A fond farewell to Big Joy executive producer Jok Church

Joe Church walked into the Big Joy Project when we were still knee deep in raising money so that we could make our film. He entered with gusto, belief, and from that moment forward started singing our praises far and wide. He did it of his own accord, without being paid or hired, simply because he loved James Broughton and what we were doing. He used what influence he had to gain us access to some coveted audiences and to help us raise money. When we featured him as our Big Joy Hero in our Spring 2011 newsletter he had already helped us raise $7500 to make our film.

This spring he passed. We at the Big Joy Project would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to Jok Church for stepping in with aplomb and generosity and for his help in making BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton happen. We’re sure James and Jok are now enjoying a fine glass of champagne together and swapping stories. Earth side, we are sorry to hear you are gone.

Below is our interview with him:
We’d like to introduce you to our Big Joy Hero, Jok Church. Not only is he a brilliant cartoonist, (he creates You Can with Beakman & Jax ) he’s also become a fantabulous Executive Producer of our project. To date, he’s been responsible for helping us add $7,500 to our coffers. And he (and his partner Michael Hemes) continue to joyously sing our name, make contacts for us, and generally spread the word and increase the dollars we have for our project. We are so grateful for all of his help!
Jok Church
Cartoonist and BJ Executive Producer Jok Church

How did you meet James Broughton?
My late partner and I had a big picnic every year by the San Francisco Bay. We always said, “Bring a chair and something to share.” One year a friend, Sister Missionary Position, brought James and Joel to share. I didn’t know James was a celebrity but I knew he was the man who kind of sparkled at the end of the table. We seemed to both be about living your life as a work of art.

What inspired you to become a part of the Big Joy Project?
Well, I feel that James’ life and works are worth sharing. There are two types of ways of sharing: one is logos, which is words, or people language, the others which is mythos, or things that cannot be expressed in words–what is sometimes called God language. Poetry works to be a bridge between the two. And I love that this project tries to find ways to disseminate that work in as many ways that you can think of. When the words of a poem make you think of things that aren’t mentioned, that’s the power of poetry, it brings it to mythos. James did a really good job of that.

You are a successful artist, have you been personally inspired as an artist by James’ work at all? If so, how?
James and I have always been resonant. When I met James I already lived my life on purpose because I was raised to think that I would only see 20 years old. I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 10, and in those days insulin was a new thing and life expectancy for diabetics was short. Because I thought of time as being a precious commodity that I didn’t have, I did what I thought was best for me. I don’t know if it was stupidity or bravery or courage, but it eliminated the things that were just okay. James was also about ‘life needs to be more than merely okay.’

Wise men tell us to be ourselves only do it on purpose… that’s “follow your own weird”… many people have said it… that’s a huge piece of wisdom. Because I didn’t think I had much time, I did what would give me the most big joy in the time that I had. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get scary, or that on the way to becoming a successful artist you don’t do your share of waiting on tables, handyman and home repair!

What do you like best about the BJ project?
I like the idea that you’re experimenting with ways of putting poetry out and into the world in as many different ways as possible.

Can you share something inspiring that you’ve done in the last month?
I welded 2 pieces of steel together! I’ve wanted to be able to weld since I was 14 and had a job sweeping up the machine shop where my mother was secretary. I turned the machine on then and tried to weld, but it turns out it is an art, and I wasn’t able to do it until this month. I joined a tech shop, it’s a machine shop you join, and they showed me how. I can’t believe it took me 50 years!

What’s the best example of the Big Joy spirit that you’ve seen lately?
I think the rock and roll band the Scissors Sisters and its members. One of the things about big joy is that it enlivens art. I love the idea of people celebrating, rejoicing, and creating more art. The Scissors Sisters are so on purpose. They are doing the work of teaching people how to be themselves.

Thank you Jok for everything!

If you haven’t seen Jok’s touching Ted Talk, entitled, “A Circle of Caring,” you should.

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