Jerilynn Webster, also known by her hip-hop name JB the First Lady, wanted to be an activist since she was five years old when she experienced the Oka Crisis. Now 34, she’s been working every since to better the lives of Indigenous women and girls across the country.
She’s released seven albums in seven years. Her newest album is titled Righteous Empowered Daughter (RED) for which she was nominated for best music video and best hip hop/rap album of the year from the Indigenous Music Awards.
Understanding the complexities of gender was also an important message for her.
“[This album] speaks a lot about clean water, missing and murdered Indigenous women, but also protecting and respecting our Two-Spirit people. That’s very important to me,” she says. “I feel like Two-Spirit people don’t get the honor and respect that they need. So I wanted that reflected in the album.”
She works at the grassroots level, planning rallies and holding candlelight vigils for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She says the album explores how young Indigenous women are interacting with the world.
“It’s not just our most vulnerable, but it can also be our women who are going to school to those active as community leaders,” she says. “And that’s because we’re being targeted as Indigenous women and we need to protect each other.”
Webster also works at a federal and legislative level. She occupied the INAC office in Vancouver in 2016, along with other mothers and their children. They wanted the federal government to provide for Indigenous communities, prioritizing funds for language programs, as well as reinstating youth programming that had been cut.
She currently works a lot with youth and wants to see the world change for girls. She worked with Vancouver dance troupe Butterflies in Spirit, whose mission is to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous women and girls. She also created a comic with young Indigenous girls that was later adapted into a theatre piece.
“It was about experiential youth who have experienced sex trade work,” she says. “It’s a preventative interactive theatre piece with stories of how people were trying to recruit young women into sex work.”
Webster says she wants the future to bring a safe space for Indigenous women.
“I want to see a world that’s a safe space with no more missing posters,” she says. “A place where we can live freely, practice our culture, celebrate, give birth, and be proud of who we are, to be loved and respected.”