Get to know Leeds-based, London-bred, Kai Isaiah Jamal in this week’s Neighbourhood Watch. A spoken word poet, performer, writer and righteous individual, prepare to feel inspired by his interview and three video performances made especially for Neighbourhood TV.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what do you do and why do you do it?
My name is Kai-Isaiah Jamal; I am a spoken word poet, performer, writer and a trans visibility activist. I write personal and metaphorical poems regarding issues of gender, blaqness (queer blackness), societal pressures, injustice and forms of love.
Most of my work centres around my identity as a black trans man often challenging the ideals of black masculinity. I hope that I can use this personal therapy as a way to give voice to the unspoken and misrepresented. I want to show that trans men exist and have stories the world needs to hear. I will continue to write while our voices and identities are silenced, removed or hidden.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
From the youngest age, I can remember I wanted to be an artist. I studied an art foundation and worked closely with words and sound. I also found out I wanted to be a man, to the rest of the world too.
How would your friends describe you?
Probably a bit nuts! But I’m sure most creatives would say the same. I’d like to think they’d say I’m driven and always try to bring something to the table. Queerness became a big part of the friendships and relationships I created. There’s a special kind of family friends create, a chosen family.
“I believe that right now there is so much darkness in the world that those who bring light can illuminate vast spaces.”
What do you believe in?
The power of words and the way they can shift, misshape and move people, nations and minds. I also believe in the people I surround myself with. I know so many people doing such amazing things within the community. Only recently I was able to take part in the Tate exchange x BBZ takeover. An event I’m still not over – I manned a panel on the position on Trans identity within the queer community. A discussion between myself and three of the most pioneering and wonderful transwomxn in the UK at the moment. The whole event was giving safe space and a platform for queer people of colour. I believe that right now there is so much darkness in the world that those who bring light can illuminate vast spaces.
If you could change one thing about the creative industry, what would it be?
It’s funny, I always had the idea that the creative industry was the most ‘open-minded’ and ‘forward thinking’ industry. It isn’t quite what I thought it was. There’s a lot of exclusion, racism and misogyny within it. However, this is creating a rebellion. I think the creative industries downfalls are filled with groups and communities who have formed with force.
Who run the world?
Some would say, Cis-gender white men. Which is true. But it depends on what your world is, so my community, my ‘fan’ runs my world.
What are you obsessed with right now?
FAKA, cheese plants, my girlfriend’s thighs, Cardi B, double-breasted jackets and being named one of the i-D magazines queer activists.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m currently in the process of writing a concept poetry book. An insight into our generation’s obsession with accessibility and knowing everything. By using metaphors as a literary device, I don’t allow information to be given but more gauged. I hope that will be accessible to those who need it. I hope to continue to perform and collaborate with the amazing young artists and creatives shaping the industry.
What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
To never stop writing. More a compliment but it made me realise I had a purpose and I could use it as a tool and a platform. I think there will always be a reason to write so I’ll always have a job.
Here at Neighbourhood, we believe an editorial platform should be a community, what does the word community mean to you?
I think it’s like a cluster of stars from the same sky creating some kind of light. Community is people that support the being of each other and helps one another to achieve their goals. I also think it’s a space in which safety is not compromised. Often for marginalised people safety is not a luxury we have but when with a group of people that feel like protection bubble, you find your community. It’s like a hug you’ve known your whole life.
Discover more of Kai-Isaiah Jamal here.