Kimmy Garris Uses Her Anger as Activism

Kimmy, 23, has lived in the Nashville area for most of her life.

Born in Hawaii, her family moved to Memphis when she was three years old because her father was in the military. Her family then moved to Williamson County in 2000.

Just recently she started working as a dispatcher at South Central AV, a national audio and visual company with a location on Melrose. Previously, she worked at a call center in Murfreesboro before leaving there about a month ago.

“I’m so happy I found something different and in Nashville,” Kimmy said.  “I work a desk job now, but I’m pretty active online. I’m big into social media like Instagram – that’s probably my favorite platform,” she said.

Graduating from MTSU with an undergraduate degree in German in 2012 and a Masters of Arts in teaching a foreign language in 2014, Kimmy initially picked MTSU to be closer to home. While she was getting ready to attend, her father received a new job relocated the family to Knoxville.

“I took German in high school and loved it. I excelled at it and didn’t stop until I got two degrees in it,” she said with a laugh and a smile.

She took summer classes and studied abroad in Germany, helping her graduate early. After getting her undergraduate degree, Kimmy went straight for her masters. MTSU offered her a stipend to teach and study at the same time so she did, traveling to Bonn, the old capital of West Germany.

“It was incredible,” she said. “I think about it a lot, and I’d love to go back.”

Kimmy said she’d like to teach English in Germany but because of the visa requirements, she’s not able to do that right now. She said if she could find a way around it, she wouldn’t hesitate to go.

the CITY LIFE

Kimmy said growing up, she and her younger sister lived a privileged childhood.

“I really can’t complain. It was a very suburban life, and things have been pretty good since,” she said. “I love Murfreesboro, but I’ve outgrown it. I’m ready to make the move to Nashville.”

Kimmy said she wanted to be able to go out and have fun in the city without worrying about driving home for an hour.

“I’ve lived in a suburban area for most of my life. I think a lot of people dream of life in the city and having this perfect mindset of living a loft and going to coffee shops. I want to do that and experience something like that. I think it would be nice.”

Kimmy said the growth of the city is exciting.

“I think a lot of people are afraid of new things, but change can be good. We’ve seen a lot of jobs come into the area. That brings growth and revenue and allows different parts of the city to develop.”

She said one of the best things about the city growing as it has is the increasing diversity.

“I work on Melrose now, but I could go down the street and get any authentic food from just about anywhere. There’s Mexican, Kurdish, Cuban food. There’s so much variety in everything, and that seems to be growing. It’s great to have options like that in any aspect.”

FEMINISM and SOCIAL MEDIA

Kimmy said her old job at a call center drained a lot of her energy. Getting into a new position and being in a new environment has given her a desire to be active and do things again.

“I want to get onto YouTube,” she said. “I’ve always watched YouTubers and have been wanting to vlog and have fun with it.”

Kimmy said the thing she likes most about social media is that it’s easy to spread a message and reach people who are interested in similar topics.

“I’m into body positivity, and I do a lot of online activism for feminist groups so I try to spread that message as much as I can,” she said.

First exposed to feminism was on the social media blog site Tumblr, she said it was a brutal experience but in the right way of learning the hard truth. She said in the beginning stages of her activism she learned she had to accept herself and her body.

“I started following blogs and started seeing things,” she said.

“I learned things and became so much more aware. There’s a ‘101 phase’ where I didn’t understand things quite fully, and I had all these questions, but I kept my eyes and ears open and kept asking questions to people who were willing to talk about it.”

When she first started researching she said diving into the world of feminism and activism was invigorating and exciting, but it also made her mad.

“You get angry and you get upset, because there are so many issues and so much that could be done,” she said.

Some of the big topics that get her fired up are ableism, sexism, racism, non-inclusive spaces for people of color and women of color, lack of access to health care for the impoverished, lack of access to safe sex and birth control, and the disproportionate amount of black people and other people of color in jail for non-violent crimes.

Kimmy said when she looked deep into these issues she noticed others had similar experiences to her and also saw people who had entirely different issues. It was then that she realized it was imperative that the community works together to fix the way society thinks or acts about these matters.

“I’m still mad as hell,” she said. “If you don’t have a strong emotion behind something then I don’t think you can change anything. If you’re mad, you have a drive. I believe my anger has been channeled in a good way.”

She said the idea of feminism turns off a lot of people, but in reality, it benefits everyone.

“Feminism is for everyone.”

“It’s not just for women, and it’s not just for white women. There are different types of feminism,” she said. “It’s about working together through issues, educating and solving problems, and being more inclusive to make the world a better place.”

Kimmy said much of her knowledge of feminism and activism has come from online sources. She said she’s never formally studied gender issues, but would love to go back to school to learn more on an academic level.

She said she’s not sure what’s next for her. Right now, she’s comfortable where she is, but she’d like to see where a digital career could take her.

“I have a small platform on social media now and ideally I’d like to incorporate what I like to do in my free time and what I believe in into what I do professionally,” she said. “I just haven’t found the right way and medium to do that yet and still be able to pay my bills.”

COMMUNITY as DEFINED 

“A community is a group of people or society who are together in some way, good and bad.”

Kimmy has seen how much a community makes a difference in her recent job change.

“When you’re a part of a community, you know there are great things about it, and then there are things that you want to change. You can be that change, and that’s been the best thing for me lately.”

She said since the city is always evolving, one of her concerns is making sure good things don’t deteriorate over time. She said gentrification seems to be a pretty big problem in a lot of big cities.

Last year on a road trip to Atlanta, she drove through parts of stark contrast in the city where gentrification had taken place next to impoverished areas.

“It’s a little uncomfortable and alarming,” she said. “I guess a little bit more so for me because I don’t see that every day in Murfreesboro.”

Kimmy recently joined a Facebook group to meet people who shared some of her core values.

Until lately she didn’t know a lot of feminist organizations or activist groups. She said there are groups all over the state it just takes a little bit of looking.

“It’s exciting to meet people who are as passionate as you,” she said. “As an adult, it’s difficult to make friends and can be awkward. When you’re in school you just vibe with people and it’s easier, but once you get in the adult world everyone seems so different from you.”

She said being able to go online and meet the people has been educational as well as an excellent resource. She said because everyone has different experiences and perspectives she’s always learning.

Kimmy is also active offline. A few weeks ago she was at Legislative Plaza downtown Nashville protesting a bill dubbed “The Bathroom Bill.”

“Legislatures want to regulate school bathrooms and transgender students will have to go into the bathroom of the sex that is on their birth certificate,” she said. “How are they going to enforce that? It’s crazy.”

To the younger woman who are interested in feminism and who struggle with body positivity, Kimmy said, “Stay mad and passionate. Accept change and accept yourself but don’t accept the way things are. You’re a good person no matter what you look like.”

On her Instagram, Kimmy highlights women of all sizes and celebrates body positivity. Follow her here!

Thanks for reading Nashville.


Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.

It starts with community. It starts where you are.

 

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