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Meet Jeffrey (Artis Jefe) White Jr. of Artis Poetry

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeffrey (Artis Jefe) White Jr.

Jeffrey, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am from Toledo, OH (Da Mud), a place that if you want to do something with your life you have to move or you’ll get stuck. My parents divorced at age three. I am a momma’s boy so I always maintained a relationship with my mother (currently my best friend) but I was raised by a father who served in the Army and worked as a registered nurse.

I would visit my mother from time to time as a child and throw a tantrum when my brothers and I had to leave her. My parents made the most out of the least for me and my siblings. My mother, a creative Queen, introduced me to arts and crafts. She would set time out for my brothers and I to create with materials she would buy from the craft store. She made the best Easter baskets and curated the best birthday parties. My father made sure that his children didn’t know that they were poor. He worked three jobs for as long as I can remember. My father told me that when we first moved to Toledo he desperately needed a place for us to live so he convinced a landlord to let him rent a rat-infested home that was actually condemned and up for sale. My father cleaned it up and my siblings and I stayed in the only room that didn’t have rats. He then moved us to a hotel, efficacy apartment, a home in the city then a home in the “suburbs” of West Toledo. My father taught me how to be resilient and grind until you get what you seek.

As a child I was inquisitive and interested in people’s motives. I have also been interested in different cultures and love listening and learning about different types of music.
My interests always differed from my peers and siblings. Most of my peers growing up in my neighborhood was not into comic books, skateboarding, theatre, dance or poetry.  I never felt like I fitted in to the status quo however I didn’t care what people think and people respected my confidence in myself. I was a class clown growing up, always loved being the center of attention. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have money to impress the girls so I figured I had to be funny. Also, I had a way with words so I could try to woo them with my poetry.

However, no matter where you live, Toledo has an air of negativity that can clog your pipe dreams or just interfere with your life in general. Where I am from, people don’t make it too far. They either get a early grave or criminal record. I was fortunate enough to get out through education, earning my BA in Psychology from Bowling Green State University and obtaining my MSW from University of Michigan. I am one of the first and few people of my family to ever attend and earn a college degree. When I graduated, I moved to NY, got married, and worked as a licensed social worker in the fields of foster care, mental health and education. I even won the NY housing lottery where I won a discounted apartment in a newly built luxury apartment. However, I was not satisfied. I spent a great amount of time as a professional social worker uncertain, moreover, fearful of actually doing what I really desired to do with my life. You see I always had a passion for poetry, music and acting. I came to a point where I felt I was just going through the motions, not growing and I lost interest in my social work career and honestly lost interest in my marriage as well.

So, I separated from my wife and moved out to an apartment in Bedstuy. I went into a state of depression. One day, my friend informed me that they had a six-month internship in Palm Springs, CA. and offered me the opportunity to move in with them to start fresh so I packed my things and left NY to CA. In Palm Springs, I reaffirmed my passion and love for ART. I wrote and published my first poetry book, performed at open mics, posted a freestyle poem daily on IG, modeled in my first fashion show for MUCHO clothing, and was even a figure model at Coachella 2017. I fully embraced my creative self and even started going by my now nickname ART which is short for Artis Jefe (my artist name) as well an acronym for three things:

A REAL TESTIMONY
ALWAYS REPPIN TOLEDO
ACTIONS REFLECT THOUGHTS

Upon returning from Coachella, I was surprised to find myself locked out of the apartment I shared with my friend. My belongings were packed outside with a text stating ” I am sorry that it has to be this way.” I was kicked out for reasons that to this day, I don’t understand or have not been explained to me so I was forced to move. I didn’t want to go back to OH so I contacted my uncle in South LA and went to stay with him and his best friend. I got a temp job as a social worker serving the homeless and actually ended up homeless while working there. My uncle and I had a disagreement/misunderstanding so I had to move out. I became street homeless for a couple of weeks, stayed with friends for a couple of weeks and eventually moved to Las Vegas to stay with my grandfather who I never met before. My grandfather and I got along well at first however, I was kicked out because he blamed me for his dog running away.

I, fortunately, save enough money from working as a school social worker at an elementary school in Las Vegas to lease a car. I again packed all my things and committed to moving to LA to pursue music, acting and modeling. While attending an open mic in DTLA, my car was towed along with everything I owned and I was unable to retrieve it before they auctioned it off. I became street homeless again for over a year. I would ride the train all day until it stopped and sleep in a sleeping bag on Santa Monica beach. I actually wrote a poem and have a song/video about that experience entitled “SANTA MONICA OPERA.” I also slept at train stations, in parking lots, behind buildings and lastly at an Army reserve in Reseda. I survived by getting free hot meals and clothing from non-profit organizations. While homeless, I joined Central Casting and got my first experience being on a TV/film set for a background role on the upcoming TV show Star Trek: Picard where I play a Borg. After this experience, I fell in love and got focused on acting. I also modeled for various designers, was featured in creative films and wrote my first screenplay for a YouTube series created by my friend Leslie Johnson (@LESSJAYY24 on IG)

Currently, I am a model and actor business owner and creator. I am in the process of developing my poetry business providing personalized poetry to companies, brands and everyday people. I am working on collaboratively writing and eventually starring in a feature film directed by my homie Christopher Trull @IAMTRULL on IG. I am also working on releasing a poetry/music project which will include my single “SANTA MONICA OPERA”. In addition, I collaborated with Jason Saboury (@SYKD.ONE on IG) and Nader Astanboos (@BOOSBOOSDENIM on IG) on clothing with painted poetry (follow me @ARTISJEFE and/or them to stay tuned).

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
On Easter Sunday 1999, my sister and my step-cousin were hit and killed by a drunk driver. My brother Taren and I were playing with my sister and cousin in Libbey High School’s parking lot before we were called in to eat dinner. I remember my sister asking me if I wanted to go back outside to play across the street but I decline because I wanted to get seconds. The next thing I remember is a loud smack and my Pops running outside. I ran upstairs to look out the windows that’s facing the front of our house. I saw my father giving CPR to my sister on the front lawn. My sister was later pronounced dead. The driver was under the influence, but he never did time. She was jaywalking so they called it justifiable. That day I learned, the system was never designed to protect us. Due to this, I began writing poetry first as a way to cope with trauma and express my inner feelings. My first poetry book “TOLEADSOUL” is inspired and dedicated to my sister Lakniesha.

In college, my brother and I was jumped. I was beaten unconscious, fractured my nose which bone particles caused internal bleeding in my brain forcing me to be life-flighted to the ICU. I miraculously recovered quickly with only a couple of scars and random clumsiness as the outcome. I overcame death.

In graduate school, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (chronic pain/fatigue disorder) which almost forced to drop out however, I pushed through and graduated.

I was kicked out my place of residence multiple times, been street homeless, harassed by police, wrongfully arrested and tested in many ways as a child and adult.

I have had to overcome issues of identity. I used to get into conflicts a lot as a child for being teased about my light complexion and interests in music/art. At age 25, I found out my father that raised me and named after was not my biological father but my biological father is Puerto Rican and Black. I actually joined a Latino-Based fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta (eventually becoming Chapter president) before knowing I was Latino. I also always loved to Salsa and Bachata since I was introduced in middle school. I am still on the quest to finding my biological father and also still journeying to find my true self.

Artis Poetry – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Artis Poetry is a poetry business that provides personalized poetry to companies, brands and everyday people to increase consumer attractability and for entertainment purposes.

Artis Poetry differs because it is customized poetry in which if you provide me a theme, mood, subject or just three words then I can provide you a poem within minutes.

Also, I can be booked for weddings, art shows, parties and other events. With this feature, I am able to travel along with my typewriter “Ida” and provide a poem and performance on the spot as well allow people to use a nostalgic writing machine and create their own poetry.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is constant motion, it’s aligning with your purpose, checking off your goals that you set your self. Success is loving yourself.

Contact Info:

  • Website: Linktr.ee/artisjefe
  • Phone: 2139858596
  • Email: jeffwhite33612@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @artisjefe


Image Credit:
Christopher Trull, Michelle Livingston, Leslie Johnson and Brian Morrison

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