Who Is Kerrie Joy?
Kerrie Joy brings stories to life through telling imagery and undeniable passion. She will take you on a journey with her words and challenge your heart with her delivery. She carries this energy with her into the classroom as she teaches students of all ages to step into the boldest version of themselves and challenge the status quo. Hear her once…be inspired forever.
Kerrie Joy Landell was born at Downstate University in Brooklyn, NY and she resided on Willmohr St. until the age of 7. She was raised by two hard working Jamaican parents growing up on the finest West Indian cuisine from the hands of her mother. Her father, Edgar, was a black town car driver and her mother, Pearlyn, was a caretaker who loved to sing, introducing music to Kerrie she even left the womb. Being raised on the pew of an Apostolic church on Linden Blvd. in Jamaica, Queens, Kerrie was encouraged to embrace “music that only glorifies God.” She grew up on the sounds of Mahalia Jackson, The Grace Thrillers, Fred Hammond, John P. Kee, and many others.
In 1997, Kerrie’s family moved approximately two hours north of Brooklyn to a city/town called Newburgh, NY (the 6th borough as residents liked to call it, competing with places like Long Island). Although her family still had very deep roots in Brooklyn, Queens, and Yonkers, Newburgh is the city that made Kerrie. This is where she came out to her mother (which didn’t go too well) and found herself fully devoted to her church attending services and groups at least four days a week. Kerrie was taught, very early, that the world was not her home, she was just passing through. This is also where she was taught to pray, from a very young age, to be healed of the “disease of homosexuality.” She was taught she was unworthy and undeserving, unable to discuss the woes of her personal life because everything that was wrong was a result of her wrong doing and a punishment the she ultimately deserved.
Kerrie stuffed down her truth, her pain, her joy, and her essence hoping to “kill her flesh” and “deny herself” so that God would accept her. “He” never did, although Kerrie was diligent in her study of the word, in prayer, and in fasting. She became everything that she was instructed to be, not understanding her power of choice because all she truly knew was fear. Until about the age of 14, as a result of her environment, she began to write, finding that to be her only outlet and her only source of freedom. But Kerrie still never truly knew herself. She attended Heritage Middle School and Newburgh Free Academy where she struggled finding her rhythm until she met her 11th grade english teacher, Ms. Jennifer Costabile. It was that class that changed her life, teaching her the power of story telling and to embrace the voice within. However, trusting that voice was damnation, according to the scriptures. So she continued to search outside of herself for truth.
In 2008, Kerrie was admitted to the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education on the beautiful City College Campus in Harlem, NY. She was on her way to become a doctor following, what she thought, were her dreams. But she quickly realized she was living someone else’s, and in a desperate attempt to find her freedom, she joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves. She would have went active duty if she could have left for basic training sooner, but her goal was to get out as fast as she could. The years that would follow, of her on and off active duty orders, traveling the U.S., being overlooked for deployments, passing up opportunities to leave the country due to fear and obligation, dealing with issues of race, sex, sexuality, and harassment in a very different environment, Kerrie realized she made a journey similar to that of a boomerang. She threw herself out there as far as she could, only to realize that her form followed function, bringing her right back to the place where she surrendered her mind, her heart, and her future, the Apostolic church. She knew nothing else.
Kerrie got married in 2014 to a man she believed she was in love with at the time, a man that made sense given her circumstances. She wasn’t allowed to love the way that felt natural to her, so she searched for a semblance of romantic love in a man that became one of her best friends, Frank. This marriage lasted for three years and it seemed to be the very first opportunity for Kerrie to think for herself. This is where Kerrie grew in ways she never knew she could; this is where she found herself, and her awakening caused damage that can never be undone. Kerrie finally told her husband that she wasn’t being honest with him because she was never truly honest with herself. Her second coming out…her rebirth. It was scary, and painful, and absolutely necessary and it is the ONE time she listened to that voice within.
In 2017, Kerrie moved to Denver, CO to start anew. She had some family there (her amazing brother and his wife), people who accepted her for everything that she is. As she tried to break the news to her other family, specifically her mother, it was not well received. Pearlyn thought it was love that she was giving her daughter, but in truth, this inflicted one of the deepest wounds because for the first time in Kerrie’s life, she was herself, giving herself wholly, and was completely denied. Finding her truth and her voice, Kerrie’s talent and passion brought her to the stage once again, but this time, she was no longer speaking from the place of fear. Instead, she chooses to speak from a place of freedom.
Kerrie has taken Denver by storm, speaking on stages such as the 2018 Women’s March, MLK Marade, and Black Women’s March. She has performed at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, TEDx Mile High, and many universities and conferences in the state of Colorado. She is a public speaker and commissioned poet, being commissioned by organizations such as the Tennyson Center for Children and the American Heart Association for personalized work. She is also an instructor, teaching her students how to trust their inner voice and embrace their journey.
In the Classroom
Kerrie has taught workshops at CU Denver, CU Boulder, Aurora Public Schools, Aurora Community College, and more. She is beginning a new program in conjunction with Project VOYCE at Manual High School as well as her My-GRAYtions workshop with the Tennyson Center for Children. Nothing in this life is black and white, and Kerrie is committed to teaching her students how to navigate all of these gray spaces especially when the system (school, work, organized religion, politics, etc.) teaches you to live within boxes that don’t truly exist. We are taught to lose ourselves to someone else’s idea of living, especially when we experience trauma. In the classroom, Kerrie reminds of all of the reasons how and why you should trust yourself and your voice.
Kerrie is a brand manager, designer, resource manager, and entrepreneur. She takes self-employment very seriously. She recently started a podcast named The SIP with two women that she calls her friends, sisters, and inspirations. She is on her way to expanding her field as an educator as well as diving into the business of media production, fashion, and design.
Photo by Ryan Landell.