Nina Elizabeth Ball brings her love for the arts to her role as director of programming and education at AAMP

Recognizing her love of reading, Ball’s first-grade teacher gave her Nancy Drew mysteries. She and her older sister Mia devoured books they checked out of the library before they could get them home. When writing poetry, Ball included words she learned from the dictionary so she would remember their meaning and expand the vocabulary of people who read them.

She’s “savoir-faire,” a “latitudinarian” and has “eidetic memory,” she says in conversation without a hint of pretension but with the confidence of someone who knows herself.

Growing up, she was a bundle of energy and sometimes ill of temper. Through poetry, she contained the former, released the latter and found healing. “I was processing the things I was coming to discover about the world, and I needed somewhere to put it down and work it out,” she says. “And I started to feel better. I started to feel more even out. I felt it would be something that would be a companion to me even if I didn’t take it anywhere professionally.”

For Ball, writing poetry comes as naturally as breathing. In her de ella’s “own little mad scientist lab,” she plays with words to create poetic riffs primarily for herself. Much of it is spoken word, which she performs with a dramatic flair learned from her classical-theater training in high school. (She also sings – eleven soprano, now baritone.)

Her writings are also activist-driven. Injustice pervades the world, she says, and most people feel helpless in solving it. “One person can make a change,” Ball says. “I tell people if they don’t know where to start, pick one person to mentor. They can be a peer, or different age or different background. If you’ve only impacted that one person’s life, you have changed the world.”

Ball says her poetry reflects her love of “humans,” God, the universe and community.

She often references God in her poetry, overtly and subtly. In one poem, she writes:

“God’s got a photographic memory
always snapping my picture
He’s my father so I call him paparazzi.”

“I made a promise to God several years back that I would include God in as much of my poetry as possible even if it’s just a line here or there; a thank you for the gift that was given to me,” she says. “I think that is the heart of what I do, whether it’s community work or poetry.”

Nina Elizabeth Ball at the African American Museum of Philadelphia. (Tezarah Wilkins via Love Now Media)

She engaged in community work around film after an encounter with African American director Ava DuVernay during a screening in Philadelphia about 10 years ago. Ball promoted independent movies distributed by DuVernay’s ARRAY company (Ball has a BA in film and African American Studies). In a quote on Ball’s website, DuVernay describes her as a Renaissance woman because of her versatility. It’s not how Ball would describe herself, but she accepts it. She explains that she is someone with an active imagination who is open-minded.

“I can find the beauty and interest in almost anything,” says Ball, who has performed around the world. “I’m fascinated by people. I love talking to people. I learn a lot that way which helps me be savoir-faire, a chameleon of sorts, all the while maintaining my authenticity and integrity of character.”

“I intentionally have an open mind about a lot of things, especially the things I don’t understand right away. I want to know all the different ways to experience life and the world. I want to know God in all ways, which means I want to know life in all ways. I want to know love in all ways. I’m open to where love will come in any way that it comes in, whether it’s familial love, whether it’s partner love, whether it’s friendship love.”

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