Keah Brown

The Feministing Five: Keah Brown

Keah Brown is a disability justice activist and writer with cerebral palsy. She’s the creator of viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute, Senior Editor at Cliche Mag, and has a forthcoming essay collection out soon from Atria Books. 

I had the pleasure of catching up with Keah for this week’s Feministing Five, and we talked about diverse and nuanced depictions of disability (and how they’re lacking), the feminists she admires, and how she’s thinking about the explosion of #DisabledAndCute one year later. Follow Keah on Twitter @Keah_Maria!

Senti Sojwal: You recently announced that you’re going to be publishing an essay collection called “The Pretty One.” Can you share with readers what they have to look forward to in this collection, and what the process has been like thus far?

Keah Brown: Thank you so much—I still can’t believe it. It feels like a dream and it’s really happening, which is just amazing. It’s an interesting learning process because it’s my first book. I’m so excited to tell my story. Essentially it’s going to be a collection of essays about what it’s like to live as a disabled black woman in our very white-centric and able-bodied society. I’ll be sharing the way that I navigate the world and how people who look like me and have this disability navigate the world. I just want it to be a collection that’s about joy. We don’t see that depiction of disability often. It’s always very negative, about self-hate. And it’s this constant thing where disability is almost like a punishment. I don’t think that my life is a punishment. I think that I have been blessed in so many ways and so to hear a different perspective is critical. The collection will be a place where people can find joy and happiness, but also a place where people can see the progression of who I am as a person and a writer.

Sojwal: You’ve written extensively about the importance of diverse and nuanced depictions of disability in media. What does a loving and whole depiction of disability look like to you? What must it include?

Brown: It includes more of a full picture. It includes both people with mobility aids and people without. It includes gender non-conforming people. The LGBTQ community. People of color. It means stories where disability is mentioned and maybe that’s it. I want to see depictions where disability is talked about but not as always so essential to who or what someone is because disability is a part of us but it’s not our entire story. That’s not how it is in the real world. The face of disability is so white and so male. Men who use wheelchairs. That’s not all of us—and if we can expand this idea it will absolutely help people see themselves and feel like they’re valued.

Sojwal: It’s almost the one year anniversary of #DisabledAndCute. How are you thinking about the impact of this hashtag and the way it exploded one year later?

Brown: I love it—it’s like my first child! I think I’m still amazed by it because I literally posted those pictures, and then I left Twitter because I was on a deadline. I’m was like, ‘I’m going to do this to celebrate myself and encourage people to join,’ and then it went viral. I think to see people still using it today means the world to me because it was something that I started just for myself. I feel so good about it still, because people from all walks of life with all different kinds of disabilities and different experiences use it steadily a year later. It feels like it matters, and I think that this is always going to be something that I can look back on and be proud of.

Sojwal: Do you have any activist and personal goals for 2018?

Brown: The book is the biggest thing. I’m trying my best to keep my voice out there, but also make sure that I share the voices of other people and try to remain kind and encouraging and let people know that they’re worthwhile and part of a community. I think in order for me to grow as a person and an activist, I need to share the work of others.

Sojwal: Who is a feminist you admire and why?

Brown: There are so many! First of all, Roxane Gay. I follow her so much and got to interview her which was just magical. There’s Ashley C. Ford, a given. She’s just of this world. And Evette Dionne. They are all just so smart, and they’re so nuanced in the work they do and I just always find myself in awe of the way that they express themselves but also make their work so universal in a way. There’s Brie Larson and Ava Duvernay. Oprah because she’s Oprah. The people I admire most are the feminists in training. The ones that are still learning and trying to figure out who they are as feminists, who they are as people, and I think young people particularly make me feel really good about the state of the world even when we’re in such peril. Young people are like, ‘We’re not going to take this—the world is changing and you need to change with us.’ To me, that’s really inspiring.

NYC

Senti Sojwal is an India born, NYC bred writer, reproductive justice activist, and feminist organizer. She graduated with a BA from Hampshire College in Gender Studies & Politics, and has worked with NARAL, The Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program and its sister program PopDev, and has written on feminist issues for Mic, Bustle, and What NOW, the blog of the National Organization for Women's NYC chapter. She currently works at Sakhi for South Asian Women, an advocacy organization that supports immigrant survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence through an array of culturally competent services and programs. Senti loves 90s pop, a bold lip, and is always hunting for the perfectly spicy Bloody Mary. She lives in Brooklyn.

Senti Sojwal is a writer, reproductive justice activist, and feminist organizer based in Brooklyn, New York.

Read more about Senti

Join the Conversation