Founding Executive Director of I-CREATE YOUTH Jessica (Jess) Kim interviewed Iman, Founder of Amplify Disabled BIPOC voices, writer, and disability advocate.
Iman (she/they) is a deep feeler and applies this to her writing. She delves into topics of belonging, feeling at home in the body, and her journey through healing with a gentleness that invites others to share their own experiences in turn. Her honesty and vulnerability provide a safe space for conversations that explore identity within all the complexities we each contain. Being of south Asian descent she loves to connect with people from other cultures that are often forgotten in conversations including those with disability.
Iman offers a safe space for people to open up about what they’re struggling with if they need someone to talk to. She posts videos that feature her dancing and she is honest about how disability has changed her relationship with movement. The arts have always been her outlet to release and express her emotions. Disability has only deepened and enriched that experience.
I-CREATE YOUTH is an organization that empowers, educates, and connects disabled youth through language in its various forms, from poetry to programming. We teach creative writing workshops, host fellowship and summer research programs, and curate monthly exhibitions featuring disabled changemakers, all in an effort to connect disabled youth and communicate their stories with the world. Learn more about us at icreateyouth.com.
Jessica Kim: You are the founder of Amplify BIPOC disabled voices. Tell me about this initiative—where it started, what you currently do, and the impact you hope to make in the future. Iman: My friend Rhi who has left the community now/ started this account. She told me about the idea and added me as co-founder. We wanted to create a space that has always been needed but didn’t exist. I am now taking over as the founder of the page. We connected with many other disabled BIPOC people. So later Rahul (@DragonSpirals), Luci (@ChronicallySpiritual), and Lissy (@Introvert_In_Wonderland) were added to create our team. I am currently working with our team to highlight Disabled BIPOC voices and share others' stories. I hope this page helps others feel less alone and connect with others. JK: Can you share your own story of being disabled? Iman: I became disabled almost overnight at age 16. Chronic pain was my main issue at the time. I missed a whole semester of my sophomore year from having to go to doctor appointments. I was in excruciating pain constantly. I went back to school but was barely present for the next year. And was mostly online and making up classes my senior year. I barely graduated and was not able to attend college. I have since been diagnosed with other chronic illnesses including chronic migraine, fibromyalgia, EDS, M.E., and POTS. JK: On your Instagram page, you share many personal and uplifting words for the disability community. How has being a blogger, artist, and activist influenced you? Iman: The account @ChronicallyBrown run by @Sukhjeen played a big part in the start of my disability journey. I have been dismantling the stigma by having conversations instead of staying silent and being complicit in the oppression of my people and myself. My contributions to the community have helped me learn to better advocate for myself and others. Disability has taught me to be less of a perfectionist and embrace my creativity and passions. JK: Are you involved with any other organizations, projects, or groups that have shaped your identity? If so, I’d love to know more about your involvement! Iman: Chronically Brown featured me and my story on their page that was where I got my start on Instagram. I later participated in the #Desiabled Campaign run by @ChronicallyBrown to share about being disabled and Desi. I have been on several podcasts including Chronically.M.E., In Our Bodies, Co-Immunity Chronicles, and some video interviews on YouTube such as @RethinkDesi. I have been featured by many accounts like @StandardOfCare.
My poetry has been published in @JuiceDroplet’s bonus zine Chronically Creative by @CystersGroup. I have also been in an issue of @WishboneWords. @The_Chronic_Notebook has a BIPOC Disabled and Chronically ill advocates guide that I and many other incredible members of the community are in. I have participated in Disability art nights run by @DisabledDiscourse of @CRIPPEDmonton. I am a part of several chronic illness support groups on Discord. I have been in some articles such as in @InjectionMag. I have many other things that I will be working on soon. Stay tuned for much more! JK: You’re such an inspiring activist; I’m curious about who your role models are. Iman: Firstly, thank you so much! I have to say my mom is the first person that comes to mind. There are many friends and community members who have been a big part of this journey. I have to mention @CarmenRoseFiallo who is like a big sister to me in and outside of chronic illness life. Always grateful that she relates to chronic migraine struggles. Allie (@TheComingHomeChronicles) is one of the first people I connected with online. We talk about POTS, eating disorders, and other chronic illness life. She is someone I can zone out with and Netflix party after a long day. Cynthia (@DisabledDiscourse) is someone whose writing and thoughts always connect with mine. Afshin (@SpoonieAndSammy) is a lovely friend I hope to meet in person soon. I learn so much about service dogs from her and we share the experience of being south Asian and chronically ill. Maggie (@Maggie.Writes) is an incredible disabled poet whose writing often comforts me on my toughest days. @ChronicallyBrenna led me back to my love of reading and finding disability representation in books. @ShannonHafez is a talented disabled dancer I connected with who has shown me movement is what we make of it. There are so many more but last but not least I have to mention my lovely girlfriend Clare (@ChronicallyC). She continues to show me how to care for others and help me through chronic illness life. I am always in awe of her generosity. JK: Last but not least, do you have any advice for disabled youth? Iman: I want to say you are NOT alone. Your experience is valid. There is no wrong way to go through this life. Just feel things out as they happen for you. Advocate for yourself. Find community and connect with others who relate. Know you are loved as you are! You are truly worthy of everything this world has to offer.
JK: Thank you for your inspiring words and insight!