The Storyteller: Joél Leon
by Jacquelyn Ogorchukwu Iyamah
What does home mean to you?
It means love. It means comfort. It means being able to stretch out, to lean in, to expand. Interestingly, I identify with home more as a person, as a personality, and as a place in the heart, than a physical location. But even in that reflection, I can see how now I've found a home—in both neighborhood, in collective community, and within the walls I work, seep and play in with my family.
What word captures the essence of your home?
How does your home space inspire the work you do?
It doesn't inspire as much as it creates room to BE inspired, you feel me? Like I can be bored, be creative, be imaginative, be sad; be friendly, be alone. We have space (and in New York that is a LUXURY.) The kids run and play in these halls. Bria keeps samples of her clothing line, SOLACE, in the guest room slash office. I nap in the guest room slash office. I play vinyls while I work and watch our two-year-old West. I get to show up as I am and just be in an inviting space. I grew up semi-poor, always shared a room, and moved back in with my parents in my thirties. A lot of my adult life has been spent looking for a home that felt like it was truly mine. I finally have that here.
What part of your living space makes you feel most at home?
The living room. Bria found this beautiful, wooden family table I sit at from morning to evening at times. I read the paper there. I can watch my children play from there. There's exposed brick to the back of me while working. I invite my friends to use our homelike co-work space. We make coffee, smoke bud, talk and discuss all the things. The living room is where I hold court, essentially.
How does your home reflect your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors?
There's a lot of balance in this space. The office is chock full of my favorite books. The music I was raised on and that inspires me is here. There's the art that Bria has painted in here; art that Lilah, my six-year-old, has made, in here. We're not minimalists but I think there's a minimalist mindset to the approach: what needs to be here and what do we need/want less of? We're both fashion fiends and it shows with our closets. Our coffee table books are very Black. Blackness is paramount here. Black love is paramount here.
What at-home practices do you lean into to tend to your racial wellbeing?
Napping. I love me a good nap. Reading. I think learning and relearning increases the likelihood that we will be able to reimagine the kind of world we want to live in. Having people stay at our home—could be overnight, a few hours, a few days or weeks. There's something about providing a home for others in whatever capacity we can that feels not only very affirming but also, very Black.
Follow Joél Leon's work here