In conversation with

K Bailey Obazee

Founder of PRIM

Introduction

Introduction

Books can be a powerful tool. K Bailey Obazee – founder of storytelling platform PRIM – felt this impact when gathering Queer and Black communities for her monthly book club, OKHA.

Earlier this year, K gathered the OKHA community and asked them to join her in a writing exercise, penning love notes and affirmations to themselves and each other, which eventually turned into a Vogue video called Love Notes From Quarantine. “In May, we were all going through so much pain and trauma as a community.” K said. “Black people were struggling, and it felt like we needed an outlet.”

K hopes that OKHA will help her community feel more connected and engaged with reading writers of Black ancestry. And that it will lead to genuine friendships. “That’s the real aim here right? More honeys you can chill with.”

We spoke to K about why writing and reading is such a powerful tool, the conversations that have come up in OKHA and their most memorable book club to date.

Question and Answer

Where did your love of reading and storytelling come from?

From the moment I read a book where I truly saw myself, I was always on the search for more that would give me that sensation, that feeling of belonging and knowing. Especially as a British born Nigerian, a lot of what I knew of ‘home’ came from storytelling. Stories from my parents, grandparents and the books I read.

There are so few book clubs or storytelling platforms dedicated to queer, Black communities. What do you hope your members gain from being part of this space?

I hope they come feeling able to connect with other Queer + Black fam. It’s really about community building from another side of things. I want them to feel more engaged in reading stories by authors of Black ancestry and feel more comfortable talking about the things that come up that we can recognise and resonate within the reads. I also hope they find friends; that’s the real aim here right? More honeys you can chill with.

How do you choose which books you’ll read and discuss each month – do you have a list of criteria?

Genuinely, it all comes from recommendations. We asked OKHA attendees to drop recommendations in a little notebook and we select from there. Although, sometimes it’s something I have read that I know is fantastic or a big read within the Black community. Our reads often nudge people to read a book they’ve been saying for ages they will or it’s a book loads of people are reading because it’s super popular.

Is there a book from this year that has been particularly memorable for you, and why?

I would say Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other – that was truly an amazing evening and even more amazing because it was our first and last in-person gathering of 2020. Can you just imagine? But we had about 50 people in the Libreria bookshop in East London, a great panel of speakers and so many amazing people came down. When we spoke about the book, people were really not ready to stop their chats. The book just gives you so much to discuss; it’s so full of the experiences of every one of us. Really incredible.

What conversations have been coming up during your monthly online discussions?

Recently decolonisation has been a strong focus. How do we as Black people cut through the systemic oppressions we face? And how can we do that through radical imagination – imagining a different experience, environment, trajectory for ourselves. Healing has also been an important one, especially this summer, when it was very hard for a lot of us, talking about the ways we take care of ourselves individually and each other was important and empowering.

“Sharing our stories is key. It’s a way of archiving, recounting, reminding, and educating. Black existence has been continually erased, and it’s still happening.”

Why do you think writing and reading is such a powerful tool, especially when it comes to representing marginalised communities and voices?

Sharing our stories is key. It’s a way of archiving, recounting, reminding, and educating. Black existence has been continually erased, and it’s still happening. They dampen, reduce our fee and bottle-neck our stories. PRIM is very much about sharing the story of us, paying creatives sensibly for it and ensuring it is platformed properly. My grandmother cannot read or write, so the only way she could have her story known is to tell it orally, and there are many grandparents of Black ancestry in the same position as her. If she could write her story she would – but she can’t, so I have to. I have to write it for her and for me, so it can be read by all of us.

If you could curate a dream event line-up with any author (dead or alive), who would you want to speak to?

Quite the question! My dream line-up is made up of my community – Queer, Black, Trans, Non-binary fam, Kai Isaiah Jamal, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Tanaka Fuego, and we’d also have Michaela Coel because everything she says will show us the way to achieving greatness; and Tomi Adeyemi, because there is no greater fiction currently than the Children of Blood and Bone and the Children of Virtue and Vengeance, wow! And also, Issa Rae because she’s hilarious and will bring the rap heat.

Tell us about your concept for Vogue’s Pride 2020 film series, Love Notes from Quarantine and what inspired you.

In May, we were all going through so much pain and trauma as a community. Black people were struggling, and it felt like we needed an outlet. I always found that writing or saying things to myself – affirmations ultimately – to be helpful. And so, I asked my fam to come to OKHA with some love notes, then we took all the notes we received and put them in a book. This became ‘Love Notes from Quarantine’, an amazing collection of love notes from our community. It was great to be able to bring this to the Vogue audience and see some of the fam reading those notes to themselves for the first time since they wrote them.

K's Storylist

Books

  1. My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  2. All About Love by bell hooks
  3. Nudibranch by Irenosen Okoji
  4. & More Black by Tai Freedom-Ford

Magazines

  1. BlackFly Zin
  2. Shado Mag

Newsletters

  1. Liv Little's Newsletter
  2. Black Ballad
  3. Suhailya Shukwura

Podcasts

  1. The Writer's Voice by The New Yorker
  2. Race Traitor by The Heart Radio
  3. Freedom House by 99% Visible

Digital Platforms

  1. GUAP Magazine
  2. Blk In The Day
  3. Ad Archives
  4. Pink Brick

Websites

  1. Prim
  2. gal-dem
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