Meet The Refinery29 News Initiative Fellows: Astrid Kayembe

We are excited to announce a new video series coming to Refinery29's YouTube tomorrow — Truth Told. We are bringing these educational and investigative news series unpacking present day social issues to life through a Google News Initiative grant and five amazing fellows. Read more about the fellows — in their own words — below.
Storytelling, quite literally, runs through my veins. My family is from an ethnic community native to Central America, where storytelling takes form of song, dance, and dinner table chats. I am a Garifuna woman. However, I never considered myself to be worthy enough to label myself as such until recently. While this is who I am genetically, deep down, I never felt that way. Garifuna women are strong, passionate, and amazing storytellers.
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One word, though, has always distinguished me from that list: umalali, meaning “voice.” As an only child, I never felt like I had a voice at home. As the daughter of immigrants, I never felt like I had a place in American culture. As a resident of South Los Angeles, I never felt like my community was represented in a way that was meaningful. Without a voice, I could not be a strong Garifuna woman, like the ones in my family. So, I had to find it. I began to write. It started as diary entries then evolved into short stories, blog posts, and eventually writing for my school’s news publication.
Umalali is the strength given to me by greatest storytellers of all time: Garifuna women. Because I found mine, I wish to share this gift with those who still haven’t found their umalali or have had theirs silenced by telling their stories or empowering them to do so.
This fellowship gives me the opportunity to become a better storyteller by sharpening my producing and editing skills. Refinery29 is phenomenal at highlighting different perspectives, and I'm excited to be a fellow because it allows me to further explore and tell diverse stories.
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