Dr. El Jones MSVU Assistant Professor in the department of Politics, Economics and Canadian Studies Dr. El Jones was recognized with an honorary degree from Acadia University at their spring convocation ceremony held Friday, May 17.

“Author, poet, journalist, educator, and advocate: Dr. El Jones is all these things and more, an outspoken activist, thinker and writer whose strengths converge in her spoken word performances,” said Dr. Corinne Haigh, Dean of the Faculty of Professional Studies at Acadia, in her presentation of El for the honour.

She continued, “A respected poet, Dr. Jones was two-time National Slam champion in 2007 and 2008, Poet Laureate of Halifax in 2013-2015, resident of the International Writing Program at University of Iowa in 2015, and poet in residence at University of Toronto Scarborough in 2021.”

“What defines her achievements is a commitment to activism and community advocacy to highlight inequities and redress injustices. The recognition of her performances, teaching and political commitment [is testament] to the exceptional influence she has exercised during the Black Lives Matter movement and the expansion of Black scholarship in Canadian academia.”

“It is at this time, more than any other, that we are called upon not to say what is pleasing, but what is right.” – Dr. El Jones

In her address to graduates, El spoke of her time teaching at Acadia between 2012 and 2014 while at the same time fighting what she felt was the wrongful conviction of a young African Nova Scotian man. She spoke of hearing about the injustices and conditions being experienced by people in prison and the tears she would shed on her drive from Halifax to Acadia to teach.

“I hadn’t learned to do what this world so often demands of us: to put aside the horrors we are witnessing, to put on a face, and to carry on as though it is normal. I never learned – and I hope to never learn – to stay silent about injustice.”

She also spoke of how fighting those battles limited her opportunities. “I frequently felt worthless and ashamed of where I was in life and so I would imagine the day I would triumph, I would imagine moments like this where I was being honoured. And I would think about all the things I would say in that moment to my enemies.”

“But now here I am, standing on this stage, and of course when you reach the place that people want to honour you, you realize something important. This moment is not about you. And all the things you thought you would say are not the things you want or need to say at all.”

She reminded of the need to say what is right, not what is pleasing. “We must find the courage to speak, and act, and live with integrity and compassion and humanity. And you will find, if you do speak, that this testing never ends. Throughout our lives, over and over, we will be asked to choose between comfort – both ours and that of other people – and silence. … Over and over again, we must choose. Choose to live up to our values. Choose to honour our communities. Choose to not lose sight of the world that we want to bring into being.”

Watch Dr. El Jones’ address to Acadia graduates in full (advance to the 2:38:40 mark).

El is also a two-time Atlantic Journalism award winner and recipient of the Burnley “Rocky” Jones human rights award. She was the 15th Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at MSVU and holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from Queen’s University.

Congratulations, Dr. El Jones, on this deserving recognition!