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Keshia Hannam: on Activism, Intersectional Feminism & Cross-Cultural Connections

Some months ago, I've asked a friend of mine from London about people she knows who are engaged when it comes down to female empowerment. Her answer: Keshia Hannam. This girl is a true "active" activist. She's a writer and speaker, she builds up communities around the world and stands at a point in life where many of us are currently at: figuring out who we really are. Currently based in New York, Keshia took some time and we spoke about her co-founded organisation the Camel Assembly, intersectional feminism and cultural connections of women (and men) from Hong Kong, London and New York.

Dear Keshia, tell me a bit about yourself. Who are you? What are you doing?

I am actually in a process of unravelling. To return to our true essence we sometimes have to go through a specific and oftentimes painful process of recovery. That’s something of the stage I am in right now; peeling back layers, unlearning and inspecting so as to release that which is no longer aligned.  This comes at a time when I am living in New York City; a city that demands authenticity and rewards the boldest in that realm. So I suppose that’s what I am doing–pausing, permitting myself to break, and reeopening at the right time. It feels like being the ammunition in a slingshot: the pre-release elastic band part of the journey isn’t so pleasant – it’s stretching, slow, labour-intensive and you don’t seem far from where you started – but hurtling through the air at speed can only come when you’ve taken the time to draw back.  My passions and work have looked like the informal study of culture, campaigning for social causes, writing, speech-making, moderating and community building. I am still doing those things, just at the moment they’re mostly done on the low.

How did the Camel Assembly start? What was the motivation behind it?

Camel Assembly began in New York in 2015. It was started by my best friend and business partner Yelda Ali, an Afghan Activist/DJ and tour de force in her own right. She was seeking a safe space that doubled as a creative incubator (creativity is often unlocked / rediscovered in safety). I encountered this community in May 2016 and instantly felt a type of power and energy that I hadn’t experienced before. Since then, Yelda and I have spent the last two and half years building communities of consistent, creative, conscious people across the world–from Hong Kong to LA, London to Nairobi, Miami to Mumbai.  The driving mission of Camel Assembly is to see people Marching Daily. That means to see people channeling the passion and vehemence of a protest or march into everyday efforts towards self and community. Our world changes when we realise the power of our own autonomy, and my belief is that change happens most easily in communities–when you can see that change real and living in another person’s life and so you believe it to be possible for yourself.