Imara Jones, founder of TransLash Media is focused on her vision.
“It’s a world of possibility. It is a world of bounty.” Jones muses upon her dream, which she says is an expansive Black trans vision of the world. “It is a world where we really get to live out our talents and be our best selves without limitations. Therefore, I think that vision informs everything that I do.”
For someone like Imara Jones, it’s difficult to capture the vastness of what she ‘does.’ Jones is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning activist and a change maker. By trade, Imara Jones works as a journalist, transitioning careers from corporate communications into media in 2010. After leaving corporate America, she later worked in independent journalism and went on to launch TransLash Media in 2018—getting the company off the ground was a “step by step process.” Essentially, the platform started with a documentary, which gave way to a website, then social media and finally a podcast.
Today, Jones’ non-profit is composed of a small but mighty team of 12 people. TransLash Media is the home of an award winning podcast series called TransLash Podcast, riveting short films, as well as “News & Narrative” (TransLash Media’s platform for personal essays and journalism), among other initiatives. The media company has also secured some impressive partnerships, working with organizations such as PBS, WNYC and Transgender Law Center. Throughout the many collaborations and partnerships, TransLash’s mission remains bold and clear: “We tell trans stories to save trans lives.” Suffice it to say, this clarity comes from the organization’s founder.
Jones’ foray into journalism was unexpected. She started writing a blog when her mother was in the hospital with cancer—at the time Jones’ written work focused on current events, through an intersectional queer lens. As Jones’ blogging continued, a journalist friend took some of the founder’s posts (with consent) and turned them into proper pieces for various news organizations. “That’s literally how it started.” Jones reflects, “I started doing the thing that I felt was right (and what I wanted to do), and then my life, as a result, started telling me what it wanted me to do.”
Fast forward some years and Imara Jones sits on the throne of a flourishing media company. And it is appropriate for Jones to sit on a throne because this founder is wholly regal. Even through videoconferencing, this is clear. Jones sits assuredly, draped in a royal blue sundress with her hair in neat box braids with subtle blue highlights. During our conversation she is both commanding, yet humble. Imara Jones believes her life work to be a form of service.
“You want to be in service to your vision. You’ve got to be in constant service to what you’re trying to do,” Jones tells ESSENCE.
“There are lots of different types of people and there are some people who will tell their story in ‘I’ statements.” Jones continues. “They’ll say, ‘Well, I decided to do this, then I decided to do that.’ And it’s very much them imposing their will on life. And I think that I have let my life teach me as much about what it is asking of me, as I have decided to make it what I wanted it to be.”
Jones is very reflective in her tone and tenor. Her authenticity is refreshing. The fluidity with which she speaks indicates that she is talking from her soul. With Jones there is no space for canned conversations, she just flows.
We speak at the end of Pride Month, which takes place during the entire month of June across the United States. It’s the end of the business day, though the founder has work-related calls into the evening, and typically stops working at midnight. She has a look of tiredness in her eyes, but she presses on (as Black women typically do). But Jones is tired, not because she is weary, rather she is completing a bit of an award tour.
In April 2023, Jones was named an “Icon” on the Time 100 list of most influential people; in May 2023 she won an Outstanding Podcast Award from GLAAD; in June 2023 she was honored with a Vision Award from the Stone Wall Foundation; and most recently was named on City and State New York’s Pride 100 list—she also received this honor in June 2023.
“It’s been a two-month Pride for me, essentially.” Jones continues, “I’m not complaining, I’ve just been in nonstop motion since late April.”
Organizations are recognizing Jones and TransLash Media because her work is critical in this very moment of time. According to the Transgender Law Center “There have been 139 reported incidents of fatal transphobic violence in the U.S. since 2017. The U.S. ranks third in the world for trans people who are violently killed, after Brazil and Mexico.”
Aside from platforms like TransLash Media, there isn’t much depth of coverage of the trans community. Jones understands this fact to be true for a simple, yet troubling reason. “People don’t see our lives as valuable. It’s really not that much more complicated than that.” She continues, “The reason why I do what I do and why I tell the stories that I tell, is that I believe that a way of showing our value is to show our value. That is to say, to show that our lives are worthy and the complexity and the intricacy and the humanity of trans people in trans life.”
Jones believes that the shift to having society value the trans community and Black trans lives is a deeper question—one that has some very large underpinnings. And there is still much work to be done. “What we’re trying to do in the world is so unglamorous. Most of it is so unglamorous. It is the very opposite of being noticed and beautiful and splashed across pages. And I think a true measure is whether or not you can deal with that. Can you live in the drudgery?,” the CEO tells ESSENCE.
“And so I think it’s important for people to realize that when you’re in that monotony, when you are feeling lost, when you are not knowing what to do, when you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, that’s actually mostly what it is. It’s not mostly what people see when a spotlight is on you. Most of it is when the spotlight isn’t on you.” Despite the honors and the accolades, Jones believes that it is in those dark and quiet moments when the world isn’t looking that truly matters. Imara Jones knows the ‘why’ that drives her work.
“I don’t do it because I believe I’m going to be recognized. I do it because I believe that it’s important.”