Announcing Love Now Media’s Love Ambassadors

By Syreeta Martin

Over the course of a global pandemic, we’ve learned new ways to live, connect, exist, persevere, create, and build. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Love Now Media celebrates the people who, despite any challenge and setback faced in life, remain Lovers of life, self, and community. Meet just a few of the Lovers who live and work in Philadelphia. 

Queen Jo (QJ), is a lyrical firebrand whose artistry is amplified by her role as house emcee for several night-life events in Philadelphia. Having performed with the likes of Ursula Rucker, Planet Booty, The Skins and Lion Babe, Queen Jo is a 2020 alum of Black Thought’s hip-hop master class, which culminated in a performance at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall. Queen Jo’s most recent achievements include a 2021 appointment to serve as co-chair of Philadelphia’s Arts & Culture Taskforce and committee chair of the Youth In Arts subset.

In your opinion, what role has empathy played amid the pandemic? 

Interestingly enough, I never considered myself to be an empath until the pandemic. I could easily be sympathetic towards someone’s situation because I don’t like to see anyone hurt, but putting myself in people’s shoes to actually feel how they felt was something I did not welcome.  When things get really bad (as they did during the start of the pandemic) being an empath works against you because of all that pressure and it can be depressing and debilitating. I really can’t be of any use to anyone when I’m sitting in that feeling alone.  It just so happened that this pandemic coincided with racial and political injustices that evoked anger and annoyance among many; now those emotions, I can work with.  Also, the fact that we were all experiencing these emotions together made it so that no one felt completely alone.  Justice is extremely important to me and many other people I know. Fighting against injustice is my birthright.

How do you lead with love?

For me, leading with love means performing [an] action with integrity. I believe love is an action word and that means there is an element of work to that.  No matter how tedious or hard or uphill it may be, doing it with integrity is the best anyone can hope for. It is often the slowest route and the one with the least “personal reward” but it is the most beneficial to most and the most lasting.

What does it mean to Love Now? 

To “Love Now” means to show up in the best way you can in the given moment. It means to be intentional and present in your actions and interactions with the people you encounter every day.

Ameen Akbar

Brother Ameen Akbar serves as the Chief Mission Officer at Philadelphia Youth Basketball. Throughout his career, Akbar has provided direct service to youth, youth-facing practitioners, and youth-serving agencies through support services, professional development, coaching, and organizational culture design. Akbar is a youth development expert with passion and character. He leads and learns with love and attributes much of his development to a healthy, supportive village of caring people.

In your opinion, what role has empathy played amid the pandemic?

The pandemic exacerbated much of what needed to be healed in our communities. It forced us to examine the things that created these conditions. Community trauma requires community healing. For me, empathy started with intentional self-reflection–a daily process so I could become more aware of my thoughts, my lived experience, my actions, and how others receive me. That in turn led me to be able to develop a keen awareness of the needs of others. I was tapped into my strengths, insecurities, and areas of growth. The continuous journey allowed me to love differently and more importantly, understand the needs of others. Thusly, helping me love others in the way they needed to be loved and not how I wanted to love. This included my family, friends, and the community that I served. Self-reflection led to self-healing led to community healing for me. The conditions of the pandemic forced that process for me. 

How do you lead with love?

I’ve spent an entire career leading with love. The kind of love that requires humanity and honors the individual identities of those I interact with–seeing them as the perfectly created individuals they are. I was surrounded by love growing up. My mother and father deserve that credit and showed me the greatest example of love. I was created out of love. I am very intentional when I share that. That love doesn’t just belong to me as I have always felt obligated to share it in  community.

What does it mean to Love Now? 

The pandemic taught us that. Love is a space that has evolved and I treat it as such. Love is innovated. Love is healing. Love is actionable. Love is community. And because of that, it has to be now. I want to be surrounded by it, grow in it. Because my ultimate goal and mission is to share it in community! 

Rosilyn Muñoz is a counselor for the School District of Philadelphia. She also serves as a school academic roster chair as well as the graduation coordinator. Muñoz has worked in the education field for 14 years. She loves to cook, create, and travel. 

In your opinion, what role has empathy played amid the pandemic? 

I think the role that empathy has played in the pandemic is major. Not discussing the disparities amongst the poor and the rich; the pandemic is something that happened to us all. It made it easier to give grace to others because we were in the same struggle. 

How do you lead with love?  

I honestly don’t know how to answer “how do you lead with love?” It is just a part of who I am. I lead my life with love, because why not? Love is security. Love is passion. Love is laughter. Love is comfort. And who doesn’t want those things?! [In] my senior year of high school I was taking my yearbook around to get signed. This one girl signed it and it said, “you always smiled at me and said hi, and a lot of days I needed it and you didn’t even know”. I think from that day forward I was INTENTIONAL about leading with love. 

What does it mean to Love Now? 

To me that means a lot. It means learning to forgive people for past transgressions (and choosing if you want them in your life because sometimes loving people means loving from a distance). It means being present. Not being consumed by technology when you are in the presence of [the] ones you love. It means don’t wait to tell people how you feel about them because you may not get the chance. So love NOW. 

John W. Graves III is a Philadelphia native who serves as a playwright, director, choreographer, songwriter and arranger, educator, producer, entrepreneur, and performing artist. Graves has traveled throughout the U.S. performing and facilitating seminars, classes, and workshops in art education and the performing arts. Currently, he can be found at JGP Studio (1214 South St.) where he continues to study and thrive in his crafts along with educating and supporting artists throughout the region. He hosts numerous programs throughout the year in community service and art education for children, teens, and adults, and presents productions annually.

In your opinion, what role has empathy played amid the pandemic? 

The pandemic leveled the playing field. It put many on the same page no matter the class, job, upbringing, etc. which created a shared understanding and unity amongst all of us. It reminded us of the power of community, togetherness, and resilience.

How do you lead with love?  

God’s grace, in honesty, truth, understanding, and compassion.

What does it mean to Love Now? 

To not wait, but to use love in action as a lifestyle in the present. Love is not a future goal, but a life-changing phenomenon we all have access to daily.

Syreeta Martin
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