Credit: Live Unchained


Three years ago,  I was asked what “living unchained” means to me. I responded:

“Living unchained means living passionately. It means pursuing what I love, striving to make my contribution to humanity, AND keeping an open mind. It means never allowing past mistakes or the perceptions of others to hold me back. It means realizing that history is being made right this moment, and that despite the challenges, I have the power to decide how mine will be written.”

If asked the same question today, I would probably respond the same. But while my notion of “living unchained” hasn’t changed, the organization which presented me with that question has grown immensely on numerous counts. Live Unchained is an organization which creates a space for women artists of African descent and helps “preserve, share and honor the diverse voices and experiences of black women across continents.” LU has done an impressive job of chronicling multiple art forms – writing, painting, singing, you name it – by over 100 women in 16 countries.


Being a creative myself, I understand how challenging it can be to nurture your craft and get taken seriously, especially since many of our societies don’t really place a premium on the creative arts. LU launched its 30unchained campaign in January this year as a lead up to its anniversary celebration. Having only communicated with Kathryn Buford – LU’s chief visionary officer (founder)  – via emails and tweets, I was excited to finally meet this lady who had helped spearhead  a network of creative, inspiring, and supportive women. We finally met at the LU soiree in DC on February 8; words cannot do the positive energy in that space justice.

Many people will say that they hope to make a difference in someone’s life. More often than not that intention is linked to the wrong assumption that making a difference requires years of experience or attaining a certain level of success. LU is testament that you can start now, with what you have – especially if it’s passion. LU is currently fundraising via Indiegogo to organize its first annual awards ceremony and to bring London-based Somali poet Waran Shire to Washington, D.C. If you love music, literature, poetry, creativity, or simply believe in sharing and following one’s passion, take a peek at the video below and contribute to something terrifying, strange and beautiful.


Warsan Shire – “For Women Who Are Difficult To Love” from MovingOn on Vimeo.



  1. I truly appreciate this Jemila. I’m so happy you got to attend and help create the positive energy you felt in that space. This is a beautiful write up – we will be sharing :)

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