The MPA Alumni Association Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2023 MPA Alumni Association Award recipient, Jaye Sinkfield ’12. This award honors alumni of outstanding talent pursuing their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations while embracing the spirit of MPA’s commitment to community and social outreach. Award recipients are real-world inspirations for both current students and fellow alums to dream big and do right.

Jaye was nominated posthumously in honor of their impact on the world. Tragically, Jaye passed away in January 2023, leaving behind lifelong friends, family members, and hundreds of people who felt their impact and were inspired by Jaye. We sat down with Tammy Sinkfield, Jaye’s mother, to learn more about how and why Jaye lived and the legacy they left behind.

Jaye and their twin brother, Jordan, were born to Tammy, a single parent who never dreamed of having children due in part to fibroids that prevented pregnancy. “That’s why I say, ‘They are my blessings, because God saw it fitting that I should be their mom,’” says Tammy, an inpatient nursing supervisor at Gillette Children’s where she has been for more than 25 years. “At their birth, from the moment Jaye came into my view as the doctor lifted them from my womb, Jaye was the most beautiful androgynous precious being. Though I hardly knew what androgyny meant, I understood in that instant what it was when I saw my first born baby, Jaye, this beautiful combination of beauty, grace, masculine, and feminine. Everything about this baby was symmetrical, balanced, beautiful, and perfect. Jaye was like the Black Gerber Baby. Everybody commented on what a calm and gentle spirit that Jaye had at birth. That carried them through life.”

When the time came, Tammy took great care to find a school for Jaye and Jordan, interviewing more than 12 and selecting Four Seasons A+ Elementary. “We knew we wanted private schools. I was always in private schools. But I couldn’t afford MPA at the time,” she shares. The twins thrived in elementary school, often serving as the leads in the annual plays. They were excellent performers. They came to MPA in Middle School—Tammy took a second job, the twins received a scholarship, and they got here. “I wanted them to have opportunities.”

“Jordan loved it. I don’t know that Jaye loved it as much, but Jaye was grateful to MPA because they were allowed to be. MPA was a huge part in allowing Jaye to express themselves,” says Tammy. Jaye found really good friends, inspired affinity groups, and enlightened people. “Jaye was just conscious of everyone else who needed protection, needed advocacy, needed support because they experienced it. They wanted to be that mechanism and inspiration that helped others find greater peace in their intersectionality, in their life experiences, in their demons, conflict, or whatever it was that burdened their spirit. Jaye always wanted to be the catalyst for change. That spark that helped others find their growth.”

On campus, Jaye could often be found with a group of friends just outside what is now the Head’s Office, at a corner where today the Upper School Gender Sexuality Action Club has their bulletin board. “There were so many times Jaye would have conversations with people about being their true self, being authentic and walking in your shoes. Never let anybody put you down. Be who you want to be. Don’t feel conflicted if somebody doesn’t understand you. You could often find Jaye in that space, just talking to somebody about themselves or how they will change the world. That was (what happened at) that spot,” shares Tammy.

Blake Madril, one of Jaye’s closest friends, shares how that continued through their young adulthood. “Jaye, to me, was always someone who was very authentic in who they were and then really helped uplift people to see their authentic selves. When I think about the light that Jaye carried in the world and what I see in all the people that knew them and spent time with them is just their ability to be their authentic self and to love others as they love themselves.”

Jaye’s career took a turn during the global pandemic. In the spring of 2020, while employed by Apple but not working during the shutdown, Jaye turned inward. “For about a week, I didn’t see them. They never emerged. But I heard them, I heard them writing and I heard their lyricism. The lights were on and off. They were just so studious about something and so focused on it, but I didn’t know what. About two weeks after that, this equipment started coming,” says Tammy. Soundproofing, keyboards, microphones, and lights arrived and then the volume turned up on Jaye’s life. Emerging from the attic, Jaye said, “Mom, I want to rap.”

When they returned to Apple several months later, they were honored with a promotion for having done something meaningful with their time away. “Nobody did anything that big, passionate or purposeful. Apple was so impressed that Jaye came back to work having done all of this in those three months,” Tammy shares.

An avid rap-lover, this was the first time that Jaye applied their life experiences to lyrics. “They bought some beats. They made some beats. By September of 2020, Jaye had a five-song EP and they released their first single. They had some really good acclaim for it. So much so that to date the discography has 31 songs. Nine of them have been released. Nineteen of them are finished. The other ones are still incomplete. We’re trying to figure out how we can get them finished.” Jaye was also known by their stage name DIVAJ.

In 2022, Jaye was honored with a McKnight Musician Fellowship Grant, and they took that honor very seriously to continue changing the world through their music. “Jaye always spoke and wrote about the intersectionality of life. As a queer, femme, Black, and non-binary person and artist Jaye was no stranger to discrimination and oppression. To combat this discrimination, Jaye made it their life’s goal to spread awareness of their experience while also connecting with and lifting up the voices of other gay, femme, Black, and/or non-binary artists and people. Jaye knew how hard it was to experience the world without seeing representation of their identity in art, media, music, etc. Instead of rejecting and hiding their true self, they embraced it and became that representation they so desperately wanted to see in the world,” shares Olivia Arnold, one of Jaye’s dearest friends.

Tammy and Jordan, also an MPA alum, created the Jaye Sinkfield LGBTQIA Inclusive Fund to honor Jaye’s life, energy, spirit, and passion for creating an inclusive and respectful community. The purpose of the scholarship and program support fund is to ensure the MPA student body remains diverse and that various activities are available to promote belonging, consciousness, education, awareness, outreach, and support for all LGBTQIA-related initiatives and to support MPA LGBTQIA students needing financial assistance.

“I think that endowment will change somebody’s life. That’s why I wanted it so broad, because Jaye was so big. If it’s for a family that needs help, to pay for a speaker to come in, or to give a scholarship to a student going off to college who identifies, however it can help people in a broad way. That was the whole goal of it. Because they touched lives in such a broad way,” says Tammy.

“I know that Jaye is shining brightly and guiding us as we create this. Because Jaye became (into their being) here (at MPA) this seemed to be the most intentional and loving way to honor their spirit. I know that they’re very, very proud that they can continue to navigate inclusive conversations and encourage dialogue in this space in a different way, in the spirit of their life, of who they are. I know that.” Jaye’s family has chosen to add The MPA Alumni Association Award to this fund in Jaye’s honor.

For more information about the Alumni Association Award, click here. To make a gift to the LGBTQIA Inclusive Fund in memory of Jaye, click here.

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