Shakti perspectives: Kanika - founder of More than Melanin
I do not think it's fair that accessing mental health services was very expensive as an international student in Australia. I could only access cheap mental health care at universities and such, which I know is more than anything other people have access too, however once you finish uni here and you are an immigrant here and if you don't have a very well-paying job it’s hard to make it work, but again I just resorted to going to uni training facilities for affordable mental health care. However, I do think that the whiteness / colonialism and genocide upon which this country was built still exists systemically in all facets of life here. My white therapists would sometimes give me solutions that would not obviously work in an Indian context or people wouldn't take into account my cultural differences when trying to help. It's all approached from a very white /colonial lens. The inspiration behind ‘More than Melanin’ (MTM) came from getting a taste of the Australian literary landscape after moving to Melbourne and doing a Master’s in Creative Writing and Literature. I found that these spaces were riddled with whiteness and it felt impossible for me to ever properly be a part of it. I just felt very tokenised if I was even let into a space like this. Especially being an immigrant as well and not just a WOC.
I had the idea for more than melanin in 2018 but it felt like a very distant “When I grow up one day I’ll do this…” kinda dream. I wanted to do this because it felt like there was a hole in the literary world in this city when it came to QTPOC and WOC voices, especially in a city that is so diverse in its population. I wanted to create a safe space for literary expression where I felt like one doesn’t have to explain their queerness, or culture, or colour, and where they can just be and tell stories, write poems and not have publication use them as a tool to meet a diversity quota or whatever. At some point in 2019 I was somehow confident enough and believed that I could pull at least one issue of literary zine off. I was very very surprised at how successful it was. I initially didn’t have too many plans for this as a concept because I also didn’t want to mess with my mental health as I’m a very high-functioning anxious person. I wanted to just do this because I loved it with no expectations.
However, all that said I hope in the future I can do one or two copies of the zine every year. Working with a new theme, new artists, and new forms of writing each time. Hopefully I get to a point where this is even mildly financially stable in a few years and its something I can do in my life to uplift the voices of marginalised members of the bla(c)k and people of colour communities. Changes in cultural/ marginalized mental health starts with destigmatizing the idea that mental health is any different than physical health. I remember telling my parents when i was in my late teens that i needed mental health support and I was told that that's wrong and that I probably need to just take a holiday. I know a lot of people that hold similar values despite being from my generation or older. I think there should be more education behind this and even representation in the media, normalising POC folks going to see a counsellor or a psychologist. let's see this in movies, lets read it in books, lets normalise talking about it with our friends and family.
My selfcare revolves around watching bad TV, when I get to read in the sun on a weekday uninterrupted by work or responsibility feels like the epitome of me looking after myself. Also when I take the time out to moisturise it feels very wholesome. Lastly! I'm working on the second issue of More Than Melanin. It is going to be a collection of poems this time. MTM is also going to extend it's submission base to all members of the bla(c)k and people of colour communities except cis-men. I will also be crowdfunding this one! So I will require a lot of community support!