Like all great social justice movements, Chicagoan Kale Williams's revolution involves cats—namely, Gingy, a sweet lil fur baby with quite the social media following. Williams and Gingy are at the helm of #iPlan2Live, a two-veined project that involves animation and personal testimony via social media platforms. As of writing this article, the hashtag is trending on TikTok with over 150K views and is still gaining traction.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
KT Hawbaker: Let's talk about the roots of your work. When did you become aware of racism as a concept?
Kale Williams: In high school, my "best friends" outed me as queer; I had kids come up to me saying their parents were known KKK members and that they "kill faggot n-words." In another situation, a group of white kids and one Black girl went up to my grandfather's car and screamed, "Don't bring his faggot n-word ass back here!" As we left and drove down the highway, I took my shoes off and stuck my feet in the window. I remember that Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" was on the radio—It was a moment that's stuck with me.
How did your perception of racism change as you got older?
I realized my culture was hidden and my color was fetishized. In order for me to succeed, I had to coat my tongue in the jargon of the oppressor. This manifests three ways: physical, how we dress to assimilate; mental, how we internalize the ideas and viewpoints of white supremacy; and spiritual—there are some Black people that have let that cloak cover every bit of them. The unfortunate truth is that we all involuntarily follow white supremacy, and we all need to take active action. I like to tell people that all lives do matter, but don't forget Black is included in that, too.
Was there a specific incident that led you to virtual organizing?
I saw people outside protesting—many of them people who look like me. But, the reality for white protesters is that activism ends when they go home. Meanwhile, I'm in my house seeing headlines about lynchings. I wanted anyone, even one person, to know that I plan on spending every second of my life with purpose. So I took to the Internet, a tool for continued growth and mobilizing.
Why did you choose the phrase #iPlan2Live?
For Black people, our breath is activism, and breath is life. I want every second guaranteed for all Black people—trans, nonbinary, genderfluid, and intersex included.
Something that really moved me about your initial video is how you tell the viewer that you are now friends. It's a very tender moment. What do you think the role of softness is when it comes to movements like #BLM and #iPlan2Live?
Let me specify: BLM is a history. #iPlan2Live is a movement within that history.
It's important to not mistake softness for weakness. My philosophy in life is to exude as much love and light into the world as possible. Obviously, I am human and have made mistakes but I do my best. I hope every person who sees my video considers us friends and supports all identities within blackness. I want to give the world a face for softness in a Black man—a smile, a touch on the heart, and familiarity.
What are your goals for the movement?
In the abstract, I want to humanize all Black people. I want to push the seeds of love into the hearts of anyone who sees these videos and build a community dedicated to change. I want to collaborate with leaders so every second is guaranteed for all Black people, regardless of how hate stems even within our community.
More concretely, I plan on spreading key terms, definitions, and ideas related to BLM through the #iPlan2Live cartoon series. I am willing to educate. I'd also like to connect with a streaming service that takes information sharing seriously. Most people are uninformed, and information is power, information is love, and that love will eventually lead to peace for my people.
Tell me about how you came up with that idea.
The #iPlan2Live cartoon series features cute cats speaking about important concepts regarding marginalized identities. I chose cats because my cat, Gingy, is super cute and has 19K followers on TikTok. A total influencer! And, my segment of followers tend to be cat-loving folks for social change. The end result is a diverse cast of cats voiced by Maliyah Arnold, Brando Crawford, Grace Ahn, Adrian Stein, Meiling Jin, and Lizbeth De Los Reyes. I want to take this series to Jupiter and back, because I know it's important to spread information. It keeps us adaptable. Ideally, it would wind up as a Netflix or Hulu show—whoever can see the power and potential in my work and me.
In the meantime, how can folks get involved?
They can use the hashtag on their social media channels to join the conversation and follow the cartoon series—we're releasing one episode a week.
In order to sustain this, we also need animators, accountant, and investors for the cartoon. We also welcome actors, local and global celebrities—really, anyone else who wants to help. The first steps: Follow us at @IPlan2Live on Instagram and @GingyTheConcernedKitty on TikTok. Continue to demand justice for all Black people. v