Aesthetic as Activism: Joy KMT - All The Pretty Birds


Aesthetic as Activism: Joy KMT

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Nia Hampton | Monday August 14th 2017


If “the personal is political”, then how you dress and adorn yourself says a lot about who you are. It can also say a lot about what you want to be and who you feel connected to. As technology pushes us all to master the selfie and think of ourselves as brands, people who may not have ever had to think about their “aesthetic” are developing language around why they adorn themselves. We here at invite you to read our interview series “Aesthetic as Activism” and be inspired by these activists who opened up to us about their looks, dreams for the future and self-care routines.


This month’s feature is Joy KMT a gifted poet and healer from Pittsburgh that I met at the Voices of Our Nations Arts writing workshop this past June. Read about how Joy sees her aesthetic as an invocation and why she doesn’t actually consider herself an activist.


What does aesthetic mean to you?

Aesthetic to me is a language through which you converse with yourself, your environment and others. It is also a layer through which I organize meaning in my world, who and what I am in kinship with, what I am in active resistance against and one of many ways that I express what I am here on this earth to express. It is a protection, an invitation and an invocation. It is the visible layer of what is unseen and moving within me.



What looks are you going for right now?

The look I go for varies day by day. It depends on the news, the weather, the ease I feel. In this moment I’m going for ornate patterns, lots of gilded things, skirts and belly shirts, afros and headwraps (well, always headwraps!)… but always things I can throw in a suitcase last minute for an impromptu trip!



What does activism mean to you?

Activism don’t mean shit to me. What means shit to me? How we live. How we treat each other, how we have each other’s backs when shit go down. How we plan for Black futures and love Black babies and protect other Black people. Activism? When I’m elbow deep in the shit that needs to be done- from organizing and passing out thousands of gallons of water to making spaces for Black people to heal- I don’t think to myself, “wow, I’m an activist”. It always catches me off guard when folks say that to me now. It’s actually one of the least favorite roles that people have for me. I much prefer lover, healer, artist, mama, friend, protector, keeper, seer or troublemaker.



What are some internal/external changes you’d like to see in life this year? What changes are you making personally and what changes would you like to see in the world?

I want to see myself more grounded in my spiritual practice. More in regular communion with my guides, my ancestors, the earth and making medicines. This year, I have begun to make medicines again after a long hiatus. I’ve begun to talk to the plants and listen to them talk to me back. It feels good and right. Changes I would like to see in the world? I’d see the death of global anti-Blackness and other oppressive hierarchies and everybody having and accessing the love and material resources that they need to live and feel like they wanna live.



What’s your makeup/haircare/skincare/self care ritual looking like?

makeup- rarely except lipstick

haircare- wash, dry, oil my scalp, pick it out and go. or don’t. wear it in an afro or braid it back and put on a headwrap or a wig. I also like getting my hair braided in VERY BRIGHT COLORS but I hate sitting for that shit and getting it taken out.

skincare- dr. bronners and a custom special made oil blend I brew up myself called love me, love me. Shit’s intoxicating.



What are your Muses/Inspiration at the moment?

My youngins, Alona Williams and Tresa Murphy, two of the founders of Black Femme Excellence Co and members of OneHood. My elders, Christina Springer- literally the most extraordinary woman that you could ever have the pleasure to know for too many reasons to name, and Cathleen Margaret– Incredible multi-genius of a woman my Contemporaries: Alexis Pauline Gumbs PhD, Harmony Holiday, Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Defstar aka Moor Mother. Definitely inspired to life by afrofuturism and Black Quantum Futurists and prickly ass afro pessimists.

What creative projects are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on a healing artist residency for my organization Sanctuary Pittsburgh, pulling together an interactive exhibition for October, working on pulling together a solid little collection of poems, writing short stories, raising chirren, making love, making medicine for my people, and just tryna live, you know?






    Love, love, love, love, love!

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