One man shows that you can live your dream even when life says….Not so fast
What was your motivation behind your book?
Yolan: I always wanted to write a book, but I just never could stick to a
certain topic. I had so many concepts in my head, and being a
poet, you write on a variety of things, so formulating a book
was more daunting than I could ever imagine. It was not until I
had to sit down due to a medical condition that gave me
nothing but time to think; and so many family members and
poetic friends encouraging me to pick back up the pen. But, the
biggest motivation of them all was knowing that I have an
earlier expiration date than expected, and it lead me to leave
something that my girls could go to anytime they missed me.
Letting them know they can do anything they put their hearts. I
also had the desire to write about what was going on in these
What motivated you to go into acting?
Yolan: Truthfully, I fell into acting. It was never a goal of mine to act,
at all. It was because of my presence and delivery while doing
my spoken word which caught the attention of directors,
writers, and actors that came out to shows and events that I
was a part of. Again, it was also the encouragement of my co-
workers and close friends that saw in me what I didn’t see in
myself. I believe it wasn’t until my 4 th film project that I was
like, ‘well hell maybe I am an actor lol.’ Truly, it was the circle
around me that motivated me to pursue a career in acting. I
thank them for that because now my love for the art has
opened up so many other opportunities for me.
In what ways have you gotten your creativity out since the
Yolan: It has mostly been writing about what was going on during the
pandemic, but I already had the experience of being stuck in
the house for long extended periods of time because of my
illness. In a way, my creativity started exploding like a volcano
because so much was happening in such a short period of time.
The #45 president; the true characters and colors of human
beings over a mask mandate; black lives not mattering until 9
minutes and 46 seconds made the world wake up; and then the
riot inside of the Capitol and congressional halls by Americas’
home- grown domestic terrorists. The pandemic brought
mother nature back in ways I hadn’t noticed since a child.
Sitting out on my balcony and smelling the air, seeing wildlife
walking down streets that once was busy with traffic, and the
sky so clear you can see stars during daylight, gave me a whole
new energy and inspiration to write.
How did you meet your wife who is also a pet?
Now, that’s a funny story. We actually had no idea that either
one of us was a poet lol. We would run into each other here
and there, but both times, we never saw each other spit. In
2013, I was nominated for a spoken word award, so she
messaged me through Facebook letting me know she had
voted for me. I was like, ‘is that who I think it is?’ Remember, I
still didn’t know she was a poet so I messaged her back, letting
her know I had a crush on her…I really did. I just said, ‘if it’s
meant to see her again, then I will let her know.’ She messaged
me back saying that she had a crush on me too lol..4 days later,
she was my girl.
Why did you make this book so personal?
Yolan: I’m 42 and I have lived a life that so many, yet so few, have
been through. I made it personal because I truly wanted
something archived during the time that I was here; to let my
future generations see that this is what their ancestor
experienced during his time on earth. Nothing makes you
appreciate life more than coming so close to death. You now
have nothing to lose. Also, I wanted the readers to understand
that they are not alone. That we all have the same hurts,
habits, hang ups, and all the things life brings.
When I started putting the concept together for the book, this
nagging thought kept popping in my head. It was my first
name. I’ve had so many people ask me, “what does your name
mean?” or say, “wow, your name is so different.” That is the
reason I named the book, The Unknown Child Named Yolan.
Which do you prefer to do the most…Poetry, Acting, or Family
Yolan: Definitely, Family man. That will always be my first love. I
guess to simply put it…poetry is in my heart, acting is in my
soul, but my Family is my love, heart, and soul.
How do you explain why your achievements are so important
when considering your health as a factor?
Yolan: Having been diagnosed with
Congestive Heart Failure, then placed on the heart transplant list at
such an early stage in my life, changed my way of living dramatically.
When I say dramatically, I mean this in every sense of the word. Just
imagine waking up one day and your whole world is flipped upside
down. I went from working my dream job in Medical labs, working out
4 times a week, rocking poetry shows, acting in stage plays, doing radio
and magazine interviews on a constant basis, receiving awards, being
an activist for our community, being an active role in my children’s
lives, and taking trips with my new found love- – to time just standing
still. Surgery after surgery, confined to the hospital for weeks upon
months at a time; everyday more bad news, taking a plethora of pills
every day for the rest of my life, devices implanted in my chest and
heart. It was a very dark period in my life that I just knew I wasn’t going
to come out of. I was hearing the words, “your heart can’t take this
anymore, and you will no longer be able to do that anymore.” I began
to get pissed off. One night when I was laying in the hospital bed (at
this point, I can’t even count how many times I was in and out the
hospital), I just remember looking at the stars outside of my window,
and I began tearing up. All of a sudden, I could hear my grandmother’s
voice, and my father and mother’s voice saying…”so you just going to
lay there? you just gon’ let people tell you what you can and can’t do?”
That night, I made up in my mind, that before I leave this Earth, I am
going to make sure my wife and kids won’t have to want for anything;
that no matter if I’m in pain, tired, or not feeling good, I will complete
one goal a day. Instead of just looking at my long-term goals, I focused
on my day-to-day goals. To be where I am now compared to 5 years
ago when the doctors told my wife and I that I only had a 5-year life
span if I did not receive a new heart, makes every achievement I do
even greater. For me, every day is a fight. You have no days off when
dealing with a terminal illness. I just happen to make it look good lol. All
jokes aside, I just want my girls, generations of my family to come, the
world, and those who are also dealing with disabilities to know you can
live your dreams; live your life. So what if our life span may be cut
short; all that means is you get the opportunity to smile more, play
often, and look at everyday as a gift. It’s your priority to shine your light
to help others out of the dark. The words you should never tell me is,
“you can’t” or “won’t be able to do,” because I wasn’t raised to believe
that way. All I could do was show them better than I could tell them.
My Health being a factor was just another hurdle to jump over and I
What is it like working with your wife in films?
Yolan: Honestly, it’s easier
than people tend to believe. Being that we had already been casted in
stage plays together when we first started dating, transitioning to film
was a piece of cake. We help each other on our lines and auditions. If I
have to play a character a certain way, she makes sure its believable
and vice versa. Now I will tell you this though…we have gotten into
major debates about characters in a script that we might be reading at
the time..yeah, it gets that serious in the Youngs’ house lol. All jokes
aside, watching her work motivates me because she is so dope at
bringing life to the roles she plays. We love the art. Because of that, we
know how to push each other to help bring the best out of our
characters. When we did our first film, we actually played a couple and
it was so weird. Before then, we always played a friend of the other’s
character and that’s how we would interact. Well, except for the time
when we acted in a rendition of the stage play,‘For Colored Girls,’ and
we had to do a sex scene in front of her parents before they became
my in-laws. Lol
What are your thoughts for the Black culture in a world that is
finally opening their eyes to Black issues in the world?
thoughts…had it not been for Covid-19, the world would have
continued on like normal. But because the entire planet was made to
take a nap, people had no choice but to become woke to the issues of
Black America that has been plaguing our community for generations.
Not decades, but generations. Now, even though the government is
just now passing bills on police reform, they are also passing bills to
suppress voters’ rights. My thoughts are pretty much the same as
before: Soon, that old, racist, stereotypical, and bigoted views will still
stay the same in the hearts of some, but for the majority, that will no
longer be the case. This was proven by the amount of white people and
other ethnic groups walking hand-in-hand with our Brothas and Sistahs
in protest and unity over the horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna
Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in 2020. Every country around the world
paid attention while giving their support. To see full streets, from here
in the States to around the globe, with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’
painted on them, gave me even more hope. Not to mention, to have
the first Black woman as the Vice President of the United States.
How do you think your poetry has grown as your life has
changed through the years?
Yolan: Oh wow; it’s grown by leaps and
bounds. I often go back to read what I had written years ago, just
to get some type of self-reflection; see if I’ve evolved, not just as a
writer but as a human being. One thing about my poetry, it often
gives a clear view of what is currently going on in the world or my
personal life. I feel like a lot of my early writing was surface;
almost like something was holding me back to go deeper. But the
more I lived and went through all the trails and tribulations, good
times and even better times, I found myself exploring and taking
more risks in this art form.
How can people find your book?
They can find The Unknown Child Named Yolan on my website
http://www.yolanyoung.com or they can contact me on any of my
social media pages: Facebook @Yolan Young, Yolan Apoets
Poet fan page, or IG @apoetspoet. There, you will be able to
purchase an autographed copy of the book.
How would you say this book is different from your past creations?
Sean: It’s my first full length book of poetry and it’s definitely more raw than my previous work. Not to mention, I move away from the lovey dovey 2 Die 4 and into the more grown up and aware Sean Johnson.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
Sean: All My Heroes Were Assassinated was inspired by my experiences of Blackness and Racism in American as a grown up. It’s sort of a coming of age story told through poetry.
How has this Pandemic changed your life?
Sean: It didn’t change it much as I continued to work and create. I think the biggest change probably came with starting a career in health care for the first time and then being hit by a pandemic two months in. I have definitely watched a lot of people die and I think I understand now more than ever that your gifts must be used wherever you are in whatever capacity as long as God allows breath in your lungs.
What made you start the homeless project?
Sean: My nephew, at the age of 12, said, “This is a problem and we should help.” It started more so as a way to help him serve and then it became my passion.
How long has the project been running?
Sean: Whew! I have lost track. It started over a decade with 5 people in my living room making 25 bags a month and is now MUCH bigger! We partner with 3 churches and 5 organizations throughout the city. I hope to see it grow even more!
Explain your travels to Africa?
Sean: Mission work. Mission work! Mission Work! My favorite thing!
Your stage name is 2die4 but your name in your books is different…why?
Sean: I actually don’t go by 2 Die 4 anymore even though I don’t mind that people call me that. Sean Johnson encompasses all my gifts. I am more than a poet.
What inspires your writing? Sean People. Stories. Points of view.
When did you start painting? Sean In Undergrad but only because I needed art credits.
How did it feel when you sold your first piece of art?
Sean: I thought it was a fluke to be honest. LOL. Like I could not believe someone wanted to BUY some random art I had made.
What is it like to have a partner in crime when you’re taking this journey in the arts with a close friend? Sean: It can be very fun and sometimes very stressful. We get on one another’s nerves. LOL
What’s your dream project? Sean I don’t really have a dream project per say. I mostly dream of using my gifts in service to the Kingdom.