Ebony Payne-English: The Iconic Wordsmith

Pain, it’s an appropriate homonym resting in the surname for the vastly talented Ebony Payne-English. From her pain she has been able to take her experiences and cultivate her own unique art. Pain is transformed into perseverance while creating an uplifting environment for others so they, too, can turn misfortune into their own renaissance of sorts. This Jacksonville literary artist, performer, and educator not only talks the talk to create this change, but most importantly, puts action behind her eloquent words to support others.

A Way With Words

The human mind provides an endless amount of capabilities. From it comes distinctive and interesting thoughts instinctively yearning for outside validation. Presenting these ideas can be a suspense-inducing procedure and figuring out how to best portray a message plays a key role. Poetry serves as Ebony’s main function of performance. Her ability to paint visuals with her powerful words gives her the freedom that many artist’s desire. From that, she also composes books, brings words to life through plays, and even adds the element of noise and rhythms through music. A wide portfolio has emerged for Ebony to fully encapsulate the person she has grown to love. Her African and Black heritage exudes proudly through her art and style. Colorful makeup accentuates her aesthetic while sunflowers add bliss to her natural locks. Over the years she has been able to cultivate an image that makes her stand out as only she can.

"I wanted to make sure that I kept my art to itself...pure and intent...everything else I can figure out, but as long as I can hold myself accountable to the reason I write...everything else will fall into place."

Payne & Perseverance

Historically speaking, no other group has been tasked with tougher obstacles than the black woman in America. Opportunities come few and far between while systemic injustices drive a negative stereotype upon these women. Ebony expresses herself through various mediums drawing from her own mental, emotional and physical battles. Ever since she was a child, English-Payne relented at the thought of becoming another “statistic”. Common deterrents in the black community such as lack of better resources, single parenthood and drug addiction took their best shot at English-Payne and the people around her but that wasn’t enough to deter her from turning those detriments into her motivation to overcome. These hurdles still present themselves, but through her art and life experiences she has gone on to gracefully educate and inspire others with her artistic gifts.

“(Creating is) the closest to God someone can be...to take an idea from the intangible world of thought and make it manifest into something palpable in this physical realm and like that’s a miraculous occurrence.”

Change a Life, Save a Soul

Composed of an all-femme leadership group, she finds solace at The Performers Academy in Jacksonville. She revels in the opportunity to help build up the community by working with teens who are in the most need for creative expression. She highlights her 4+ years working here as a rewarding experience working with these teens, many of whom have been exposed to some form of trauma. Most of them have and will go through more trauma than most adults have in their lifetime, but using her expertise as an artist and educator, Payne-English is able to give them an outlet through art and show them that they’re not alone.

“To be able to be a source of assistance and cultivation to the community of Jacksonville and expressing the importance of the arts on a daily basis to children and to the artists...is a full circle experience for me because it's like I get to put into the atmosphere something that wasn't always there for me when I was coming up as a young artist. This place means a lot to me.”


A realization dawned upon Ebony that the only way to reach your maximum potential is to accept yourself and portray yourself as you are. According to Payne-English, the immortal words and stylings of Tupac Shakur gave her the confidence to embrace her fears at a young age. A person such as Ebony Payne-English that is able to perform spoken word at a high level while revealing their inner deepest thoughts and emotions is indicative of authenticity. The more authentic an artist is, the easier it is for them to connect with the audience, no matter the medium. 

“Don't do comparisons. It's so tempting to do that because we're taught that you follow a model of success. You find a successful person and then you model yourself after what they did so that you could have the same results. But when you're talking about your experience... nobody can tell the story that you're going to tell the way that it should be... told from your perspective so it's important to be authentic.”

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Watch ebony's full interview below


Daryna Barykina

ROOTS Daryna Barykina is an awe-inspiring photographer that is adept in stylized conceptual vivid imagery. A native of Ukraine, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 2011 and embarked on her

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