Much like the origins of self care, Activation Residency brings respite as a form of resistance. In creating a space in New York state’s southern Catskill mountains of Woodridge, founder Kamra Hakim sought to bring Black people into an uninhibited sanctuary to prioritize reconnection and healing.
Kamra and I first connected when they reached out to EVERYBODY.WORLD to talk merch ahead of Black Futures Month. Both theyngels, we got along so seamlessly during that first conversation. A rare cold-call ease and energy where we discussed not just making clothing, but a shared intentional practice of making things thoughtfully, grounded in reality, and with the future in mind.
The primary work Activation Residency is doing is centering Black trans lives in real time and forging personal and creative connections—the ripples of which are felt far beyond the residents time there in nature. Ahead of their debut merch drop, I spoke to Kamra about creating a path to futures needed now, transformation of the self, and the experience of human entanglement.
Firstly, where are you right now? And what’s been the best part of your day so far?
Right now, I am supported by occupied Munsee Lenape territory (Brooklyn, New York). The best part of my day is waking up from dreamscapes and remembering I have a face and a body.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Driven, deliberate and delicate.
Kamra photographed by Makeda
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be me.
Can you tell me about Activation Residency, and also what the impetus was for you to launch such a space?
I call Activation Residency the residency of the future as it aims to generate safer more collaborative space, adapt to its residents' needs, and provide portals to futures needed now. I launched this space in 2018 in response to the lack of creative opportunities available to QTBIPOC artists.
Qween Jean photographed by Makeda
What do you want people to gain from their participation?
I want my residents to gain insight and experience in the culture of care, and how caring for ourselves and each other adds spaciousness to the experience of human entanglement.
What was the first Activation Residency experience like for you? What ideas did you shake loose that year, and how has your vision evolved in the years since?
The inaugural residency felt like an experiment. Town hall was held to recalibrate scheduling and share ideas. I learned to ask for help. I learned about deepening the practice and accountability of centering Black trans lives in real time.
Jazz photographed by Dana Chang
What activities or daily rituals help get you through the week?
The Chani app, watering my plants, writing my dreams, and grooming my body.
Of which of your accomplishments are you the most proud?
When people say Activation Residency changed their life or filled their cup, that is where my pride lives.
What does Black queer joy look and feel like to you in 2021?
Black queer joy looks and feels for me personally, worry-free rainbow chandeliers in a valley of mountains beyond white supremacist capitalist racist ableist imperial homogenous patriarchy wrapped in cacophonous laughter and reels of arts from mediums planted in the ground like trees.
What’s your vision for the future?
Architectural Digest sustainable living structures amidst the forest landscape and a permaculture garden in the backyard so I can breathe again, Black trans bodies against the green of the earth, a yearning for the pink and purple sky.
Mo Romney photographed by Naima Green
Can you tell me about the garment you've designed with Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo? How did you come across their artwork, and what was this collaboration like?
I discovered Lukaza's work on Instagram. They were the artist at Activation Residency that dabbled in all offerings. I witnessed her bathing, painting in the grass, and connecting with other residents. During my top surgery recovery, she sent me some new work of theirs, the work popped off of the page and landed on me in all of the ways it needed to. Lukaza's bold and brilliant being in space stuck with me and the decision to choose them as my collaborator on Activation Residency's first official merch felt easy as was the process of collaboration.
Lastly, if any readers are seeking to deepen their transformative justice praxis do you have any recommendations for where they can start?
The Revolution Starts at Home. Read that book and also, take a look at the areas in your own life that are lacking in transformative justice before engaging in the practice outwardly or publicly. Transformation of the self is needed for this work.