Joy Elan Artist Profile

Tiny - Posted on 13 May 2013

   Joy, a bay area native and fierce warrior crushes all odds and trampled over the “dumb disabled’ myths. Her “disability” was she was born with the umbilical cord around her neck, which affected her ability to hear. Joy attended the Oakland Deaf  Program in the late 80’s – early  90’s and even though she had been wearing a hearing aid since she was 15 months old, she didn’t learn sign language until she was 5 years old. When she was born, her doctor, who practices medicine had told her mother that sign language wasn’t necessary- Joy was able to hear and her mother was told to just rely on her hearing to develop on its own. Joy’s family didn’t buy into the dis-ability stigma and her mother supported her by doing a lot of one on one revolutionary teaching with her. When Joy did attend school, she was more advanced than the rest of her class. Due to limited resources, Joy was unable to reap all of the benefits far as participating in classroom activities because she didn’t have an interpreter, thus allowing Joy to slide through the cracks. After many years of fighting the Oakland school district for accommodations for her child, Joy’s mother had given up, and decided to move to Berkeley.


For Joy, attending school in Berkeley was a blessing. Everyone was treated equally regardless if the child had a “disability” or not. Even students who were not hearing impaired learned sign language. Joy credits her family for being in her corner since the beginning of her journey and giving her the confidence of being able to do whatever she puts her mind to.  Every since Joy was 5 years old she dreamt of attending U.C Berkeley and she put her mind into accomplishing this goal. Not only did she graduate U.C Berkeley in 3 years, she went on to topple Stanford University and obtained her master’s degree in education.


But as Joy’s grandfather wisely stated, “there are always going to be obstacles.” Today, Joy works for the city of Oakland and due to budget cuts, Joy had decided to make her degrees work for her, instead of vice-versa. She published her first poetry book called “The Signs of Life, Past, Present Future” It is a story of Joy’s journey and how she accomplished her goals by not allowing for anyone to “dis-able” her. “I am a survivor of the trans-alantic and trans-amerikkka slave trade. I am a slave, learning to read and write-at night my work is never done. I teach others how to read and write, I teach them to hide it so we won’t lose the battle of freedom.”

To purchase a copy of Joy Elan’s book, visit AND for more info on Poor Magazine’s curriculum on disability skolarship, such as “Crip-Hop” go to


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