Drew Philp

Michigan Front Page, Cover Story

Who is jessica Care moore?
How do you write about someone who has done everything? Who is everything? Who has worked with most everyone you’ve seen on television, heard on the radio, played on the jukebox or read that touched you? Or made you think? How do you write about a five time Live at the Apollo winner and Apollo Legend, writer of plays and books, musician, publisher, twice a wife, nonprofit founder, organizer, actress, activist, and the ultimate creator, a mother? How do you sum up a career, a full career, an amazing career, a life of hard turns from Detroit to New York City, to Atlanta, now back home in Detroit with Paris, London, Cape Town and everywhere else in between? How do you write about someone who has lived that life every one of us has dreamt about living, if just once, just for a moment?

Do you write a poet’s life in verse or meter, with rhyme and rhythm? No, you can’t. She’s done it better. The syllables in her latest book, God is Not an American, fall like a thunderstorm’s rain, torrential and heavy. From “sunflowers”:


i laughed and told her i was african. black daddy from alabama. white/non american mother.


i was “let go” the next day.




could it be racisim giving me those shooting pains against my ovaries a sharper edge. the stress from living in this country full of false patriotism. being black is not an excuse, but damn if it still doesn’t make a difference.




But mere excerpts from her poetry could never tell the whole story. Can you even attempt to capture the hilarity, the sadness, jubilation and intelligence in a few puny quotes? How do you choose just one, the right one? And her work isn’t just poetry. God is Not an American isn’t even just a book of poetry, it’s also a multimedia show produced by the Apollo Theater and New York City Parks. She’s fully capable of telling her own story herself, and does so in three books, which are published by her own publishing house Moore Black Press. (Shamefully, none of her books are available at the Detroit Public library, as of yet). So. Could you write about her as if she were a baseball player, simply rattling off her statistics?


She’s 38 but doesn’t look a day over 29


She was born in Detroit, on the west side, and moved to New York after the death of her father


Dave Chapelle pointed at her and said “someday you’ll be famous,” and it happened

She is the youngest poet ever published in the Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women’s Literature and several other major anthologies


Harvard Black Mens forum honored her with their Woman of the Year award


She’s shared the stage with Steve Harvey, Maya Angelou, Saul Williams (and publishes his books,) Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka…


That won’t work, because none of us are ever the sum of our resumes. Google jessica Care moore and you’ll find the adjective “powerful” more times than a poet has notebooks. She is, good God she is, but she’s also funny. And stylish. Warm. Intelligent. Caring. If you needed to sum up Jessica Care moore maybe you would write of the motherhood of her beloved son King? Would you write about the love she has for her family, the reason she moved back to Detroit? She’s the creator of so much, wouldn’t writing about her as the ultimate creator, the creator of life, come closest to the approximation of who jessica Care moore is and what she has done? Would you excerpt the poem she wrote for her first born son “So, what are you gonna call him?”


if you’re going to attempt to birth a nation

of loud, beautiful mutha fuckas

who love themselves, love art, love music,

love their women, their culture, their mothers,

their family, each other and yes


even love his own name


King Thomas James Moore Poole


Would this be the summation, the metaphor, of all that jessica care moore is and will do? Would it help explain the jess Care moore Foundation, her nonprofit, which focuses on youth literacy and expression through art? It comes close, but as ever, it’s not quite the entire story.

Maybe it’s best to picture her in a Cass Corridor restaurant where she’s a regular. She’s wearing a “Hoes hate me” T-shirt and jeans, a thrift-store hat, eating a lentil burger and drinking a glass of water. She’s got an explosive smile. Her conversation is rapid and clear; it spans decades and continents within the same sentence– From Detroit to New York to Atlanta, and back to Detroit, to Corktown where she lives with her son.

A young woman stops her in the middle of dinner to talk, to praise her, because she can’t hide the joy of seeing her where she is, in the same restaurant eating the same food, breathing the same Detroit air. Moore is gracious and beaming with the young woman.  Later, she describes it as a “red carpet moment,” and seems genuinely star struck with the famous names she can fire off, people she knows, people she loves. She seems star struck with her own life and how she’s turned from the young West Side Detroiter into the international poet, actress, publisher, and all of the other amazing things she puts her soul into.

Most importantly, we can think of her as one of us, a Detroiter and a human being, flesh and blood that walks the same streets we do, eats at the same restaurants, lives in the same neighborhood. She’s got the same problems finding the rent and bringing her child home safe as we do. She’s real.  And this is why she’s great. She has the kind of greatness that’s never diminishing, only uplifting. Detroit is a better place now that jessica Care moore is once again amongst us, and we’re better human beings for having listened to her words. She remembers where she came from, the daughter of a construction worker and a mother who worked at Michigan Bell. She’s a role model with the mind of Malcolm and the heart of Martin.

But who is she?  Maybe she should speak for herself. From “after being called pretty”


so next time you call me


call me


Detroit red

Jesse james


care moore

King’s mama

somebody’s wife


just jess



She’s all of these things, and moore. She takes the best of us all and amplifies it, personifies love and delivers her message with an original clarity and force. As she signed the foreword to her latest book, she’s:


jessica Care moore

(one of God’s favorite children)


God is not an American

                But God is defiantly




Catch her next at Wayne State in a free show entitled “The Missing Project: Pieces of the D,” a multimedia art instillation and storytelling project. She’s collaborating with Antonio “shades” Agee, one of the world’s foremost graffiti artists (shadesdet.com). October 7th at 7 PM, WSU General Lectures Building Rm. 150. Look her up at the upcoming jessicacaremoore.net. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s recording her “rock and roll” album Black Tea, with her band Detroit Read, utilizing Detroit producers and live musicians…