View our other publications:

Soulful Cinnamon

One Rochesterian’s blend of art and advocacy

In a time when many things feel lopsided and low, it is nice to find moments of genuine human connection. For me, it’s these tiny moments in a day that spark joy and instill a sense of hope for a chance at something different or better or just a little less blue. 

Sitting across from Joyce “Cinnamon” Jones in a coffee shop on a winter afternoon cures my blues in an instant. “I’m a queen—all day, every day,” she says with confidence and a laugh that warms my soul. “Facts.” 

As I take miniscule sips from a scalding cup of tea, I feel myself get comfortable in the café chair and lean in closer. A complete performer on the stage, here Cinnamon Jones is so natural, so casual. “It’s about two girls just chillin’ and talkin’, honey.” 

Jones has been a singer and performer for most of her life. Originally from Brooklyn, she began singing after graduating from high school. Starting local, she eventually decided to move out west to San Francisco. From there, she toured the country and around the world for more than twenty years before moving back east and settling in Rochester. 

Currently, you can find Jones performing in local establishments like Three Heads Brewing, B-Side, and Record Archive. She presents her show, “Lady of Song: A Tribute to Extraordinary Women in Music,” around the city. The show—which she wrote and performs in—features music from Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, and more. She will also be performing at the Rochester International Jazz Festival this year. 

I am fascinated by Jones’s impressive and soul-filled musical career, but what inspires me most is her work offstage as an advocate for youth in the city of Rochester. Jones is a performer, but she is also an artist, and the distinction is an important one. An artist creates, motivates, and often advocates for those who don’t have an equal voice in society. 

Her journey as a youth advocate is personal, having become a mother at age fourteen. In her words, “I was those kids … whatever I can do to help the youth, I’m gonna do it. Whatever promise I make to these kids, I’m gonna keep.” 

Keeping her promises, she spends her time leading youth programs on the weekend through her church, organizing shows for the kids to put on every few weeks. They learn to read music and memorize lines, which Jones says helps with reading and comprehension. Through art, they learn to express themselves in new and creative ways. As Jones puts it, she wants them to feel “like kings and queens.” 

When 2020 arrived and left us all in a state of shock, Jones grew curious about how our children were really doing. Grappling with the fears of COVID-19 and the devastation of pervasive racial injustice, she knew that if she was struggling, our kids were, too. So, she decided to create a documentary to highlight children—particularly children of color—and their experiences living through an unforgettable, unimaginable year.

Titled Generation Z, the documentary features several local students—including Isaiah Santiago, who at nineteen years old just became the youngest elected official in Rochester. The film allows the audience to see 2020 through the eyes of our youth. In a very real and raw manner, Generation Z touches on loss, fear, hope, and the power of community. It includes poignant songs and in-depth interviews with children and young adults. It is a visceral and unfiltered work of art. 

Jones produced the film and directed it with Tyler Winegarner, a local cinematographer. She wrote much of the music; her husband and daughter also wrote pieces, and her granddaughter performed one of the songs. This was a labor of love that stemmed from a communal effort to create something powerful. Generation Z does not shy away from hard conversations. On the contrary, it welcomes thought-provoking dialogue that aims to unite a community, not divide one.

The documentary premiered at Movies 10 in June 2022 and remains available to view online at I have already watched the documentary twice and plan on watching it again. It is representative of a grassroots movement to prioritize youth advocacy, and I personally believe we can all learn from the children and young adults featured in the film.

Needless to say, I feel pretty lucky to spend time getting to know Cinnamon Jones. She walks this life with purpose, certainty, and a determination to shake things up for the better. Her soulful nature is evident whether she is singing in front of hundreds of people or sitting across from a captivated girl in a coffee shop whose tea won’t cool for another forty-five minutes.

It is evident that Cinnamon Jones is just getting started. Her seamless mix of art and advocacy is the perfect recipe for a kinder, brighter future. She cares about children and about the world we leave for them. “Put them first,” she says in response to what we need to do for our youth. “Why not?” 

I couldn’t agree more.

Subscribe to our newsletter