For many people, the coping mechanism for chronic pain would be their reliance on medication, but artist, Alum Kemahee Baker, channeled the bouts of incessant chronic pain into art that celebrated her black heritage. She never imagined she would be involved in a car accident, but when she was, it left her with a piercing pain that required psychotherapy to fast-track her recovery.
On that sober journey, she found comfort in painting, which became a means of escape from her pain and recovery. An article by the University of Waterloo celebrating art during black history capitalized on her newfound love and how she turned her painting into business. She established an online art store called ‘Every Good n’ Perfect Gift,’ to showcase and sell her art.
Alum is not only interested in painting, she dances as well; her creative instinct is believed to have been shaped by the environment she grew up in – she was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo. In her case, she has chosen to use her creative talent to celebrate the accomplishments of black people. Her work seeks to recognize the excellence of the black community because, in spite of the unfair racial climate, the black community finds reason to demonstrate their beauty and sell their culture.
She complements this by trumpeting the significance of the Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, and other persons of black origin, and is blessed with institutional knowledge of these cultures because of the academic path she chose. Alum studied Spanish, Latin American Literature, and Cultures with a minor in psychology for her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Waterloo. Her work earned her recognition as a dean’s list scholar and several awards of merit.
Aside from her artistic interests, she is passionate about building her community and was actively involved in the activities of the University of Waterloo Black Association for Student Expression (UW BASE), the Latin American Student Association (LASA), UW Hip Hop, Cuban Salsa, and the Mambo Club, among others. She has the support of her husband, Kamau Baker, who works with schools to promote black history month. The workshops he holds focus on the accomplishments of black people who have made it in the area of inventions, arts, and culture.
Alum believes gains can be made when society appreciates diversity. According to her, unlearning racism could be difficult, but it is the necessary ingredient in creating a just society. The barriers to this have been the biases each individual holds of the other. Once people begin to admit this, Alum believes, it will become the social leveler irrespective of the prejudices. The university authorities are happy she is helping people appreciate the struggles of the black community. Systemic barriers will never be present, but, with the right mindsight, people should surmount them. The energy to do so is found in the work of Alum.