We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jessica, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Growing up with a visual impairment, loneliness has frequented my life. I didn’t know anyone who wore thick pink glasses or had involuntarily shaky eyes, and as a second-grader, that difference led me to feel withdrawn and excluded, even when I had family and friends who celebrated my disability. In many ways, loneliness itself is a communal emotion, but I didn’t know how to connect with people like me.

Over the years, I became more proactive in connecting with disabled people in my neighborhood and online. In LA, I worked with Braille Institute and the Disability Rights Legal Center where I got to interact with people who were subject to ableist policies. The pandemic disrupted the face-to-face interactions with fellow disabled people while exacerbating the ignorance of this community in education and healthcare. I found it imperative to find a place to uplift and unite the disabled community.

I-CREATE YOUTH arose from that need for community, especially among young people. We’re an organization that empowers, educates, and connects disabled youth through language in its various forms. I began by teaching creative writing workshops to visually-impaired teens, which evolved into the creation of a literary collective to publish poems and stories by disabled writers. Since I-CREATE YOUTH mostly exists in the virtual space, I got to meet disabled youth all over the world. We also launched fellowship programs for high school students to work on research projects on disability justice, ranging from papers on eco-ableism to accessible chrome extensions.

Looking back, I would have told my younger self to feel inspired by my visual impairment. I-CREATE YOUTH tells the youth of today to advocate for their needs and honor the narratives on disability.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I pursued an artistic career because I wanted to subvert expectations. My parents worked in the STEM field and expected me to follow a similar path, so overcoming both the external and internal expectations was a challenge. They did give me the leisure to explore the arts in my free time. I learned to play the violin and piano, joined my high school band as a tubist, and did some recreational acrylic painting. I’ve been dabbling in and out of various forms of art as a child, but I only discovered poetry very recently. Still, it clicked.

Frankly, writing doesn’t require anything other than a pen or laptop and lots of time, and the pandemic offered that. The past two years also gave me the agency to write out of fear, longing, and sorrow. To me, poetry is a necessary emotional response to uncertainty. But poetry is more than a coping mechanism; it’s a mode of survival and a vessel for revolution. I’m excited by the fact that artists are creating art that doesn’t exist yet. Artists are at the forefront of innovation and that is necessary to survive in an otherwise robotic world. I didn’t want to be a machine. That’s why I ventured into the possibility of an artistic career.

As the West Regional Youth Poet Laureate and the National Youth Poet Laureate runner-up, I found so much joy in meeting equally passionate people and spreading my vision through workshops and performances. I decided to stay in that creative space. I wouldn’t have continued with poetry, especially in a professional setting, if it wasn’t for the recognition I got from Youngarts, POETRY Magazine, and Animal Heart Press who published my book recently.

I’m very grateful to the mentors and organizations who have supported my poetry. That said, art is a very fluid and subjective process that is valuable even without material reward. While I am proud of my work, I don’t want to be set apart from others. Instead, I seek a space that brings interdisciplinary artists together. The world needs to know that art is most revolutionary when shared.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live near Pasadena, which is not the center of the region’s hustle-bustle but still has lots to offer. First off, some great food locations include Urth Café for brunch, True Food Kitchen for healthy meals, Carrara’s Italian Bakery for sweet treats, Copa Vida for lunch, and Bone Kettle for dinner. Outside of Pasadena, I’d go for Coffee Dose for quirky coffee, Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market for farmer’s market style foods, Chosun Galbee for Korean BBQ, Tacos Los Palomos for tacos, and Grand Central Market for snacks. Franchise locations like In-N-Out, Panera, and The Alley (for boba) are frequent favorites too!

Half our time would be spent doing classic LA tourist things and the other half would be spent exploring more niche places. You can’t enjoy LA without going to the Getty Museum or Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, visiting Santa Monica pier and Manhattan beach, walking along the Venice Canals, and hiking up Griffith Park to see the cityscape. The writer in me will take my friend to The Last Bookstore, The Huntington, Tuesday Night Project, and Beyond Baroque. Closer to home, I would shop at The Grove, have a picnic at Descanso Gardens, go to escape rooms, and watch the Rose Parade.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to the organizations that have supported my poetic work: the staff at Urban Word for giving me courage, the National Foundation Youngarts for funding and inspiring my writing, Animal Heart Press for publishing my book of poems titled L(EYE)GHT, and Braille Institute for being the first visually impaired community of youth I found.

I also want to share my love for my friends and family who always celebrate my journey.

Website: icreateyouth.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/icreateyouth/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessiicable

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/icreateyouth/

Other: Personal Site: https://jessicakimwrites.weebly.com

Image Credits
Image credit to Travis Auclair, portrait artwork credit to Mer Young, book cover credit to Animal Heart Press and Miye Sugino for cover art.

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