Conversation As An Art Form - An Interview With Kevin Leaven
Last year, two close friends of mine invited me to a conversational gathering of the community, what they call 'Java Jive'. It was structured, facilitated and proper, and simultaneously amorphous, informal and engaging. People from diverse backgrounds came to absorb, create, and converse. It was easily one of the most intentional hangouts I've had with ten others who are in their mid-late 20's.
The podcast Jive Talkin' with Kevin Leaven, resulted as an extension of this project that Kevin and his partner Grace Carter have been working on. They intend to create a duality of an online component that people can engage with, and a sister offline companion, Java Jive, that is still in the making.
In Kevin's words, his weekly podcast "seeks to uplift, encourage, and spark meaningful discussions." His inspirational project seeks out people from all walks of life, who value engaging in conversations around reflection of the self and the collective. I had the opportunity to learn about his art and the origin of this meaningful passion project.
Where did this concept come from? What it means to you? How did it manifest into a podcast?
Jive Talkin’ is a media project that explores the meaning of authenticity. I feel like the level of discourse that I’ve been seeing on social media is progressively getting better, and I want to contribute to the world by exploring if conversation can be an art, which I believe it is. What does it look like? How can I use my curiosity and interest in hosting meaningful, artful conversations? How can I then bring it to a platform that’s accessible to everyone that has access to the internet and is able to listen to podcasts?
Since I believe that conversation is an art, I want to practice that art regularly because I think that if you believe in something and are serious about it, then that requires action. I want to speak truth to power and also live my truth. This is why I am doing this.
Since we talk about “conversation”, which according to you is art, let’s talk a little bit about the word "jive". In your podcast, you talk about the origins of jive and how you want to redefine it. How do you see yourself redefining it over the course of your podcasts?
I want jive to mean honest and raw connection. As I mentioned in the first episode, jive originates in my opinion as a response to ebbing and flowing with another person; in ebbing and flowing with life itself- in its hardships, joys, ease and everything in between; in the negotiation and balance that has to be struck as a part of living. And that is almost inherent or integral to anything and anyone. There’s a duality that’s spoken to here. If through this podcast more people feel empowered to speak their truth and to engage in discussions that are meaningful and hard, then I will have done my job.
So jive is inherent in each of us in a sense. This reminds me of the term “authentic expression” in your first episode. Where does authentic expression (or what I refer to as creativity) come from, and how can one access it?
I chose “authentic expression” instead of creativity because I found that everyone has a different struggle with identity. In my mind, I can look at a person and say they are so creative, talented, or entrepreneurial. But they might not necessarily identify themselves in that same way. I have friends who are artists because I’ve seen their art, but they don’t feel like they are artists for one reason or another, and it’s a personal thing. I wanted to express my intent by framing it as authentic expression, because that just speaks to someone being real, vulnerable, open, welcoming and themselves in the most honest way possible. I think that connects with the idea and the embodiment of truth.
As far as the accessibility component of authentic expression goes, it takes mindfulness, meditation, and self-reflection. It comes from a place of balance between internal reconciliation, where one asks oneself, “who am I?”, and “why do I feel the way that I feel based on what I experienced?”, and then has the courage to bring back internal dialogue into an external space. There are so many times I found myself getting stuck when I was in my head and only in my head.
One of the beautiful things about dialogue is that you share your perspective with another person, then can reflect back what they have heard, and can share insight from their experiences. That has helped me grow personally, and better understand who I am.
When is your next podcast airing? What are three podcasts we could look forward to in any order?
The next podcast is releasing on Thursday, March 11, and it is featuring my partner Grace, who is a Rockstar and who I love dearly. It focuses on partnerships and what does it mean to be in an intentional partnership with someone.
Another one that I am still working on, is one with a good friend who is a magician. It looks at creativity, kindling of the inner child, and living in the present.
There is another one I have yet to work on coming up later this month, with a really inspirational woman who works in the field of diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. I haven’t exactly determined how I want to lead that conversation or what trajectory it would take, but if I had to guess, it would focus on women empowerment. But it’s not certain just yet.
In my chat with Kevin, I learnt about learning. He says that conversation is an art form, but really, his art is much more- it is the art of listening, learning, and journeying. Listen to his podcasts here or reach out to him via Instagram or email email@example.com. One thing I know about Kevin, he loves to chat, and can make any friend or stranger feel right at home!
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