The Shade of It All – Katy Jalili

About three years ago, I went to an event called Pale Male Stale. The panelists included three admirable women that I still inspire to this day: Aisha Richards, Malia Bouattia, and Shelly Asquith.

Aisha Richards introduced Shades Of Noir at the event and talked about the work they were doing around diversity. It was probably the first time I acknowledged that there was a difference between me and my classmates. The fact that I wasn’t pale, male or from a wealthy background, realising that all these factors could affect my studies and my future was difficult.

However, hearing Aisha speaking on that panel didn’t leave me feeling hopeless. I felt like I too could do something about the state of diversity, representation and power distribution within the arts.

Two years later I was employed by SoN, and it has made a big impact on my life.

I lost and gained friends because of the content I started to write and the knowledge I have gained. Almost like a dragon that was frustrated for years for being a minority in many ways, it was unleashed and I became unstoppable. Woke.

As a woman of colour, working with Shades of Noir gave me the strength to have my voice heard and share it. It was the first and only place that I felt allowed to be myself without whitewashing.

In a way being so free to express my feelings, Ideas and experiences, helped me shape who I am today, and for that, I only have the SoN team to thank.

We live in a society where if you are part of a marginalised group, you are told that your experiences are invalid and then tricked into submitting to society’s norms, however I felt celebrated for my differences when I joined the team. My ideas were respected, in a way they had never been before, and my experiences were valued and I helped create events that helped other students in so many ways, which they told me about.

The first event that I helped curate and chaired was the ‘Beyond Gender’, which both challenged and boosted my confidence at publicly speaking about gender politics. This has now become one of my strengths and areas of expertise whilst working for SoN.

Event’s video:

Now a year later, I’m leading on my third event “Queer Bodies”, an event that explores the relationship between the queer body and race, which I see as my legacy to SoN. I’ve presented at academic conferences nationally and write about what I have gained, felt and learnt through this journey. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of the team and my growth in the past year, I wouldn’t have been able to lead an event which has such a personal impact on me. I have developed my voice and I am able to share information as well as complex thoughts and feelings. Aisha always says ‘be part of the change I want to see’, and it is this that I have continued to develop and share.