Jamar Rogers finds his voice

Spring is right around the corner; a time when nature shows a rebirth of life and beauty. This is also true for Jamar Rogers. With a life that has had many turns and moments that seemed their darkest, Rogers has shown how life has a way of fighting back and giving inspiration to others. When most would have given up, Jamar showed a great inner strength which led him to star on The Voice. Now Rogers serves as a leader for the youth, GLBT, addiction, and HIV communities.

Using his music, which is a style of progressive R&B he prefers to call Electro-Soul—where Depeche Mode meets Sam Cooke—Rogers brings new hope those who need to hear inspirational ideas and experiences. O&AN caught up with Rogers earlier this month when he came to Knoxville to speak about HIV awareness.

What compelled you to come to Knoxville and what does speaking out about HIV mean to you?

I am here because this week means a lot to me as it is the National Week of Prayer for Healing of HIV and AIDS. I think that has a double meaning as it can be a physical and emotional or mental healing. So many of my brothers and sisters living with HIV have a tendency to beat themselves up so much and they cannot get past forgiving themselves.

So my message is that of love and of redemption, and that you can put your mind to whatever you want to and I don't care what it is you have been through, if you are willing to live your best life you really can do that. The reason it is so important for me to speak out is because I am tired of my young brothers and sisters dying and not just physical death but emotional death. I carried so much shame and personal stigma for so long now that I am free I want to share that freedom with others and let them know there is nothing remarkable about me, you can do whatever you want when you put your mind to it.

How do you feel in regards to struggling with your drug addiction, do you have a message for the GLBT communities?

Absolutely, first you have to understand when I was doing a lot of my partying in Atlanta I would sleep with anyone for money and a warm place to sleep at night, for a lot of the time I was homeless. I want my gay brothers and sisters to know that in order to overcome addiction or that oppression you have to love yourself. So many times there has been a message of hate or intolerance saying that God does not love them or there is not a plan for them and I call bullshit. We are all born on purpose and with a purpose. I am not overtly political, my stance is not political, only a message of love.

I consider myself as part of the church and the church has done a terrible job of reaching out to my gay brothers and sisters to let them know they are valued and they are important and there is a plan for their life. Somewhere along the way the message was skewed, somewhere along the way they believed a lie, and I want them to believe the truth. And the truth is that they are valuable to the heart of God.
If my Christian brothers and sisters are going to call ourselves true followers of Christ we need to realize that he is first and foremost about love and about letting people know they matter to the heart of God. I don't think you can come over any addiction until you become ok with yourself.

The reason I was addicted for so long is that I hated myself. I hated what I thought I represented, and really I just want to present love and acceptance and moreover my message is not a message of tolerance. You don't tolerate human beings, you tolerate house flies, what we do for people is we love them. Let's stop casting God as this Gandalf figure that is ready to zap you down, that is not him at all. His heart is a heart of encouragement and acceptance and says “I love you even when they don't love you, I love you.”

Since The Voice do you have any recording plans, and do you stay in touch with your mentors?

Both, well I am not in touch with Ne-Yo because I only met him once, but Cee Lo and I talk quite often. He has a residency in Las Vegas and is hoping maybe I can do some work with him. As far as recording I have three singles on iTunes right now but I also have an EP that is due out this spring then I am going to have another EP this fall and they are going to be four to five songs, by breaking it up that way people won't get bored with the album. I like to keep it fresh and exciting. I am always writing and singing.

Who are you currently listening to?

I am going to throw out some names people have probably never heard of. I am into a lot of bands that haven't “made it” and then once they make it I am like grrrr. There is this new band Atlas Genius and these two girls from Sweden called Icona Pop, super great pop music. There is this worship band from Ireland called Rend Collective Experiment, I really like their message. They are not like any Christian band I have ever heard. They are not preachy; they are all about the love of God and they sound like a mix of Mumford and Sons or an Americana feel. Let me throw one more out at you, Gary Clark Jr.. He is this dude that sounds like Bill Withers, he is amazing. My musical taste is all over the place.

If you could write a letter to your thirteen year old self, what would you say?

Dear Jamar,

You're ok. You are ok, don't believe the lie. That you are weird, that you are odd, that you don't belong, I would say that every great leader never belonged. It is ok to be a leader.

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