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An Interview with Jamilah King

Personal Stories

Hi Jamilah! Thank you so much for your time today and for your invaluable writing on social justice and race, gender, and sexuality in America.

We like to start our interviews by asking folks if they consider themselves to be a feminist. Is this a word that resonates with you? If so, what does it mean to you to be a feminist?

 Thank you so much for inviting me to participate!

I do consider myself a feminist. For me, feminism has been less a rallying cry than a way of life. I grew up in a household led by women – my mom, my older sister, my aunt, my grandmother. I learned from them that feminism is something you practice each and every day. It’s how you treat people, how you work, how you carry yourself. It’s believing that you are worthy, powerful, and abundant.

You’ve written for publications and sites like ColorLines and Mic and are now serving as a Race and Justice reporter (and podcaster!) for Mother Jones. What inspired you to pursue this career path? What is most rewarding – and most challenging – about your work?

The most inspiring part of my work is that I’m constantly learning something new. I’m able to talk to people, read constantly, and act on my natural curiosity, which is something I feel tremendously privileged to be able to do.

The most challenging aspect of my work by far is the instability of the media industry as a whole. Journalism has always tended to be work of the privileged, which is why it’s historically been difficult for women and people of color to have sustained careers in the field. The economic and technological turmoil in the industry has led to the loss of a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge and talent. That said, it presents a challenge for us working journalists: how do we innovate and put ourselves in positions to continue the work? And how do we make sure to keep those doors open for others?

Feminists Act! focuses on helping people determine how they can take action on issues that affect people who identify as women and girls in the United States. What are some of the ways you recommend folks take action on feminist issues?

 I always encourage people to start with what’s closest to them. Are there ways that you can listen more to the people who identify as girls in your life? Are there everyday tasks – housekeeping, babysitting, listening – that you can take to support someone?

From there, it’s important to gain knowledge to see who’s doing what, and what has or hasn’t been done to support people who identify as women. That could include reading feminist-focused publications, engaging with feminist thinkers on social media, and developing ways to think about feminism as a structural intervention in the lives of people who identify as women and girls.

What are your thoughts on turning anger into action?

Anger is an incredibly useful emotion. It signals love, passion, and in some ways, defiance. First and foremost I think anger needs to be validated – there’s a reason, often a very valid one, why someone is angry. But don’t live in that anger forever. It’s important to find ways to use the energy of anger to find others who feel similarly, and then work toward something that is restorative.

Any recommendations for how people can best engage in self-care while also participating in activism to address systemic injustice?

I truly believe that you can’t take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself. Meditation, yoga, breathwork, binge-watching; do all of the things that bring you joy, in moderation. Find time to be alone to re-group and check in with yourself so that you don’t burn out. Prioritize time with family and friends when possible.

One thing we always try to do well at Feminists Act! is to amplify existing voices, organizations, and resources, especially from and by folks who are underrepresented, oppressed, or marginalized. What are your recommendations for people to follow on social media, articles to read, organizations to know, etc.?

Off the top of my head, some of the most informative people that I follow on social media are adrienne marree brown, whose latest book, “Pleasure Activism,” is a must-read; Dr. Eve L. Ewing, whose Twitter and Instagram presence is lovely; and the Holistic Psychologist on Instagram is wonderful.

So many organizations do such great work. A few that come to mind immediately are: Young Women’s Freedom Center, an organization that works with young women and girls in San Francisco; Assata’s Daughters, a group in Chicago; Dignity and Power Now, a Los Angeles-based organization that helped shut down plans for a new LA city jail; and Trans Law Center, a group that provides direct legal services to transgender and gender non conforming folks across the country.

Any parting words for the Feminists Act! community?

Feminism has such a deep and often unnamed history. Always approach it from a place of curiosity, not just certainty. There are always ways to grow, to challenge yourself, to be wrong, to be useful.

Thank you so much again!

Jamilah King is a writer based in New York City who hosts the Mother Jones Podcast.

 All views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the author.