Roojerry Dangervil is a 23-year old Haitian-American from Miami, Florida. In this interview, Roojerry explains how he began speaking at various events and gives an insight into his craft.
When did you begin writing poetry?
I began writing poetry when I was in middle school; I used to rap. I look at my writing from then and now & I can't help but laugh.
What was your most significant moment so far in life that made you stop and go “I need to share my story and help others.”?
I've had several significant moments, but what propelled to really keep pushing and telling my story was when I used poetry as an outlet to deal with my depression. I just had to feel like I wasn't alone in the way I felt about life, so it was more of a cry for help, to be honest. The feedback was amazing, I felt like a burden had been lifted, and I helped others accept who they are and work towards getting help and being themselves. After that, I just felt like I was doing the right thing.
How did you begin speaking at events and seminars? Did you get approached?
I had to put in the work. I used to email schools and venues, reach out to figures in the community, have some of my connections try to put the word in for me, etc. I was desperate to make a name for myself and earn that respect, so the more I performed and spoke at events, the more people started to take notice and approach me about potential gigs.
Do you remember the first motivational speech you ever gave? nervous?
I wasn't really nervous, I was more excited to have the opportunity. I spoke to a group of high school children and they felt like they could relate to me. I wasn't some random 40+ old guy coming to tell them about what they're doing wrong in life, but a regular college kid who just recently been in their shoes.
What is the key to giving a good motivational speech?
Preparation. Every speech will always affect an audience differently, so I'd definitely say some keys to giving a good motivational speech is to know your audience, having the ability to relate to them, and gaining a sense of trust from the audience. It's hard to motivate someone who doesn't believe or trust the message you're trying to convey.
I know you're proud of all the speeches you have given , but what is the one you would say you are the proudest of and why?
The moment I'm most proud of actually wasn't a speech, It was a poem that I performed to win the 2017 Slam for Literacy. It was a piece dedicated to my mother that I performed in the final round to win. It was the first time my mother had given me my props and acknowledged my talent. She used to think I wasting my time, but at that moment she realized I had a gift, and that feeling still fuels me.
What would you say separates you from other speakers out there?
My confidence, poise, and that I've paved my own lane really separates me from others. I'm young and I'm speaking from a place of someone who hasn't yet figured it all out but is willing to share their testimony in hopes that my story can help someone else along their own path so that we may succeed together. I speak in "we" instead of "you", so my audience knows they aren't alone in their struggles and that is something that has helped me garner the success I've achieved thus far.
Being raised in a Haitian household myself, I know how hard it can be dealing with mental health and having your parents not understand. Was that the case for you as well?
That was definitely the case for me. During the time I was depressed and at a very low point, it was especially difficult when I felt like I was in a cage and no one understood me or what I was going through. It’s hard when your parents feel like you have no reason to be depressed because they don't understand what depression actually is.
I ended up going to therapy with my parents so we could have a mediator. That was pretty dope looking back, but I remember at the time it wasn’t. They were able to see things from my perspective and how some of the things they did was detrimental to my mental health.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated?
I motivate myself, but aside from that, I know the life I want to live, the legacy I want to leave, and the lives that can be changed. Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see” and I want to live that. I want to be a catalyst for change. In my poems, speeches, and music I want to be able to inspire people to be the best versions of themselves. In everyone can ultimately be the best versions of themselves then we’ll have a better world.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I don’t know exactly where I want to be in 5 years, but I do know that I’ll be doing everything I set my mind to.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue becoming a motivational speaker?
If you want to be a motivational speaker be authentic in what you want to do. Do it for all the right reasons and because you genuinely care about motivating people and want them to be better.
How can individuals get in contact with you if they have any questions?
They can contact me on my Instagram @roothepoet, or on my website www.roojerrydangervil.com.
Mental Health in the Black Community at the University of Florida | Spoken Word | Roojerry Dangervil