Q&A: Sabina McKenna
Sabina McKenna is a woman of many talents. A brilliant writer who’s been published in Broadsheet, Acclaim, i-D, Archer and many more (you’ve got to read her recent interview with young activist Aretha Brown), she is also the online editor for BE. Collective and the creator and curator of Where Are You From?, an online journal and photographic storyboard centred around the experiences of young people of colour being asked that very loaded question, “Where are you from?”
Ahead of her Word Up! Workshop at LOL Space, we chat to her about social media’s impact on activism, what she wants to see more of in 2019, and the Instagram account she keeps coming back to.
Hi Sabina! We’re really looking forward to your Wording Up! Workshop. How do you think social media has redefined activism and do you think it’s altered social and political discourse in a constructive way?
I think so yes! Social media has given a platform for so many more people to share their voices and actually be heard. So much of that was limited for minority groups before. It has also helped expose us to everything that’s going on out there, inspiring people to take action and express their experiences with their art/writing/photography etc.
You founded the Where Are You From? project and curated the corresponding
exhibition for it last year. What’s been the highlight of that project for you?
The best thing has been the community that emerged. It is so nice to meet people who have similar experiences and to hear different perspectives of PoC identity in Australia. It really brought people together too and made people aware of the existing community in their cities. Also, it’s just lots of fun haha - I love spending days shooting and having exhibitions!
There’s been a lot of positive change regarding representation of PoC in the media, but there’s still a long way to go. Representation wise, what would you like to see more of in 2019?
I would like to see an end to tokenism and sincerer attempts at effecting positive change. It is one thing to appear to be promoting inclusivity and supporting minority voices in media from the outside, and a completely different thing to actually being inclusive and handing over platforms to those who usually have access to it least.
Dennis from my fav podcast at the moment, Food 4 Thot, summed this up so well the other day on the show. He said “There are a lot of folks in the industry who don’t want to be seen as racist, sexist or homophobic…so we are seeing a huge proliferation of queer, black and brown content and I benefit from that. However, a part of me struggles with it because at the end of the day who has the power? Regardless of whether or not we have a seat at the table, the rug could be pulled out from under us at any point.” I feel like that sums it up really well. Whose stories are being told and who are the people being paid and given the platforms to tell them?
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Say no to people who aren’t interested in your growth and wellbeing - it’s ok to ditch bad friends! The people in your life should uplift and inspire you, not drag you down. I found it so hard not to feel responsible for other people’s problems and the projections of bad vibes that come with them for so long. It is so freeing to protect your emotional energy.
Remove yourself from toxic situations ASAP!
What personal mantras or affirmations do you always revisit?
Don’t overthink it, just get it done, and what worked before will likely work again!
The first one is my favourite because we all know what it’s like to be so in our heads about all of the stuff we have to do that we can’t get anything done. Life can be overwhelming,especially in the creative hustle, so it helps me re-centre, take some deep breaths and get on with it.
SO HOT RIGHT NOW
Book? Haiti by Roxane Gay
Song/playlist? Drifting by Milan Ring (on repeat rn)
Podcast? Food 4 Thot
Film clip? Jorja Smith NPR Tiny Desk Concert
Scent? Wythe by OLO
Snack? Smoked Cheddar and Quince (lol)
Insta account? @bunnymichael