Kamelia Kilawan

What was your inspiration to start writing ?

It all started in my first semester of college. I was sitting in political science class, and my professor was speaking about political strategies in building alliances. He told us the idea that, “Bridges are stronger than bonds because bridges are based on difference. They take a while to create but last longer.”

As an Indo-Caribbean without an ethnicity box to check, a mandir (Hindu temple) member, and a first generation youth it has been a process for me to find ways to connect my experiences with members of other cultures. After being introduced to so many different cultures by being a student in NYC, I realized that diversity brings a certain richness and interesting quality of life. But it is often harder to build bridges from small communities like mine to larger ones. That idea became the catalyst for my entire journey to build bridges within and from my Indo-Caribbean community

You have a lot of posts about the Indo-Caribbean community, do you write for a local newspaper?

Right now I have a bi-weekly column titled “Cultural Perspective from Generation Y” in a local community newspaper titled The West Indian (it is distributed primarily in Queens throughout Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, and Jamaica). Through my column, I write from the perspective of a first-generation youth on cultural events, community books, independent films, and youth-centered organizations. You’ll be seeing a lot of posts transfer over from  my column to my blog as a means to share the rich community life with a wider audience.

On NY1 at the Jamaica Bay Earth Day clean-up campaign on April 22, 2011.

Are you a college student? Did you have any internships or are you involved in any programs?

Currently I am a student at Baruch College in Manhattan, New York with concentrations in Journalism/Creative Writing and Religion and Culture. In the Summer of 2011, I interned at the non-profit organization Girls Write Now, which is the first organization in the East Coast linking under-challenged NYC girls with professional women writers. Now I work at my school’s Career Development Center as a student career advisor. I’ve also become a part of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence program at my school.

In April of 2012 I became a proud fellow for the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship. I’ll be interning this summer with Gotham Gazette, an online publication for NYC politics and policy.

Do you have any other interests in writing besides Indo-Caribbean community life?

In addition, as a young Indo-Caribbean woman in the city, I find there is importance in a personal voyage and the struggles one faces along the way. Being Indo-Caribbean has become a way for me to relate to many women who share a similar experience of feeling marginalized at times. And coming from a country twice-removed, from India, to Guyana, to NYC has given me a lot to write about. I hope to make a positive impact through covering stories of personal experience and conducting interviews with innovative and successful women.

Why create this blog?

My hope is to use this blog as an online portfolio and to gain feedback from my readers. I’d also like to get my work out there as a writer and journalist. Please support me if you like my work by hitting the subscribe button or following my blog.

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16 comments on “Kamelia Kilawan

  1. queenbee24 says:

    hello kamelia great posts keep it up

  2. Ann Persaud says:

    You should definitely contact the Jahajee Sisters (If you are not affiliated already).
    You are doing great things!
    Let me know if you are interested.

    Best,

    Ann

  3. Sanjay says:

    Oh my gosh you are amazing! You really have a very broad spectrum of topics and you choose a topic for different people for example I’m only 13 🙂 please keep it up and post a lot 🙂

    • Thanks so much Sanjay! I will and that is my aim, to keep a wide audience interested 🙂 Once again your appreciation and young age are two things that I am incredibly happy about! It’s my goal to reach the young people on a different level! I’m glad, I feel like I’ve reached you! Please keep reading and sharing 🙂

  4. Am says:

    Kamelia, I just got through reading your articles on “Which Spice Girl are You,” the one about the Indo-Caribbean section at the library, and just wanted to give you a high-five of sorts. You’ve addressed subjects that should connect powerfully with the American born, or those who’ve come to live in the Americas from the West Indies. As a minority amongst minorities, there’s no box for us, and it’s for that exact reason I’m on a mission to connect with other Indo-Caribbean talents, intellects, entertainers, and socialites.

    Being born and raised in the states, I’ve developed a wide variety of interests and connected with people from very different cultural backgrounds but have often been at a loss when it came to connecting my “home life,” to my life at school or in the work place. It’s especially funny when others would try to connect with me by asking how I felt about the show Outsourced, or whether my family owned any cab companies, 7 elevens, etc… I’m not offended by these jokes,I get them, my heritage at some point or the other “East Indian,” but in between India and America, there’s a rich culture that’s a combination of the coolie labor force, slave trade, and existing settlement and the shared plight of the West Indian nations. We have our own nuances to make fun of, and joke about.

    One of my favorite moments in College when I came met a Korean student who upon finding out I was Guyanese, asked in a perfect accent “so bhai, when I get fuh come ova at you house fuh some Dhal, Baji and roti..”

    In any case, I hope to continue to see the good work. Take a peep at my comic strip “Hot Peppa Sauce,” which I currently share on facebook. I’m following you as Bushhead, one of my characters. It’s dedicated to my brown people, in hopes of building bridges.

    -Am

  5. Hi Kamelia,

    What a lovely idea! Your website is great! I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of your posts and I look forward to perusing around your variety of topics in the next few days. In the meantime, I’d like to introduce myself, my name is Alica, I currently write a food blog that focuses on Guyanese food and culture, if you have some time, feel free to take a look http://www.inner-gourmet.com 🙂

    I will be sure to share your site on my facebook page. Looking forward to your posts…

  6. Hi Alica,
    It’s wonderful to hear you enjoyed reading some of my posts! I checked out your blog too and love your photography as well as your idea to cover West Indian dishes! It’s lovely to see the first-generation youth connecting their culture to the world through writing and the arts.
    Great posts and keep it up!
    I’ll be sharing your site on my fb page as well!
    Best, Kamelia

  7. Leila says:

    I am trying to find a copy of Bhakti Sangeet by Chunelall Narine. Pleas let know where I can locate it . I need it for some children in Guyana. Thank you for your help. My email is letwaroo919@gmail.com

  8. Wayne says:

    Great “stuff”…love it….I’m a poet/artist from Canada

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