed, does stupid things, and messes with others’ emotions. (JD note: See Future, the blueprint)

The Memphis native has created an honest and hilarious satirical take on dating in this time and space that has resonated, for better or worse, with folks well beyond Memphis. It’s hyperbolic of course, but there’s some truth in all art forms, yes?

Some people were like “RIGHT” while some were BIG mad. But good arts get people talking and feeling.

Read on for the interview – social distancing style.

Munirah Safiyah Jones (Photo: Jonathan Castillo)

Q: The “Juntland” videos blew up! As did “F-boy Defense 101”. I loved it all and cackled to the high heavens at the accuracy. Did the sudden popularity take you off guard?

A: With “Dating in 2018,” in my own way — and largely for my own amusement — I simply had illustrated what dating had become for me: A spectacularly mundane shitshow of futility.

Within 24 hours, the cartoon had a million views on Facebook — where I originally posted it. It had double that on Twitter – where I never got the chance to post it.

I was shook. Women were elated and triggered. Men were just triggered. Women felt seen. Men felt largely vilified. But they were from all over the country, all talking to and at each other in ways I felt both proud of and saddened by.

There’s dialogue and then there’s diatribe. It seems my little cartoon was the catalyst for both. I had done a thing. And then Hollywood came knocking on my virtual door. Going viral was completely unexpected. Tinseltown calling was and is surreal.

Q: I am well aware that these F boy experiences aren’t particular to Memphis. The only difference is the accent and cultural colloquialisms. Is that the feedback you’ve been getting? 

A: Yep. Communication is largely awful…everywhere — the vagueness, minimal effort, the gaslighting, the ghosting, the amnesiac return. And repeat. Just add your own coordinates.

Q: I assume this was based off of your own experiences dating? Or a collection of stories from friends? Has the dating improved?   Speaking for Gen X, we are wading through the BS and F-boys too. (LE SIGH)

A: As a proud, card carrying member of the Black, uterus-owning bourgeoisie, I can tell you that dating is particularly (even suspiciously) ridiculous most of the time.

I once went on a date with a man who sprinkled rape jokes throughout conversation like witty, welcomed sexual innuendos. And when I pointed out how vile his actions were — and demanded that he stop — he took offense, told me I could dish jokes but couldn’t take them…and then he ghosted me.

I was good with it ending. But my own dating experiences have been largely tame compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard and witnessed. I’m not worried about it (dating). It’s beyond my control. I’m pouring my energy into things and people I enjoy.

Q: I heard talk of Juntland being vetted by major players. Is this accurate? Is this the ultimate goal?

A: That’s the goal…That’s all I’ll say for now.

Q: What made you choose to stay in Memphis? 

A: Memphis is cheap. I can get anywhere in 20 minutes. The food is what I crave. The people are ridiculous. And my entire, outrageously large family is here. But I go where opportunity is. I’m definitely not married to living here forever, because evolution is a voyage. If/when I leave, I’d for sure return often.

Q: Memphis is rough for creatives, but many of us are making a lane for ourselves. Having a squad is crucial! Since your last round of interviews have you been able to build that squad?

A: I’ve been somewhat of an outlier in the arts scene here. I support artists, but I’m not affiliated with any organizations, not in partnership with anyone, and I only create when I feel like it. ie, I’m inconsistent!

But I’m doing what I can to build relationships with movers in larger industries, so that I can put more of a spotlight on the talent here. I do have a plethora of artists and supporters here who are always ready to work with me…so I am very lucky and grateful in that respect.

Q: What do you think Memphis should do to better support the creatives here at the government, corporate, nonprofit and/or individual level? 

A: Vote for policies, not personalities. Show up. Share. Give a damn. And stop trying to get stuff for free!

(JD note: Amen)

A: What would you say to encourage other creatives her to keep going? Sort of in the vein of Issa Rae’s advice to network across. 

A: My advice to an artist who lives in a city with little to no support for their craft is to either go where the industry is or create work that brings the industry to you.

We have the Internet, literally anything is possible. Networking across is imperative for building synergy that can lead to creating beautiful and important work. But the key is getting that work to those who can take it to the next level so everybody eats. Forever.

Q: Speaking of Issa, is that the model or is there someone else that makes you say, “yep THIS!”

A: I’m compared to Issa a lot and she’s amazing! But she’s honestly never been the model. If I had to choose someone to model my career after, it’d be Donald Glover.

What he’s done/doing is just unparalleled. He’s in his own stratosphere. I’m most inspired by musicians. Sade and Róisín Murphy have an intrinsically simple artistic flair I find hopelessly mesmerizing and endlessly inspiring.

(If you haven’t already, check out “Dating in 2018”)

BOSS UP! – A 5-part series in celebration of Women’s History Month

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