they | them | shawty | honey
a divine soul. a human. a sibling. daughter. a granddaughter. a friend. a community member. a nurturer. a fighter. an empowerer. a builder. a creator. a weaver. an artist.
Janae' "Jaee" Sumter is a nonbinary indigo child and student of life from New Orleans, LA. Jaee is the child of deep Gullah Geechee, Cherokee, and Creole roots in New Orleans and Charleston. Jaee has a rich 9-year background and practice in Creative Arts, Arts Integration Education, community organizing, movement, and event planning, and a 6-year experience in ancestral, energy, and herbal work through a multi-lens framework.
Jaee obtained their Bachelor of Arts from Spelman College in Studio Art and a Master of Art in Integrated Practices focusing on Community Art and Social Justice from Pratt Institute. They are a Certified Life Coach, Level 2 Attunement Reiki, and Herbal Thai Compass Ball Massage Practitioner.
Honey is a community member, space holder, and cultural bearer who uses many forms of creative modality as a collective altar that embodies community empowerment and care, eco sovereignty, folklore, legacy building, integration, cultural and ancestral awareness, education, and healing justice. Jaee's approach to their practice merges awareness and intentional action between self, community, the world around us, and the systems intentionally placed that try to keep us enslaved. These forms of enslavement can present itself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and physically.
Physically, this manifests through movement, visual practice, education, curating, spiritual work, plant wisdom, digital design, travel photography, storytelling, volunteering, charity fundraisers, and through their ancestor divine-led business, Sweet Herbal Honey Apothecary.
Energetically, this happens through connection and vulnerability -- unpacking the roots of generational trauma, collective oppression, and community separation. Using these creative practices, we unpack these realities to rebirth fertile space to further our understanding of how we can accept, challenge, rework, and change systems that do not work while welcoming ideas for new ones that create innovative guidance toward collective liberation.
As a New Orleans native growing up in underserved communities, Jaee's childhood integrated the powerful spirit of community, ancestry, and hidden-in-plain-sight spiritual practices between hoodoo, voodoo, afro-native, and Christianity. It infused culture, celebration, tradition, elder stories, creative expression, and what Southerners call "Southern hospitality." As a child, they learned how to still have joy even in hardship and the power of community business, celebration, creativity, and artistry. They grew up in a city filled with creative entrepreneurship where everyone had a local business and/or some form of outlet that supported community upliftment and resources. They experienced a cultural norm of blended traditions from our native, Creole, and Afro heritage.
At a young age, Jaee witnessed how their community cared for each other in the best ways they knew and created life from death through dance, drum, chant, and cultural foundations such as formal balls, second lines, Black-Native-centered parades, crawfish boils, skate night, festivals and block parties. As they experienced the highs, they also experienced injustices as a child and adult from abuse, colorism, poverty mindset, homelessness, homophobia, disability, and more. Jaee learned early the importance of understanding minimal resources for abundant solution-building, storytelling, self-healing, and identity expression.
Through those experiences, creative practice supported them as a foundational language for what they were processing. They explored this through dance, music, tie-dyeing, being in nature, cooking, singing, majorettes, stepping, visual practice, swimming, and all sports. Exploring these diverse forms of creativity and cultural traditions, they utilized them to learn themselves, discover what they love, and continue to align with the community naturally.
As they gratefully traveled over the years, they learned of the similar injustices and traditions around the global world that fostered connections between them. With them living in cities in the South, East, West, and Asia and traveling to Sumter, Thailand, Myanmar, Puerto Rico, and Laos, they learned new ways of exchanging love, self-discovery, and power within the community.
Centering community liberation, cultural exchange, legacy, education, healing, and activism guides the principles of Sweet Herbal Honey Apothecary and Jaee as a human and community member. There is the greatest liberation in individual and collective power that doesn't overrule but builds and sustains in harmony and growth that moves us toward our personal destiny, love and collective strength through adversity.