Alumni News

September 23, 2020 at 8:42 am

Alumni News | Kim M. Reynolds: Making a creative space for Black queer people

Kim Reynolds, portrait

Kim M. Reynolds. Photo by Nolwazi Nene

Ohio University alum Kim M Reynolds BSC, CERT ’17 (she/they) is a Black and, queer critical media scholar, writer and artist from Cincinnati, Ohio. They are now based in Cape Town, South Africa, but their voice can be heard around the world through media outlets such as Teen Vogue and VICE and New Frame.

Reynolds uses that creative voice to make a space for Black queer thought and knowledge creation within an arts and cultural context.

“My written work focuses mostly on the sectors of art, politics, and media, with a Black, feminist lens. I write critical commentary, personal essays, and reported journalism that is underpinned by the desire to contribute to the idea and practice of liberation, in its most lush of definitions. This is influenced by the diversity of thought and subject matter offered within the (African American Studies) Department,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds recently completed a dual MSc and M.A. in Global Media and Communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Cape Town with distinction, focusing on discursive colonialism and U.S. imperialism, specifically analyzing how the left, right, and center mainstream American news utilized racialized discourse to cover Colin Kaepernick and the Take A Knee movement, ultimately arguing that the American news discourse maintains white supremacy for her first thesis. She also completed a photo and interview series, Becoming, while at UCT, that utilized Black and African queer and feminist photography and scholarship as a means of locating mechanisms of indignity and imagining new and much more dignified realities. Becoming asked five people who identified as Black, queer, and creative, “What does it mean to be who you are?” in efforts to contribute to a/the knowledge creation project.

In Cape Town, their work takes the form of writing, producing, organising and prioritising the advancement of Black and Black queer thought and people. She primarily works as a writer, poet and artist, with published bylines in Teen Vogue, VICE, New Frame, Media Diversified, GroundUp News, and Black Youth Project. She is chiefly interested in Black liberation through imagination and organizing, as well as the overlapping contexts between the continent and the United States. Currently, Reynolds is also a co-organizer of the U.S.-based research and organizing collective (#)Our Data Bodies, which examines how tech and big data reproduce oppression; a co-producer of a radio residency with an agency in Cape Town titled (#)Blackness and Dance, which explores the intersecting histories, cartographies, and current landscapes of Black identity and Dance; and as a tutor and guest lecturer at UCT within the film and media department.

But she began her scholarly journey at OHIO, earning a B.S. in Communication and a Certificate in Diversity Studies from the Scripps College of Communications. She also took courses from the African American Studies faculty.

The Black Woman—a Foundational Course

How did minor or courses in African American Studies prepare Reynolds and/or inform her/their life and work since leaving OHIO?

Courses like The History Of Injustice In The U.S., The Black Woman, Black Independent Cinema, and The History and Politics Of Hip-Hop “were without a doubt foundational for my continued work in academia as well as in the work that must happen outside of the walls of the university,” Reynolds says.

“Being armed with a history that critically looked at the various ways white supremacy has shaped the world allows me to move through the world with a sense of discernment. I know what makes the world ugly and instead and take action in a different way within my means,” she says.

“The Black Woman, for example, was one of the most rich classes I took. We worked with the local Athens archive to understand Black women’s experiences there. We looked at the canon of Black power and Black civil rights literature to find Black women there, and we looked at ourselves and our current moments to continue to understand the ways in which Black women are hyper visible yet nowhere to be found at the same time, reinforcing the urgency to abolish the white capitalist patriarchal colonial gender binary that maintains and creates violence.”

Reynolds says these classes also taught them how to build community, a needed skill and means of survival in the world. “In working for large scale organizations like AfroPunk or building community with collectives in South Africa like Repairs and Parts and Chimurenga, the practice of sharing resources and knowledge is invaluable and, on its best days, results in warm gatherings amongst friends and comrades,” Reynolds says.

Our Data Bodies and a Focus on Storytelling

Reynolds began a growing portfolio of work as a student at OHIO, and she hasn’t stopped writing since.

“When thinking about the Black film and music courses I took at OU, their influence is in these comparative film pieces I wrote for Black Youth Project and Bright Room Dark Wall, which focused on Black queer intimacy and realities of (Black) exile respectively. Additionally, my pieces that interrogate what Black Panther can mean to various Black people within the diaspora and on the continent (via personal interviews), or excavating the colonial and revisionist history of botanical gardens in Cape Town, speak to ongoing project of finding overlaps in Black experiences, and well as acknowledging where our  contexts are disparate and marred by intricate power dynamics and tensions.”

Reynolds also writes short fiction and poetry, a developing practice.

Their ongoing work with Our Data Bodies, particularly the published work and blog, is heavily invested in understanding how tech, surveillance, and big data “are not innovation that create safety, but a re-creation of the fundamental practices of the U.S.—to police, target, and track the Black body,” she says.

Reynolds while in Cape Town has connected ODB’s work and ethos to varying contexts in South Africa and the continent more broadly, specifically through taking part in the Making a Feminist Internet Africa convening hosted by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in 2019.

“This kind of lens and focus on storytelling as research is influenced by the classes and seminars within African American Studies that consistently poked holes in how history is told and for whose benefit,” Reynolds adds.

“Overall, my work is underpinned by a drive to contribute to liberation, in any form—the most intimate kinds of liberation, the ones deemed non respectable—to the complicated moments of what can feel like revolution.”

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