My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

Illustrated protesters running on top of the Hong Kong Skyline
Illustrated protesters running on top of the Hong Kong Skyline

A Letter to my Young Friends In Hong Kong

Since June 2019, what began as peaceful marches against a proposed extradition bill have escalated into city-wide unrest and violence in Hong Kong. There were several issues bubbling under the surface for decades: a housing crisis with the world’s highest rents (per square meter), severely widening wealth inequality, a pressure-cooker education system and rampant xenophobia and racism against ethnic minorities.

What’s happening now is a reckoning, at the heart of which is a deeply existential and moral question of configuring a post-colonial non-sovereign region’s place in the world. The government’s since withdrawn extradition bill served as a final crack in the surface of Hong Kong’s image as “Asia’s World City.” Citizens have utilized these massive demonstrations (some have drawn over one million attendees) to express their broader concerns beyond the bill, regarding universal suffrage and political freedom, an inflated housing market, the lack of social mobility for underprivileged youth, and finally, how Hong Kong runs on the labour of a massively underpaid working class. Our city’s anxiety is reflected in our dangerously high rates of youth suicide, with as many as one in three young (6-24 years old) Hong Kongers suffering from stress, anxiety or depression.

I empathise deeply with the state of being hopeless and deeply afraid.

More than a statistic, these circumstances are personal to me. I am a Hong Konger living with mental health issues, who woke up at thirteen only to find out a fellow teenager in my apartment complex had fallen to his death just an hour before. I wrote this letter to remind young Hong Kong people that I empathise deeply with the state of being hopeless and deeply afraid. That their pain matters, not only to me, but to the world.

I am sorry. I know what it’s like to be at the beginning of your life and not know if you can make it through another day. So much of staying alive in our city has always felt like a battlefield, even before the anti-extradition bill protests began. Trying to keep a straight face at family gatherings when your relatives are bashing your life choices. Being constantly compared to so-and-so’s son or daughter, feeling like you’ll never measure up. Navigating with different languages in many contexts, all while constantly proving your worth, because with the world’s highest rents awaiting you after graduation, there’s no room to fail.

Skyscrapers remind us of the systems of power that dictate how every inch of space in Hong Kong ought to be used to generate more profits.

For people outside Hong Kong, the image of our city skyline is our crowning jewel. But I know for many of us here, it’s more symbolic of how far we have to fall. The 24/7 grind to be the best and the brightest, to make our family’s investment in our lives worth their struggle. Skyscrapers remind us of the systems of power that dictate how every inch of space in Hong Kong ought to be used to generate more profits. Our densely packed apartment blocks with air-conditioning units and laundry lines, so often used as backdrops for Western science-fiction fantasies, simply reveal the circumstances under which most Hong Kong people live.

In November last year, police stormed university campuses. Not even the elite institutions of education, which many of you spent your whole youth preparing for, are safe from physical attacks. You are amongst the most vulnerable in our city, yet it is you, students and other young folks, that have been fighting back against police brutality, gendered violence, and the hyper-capitalist system of power that profits from your pain. Beginning with the cutthroat local education system, you are marked as lifelong competitors for a limited pool of ‘top’ university placements, for an even tinier amount of high-paying jobs (many of which will be reserved for expatriate candidates coming from abroad), the final goal of which is to be able to afford somewhere to go sleep at night after toiling at said job. Witnessing you refusing this twisted fate, holding your own against military-level weapons, snarling policemen and the endless clouds of tear gas, I can only promise that we will never forget.

We will not forget that your struggles have existed long before this movement, and that you will inherit what remains of our city. We will not forget the names of all your peers who lost their lives, who can never again ride the minibus to get fish-balls after class with their friends, who will never get to be the adults they fantasized about being. In these desperate times, I hope you know that your pain is our pain. For those of you who have experienced suicidal thoughts or depression even before these protests, you are seen, you are heard, and you are loved, beyond what you can ever imagine.

It is hard to know where we can go from here. We are living in a nightmare that seemingly never ends. On Christmas Eve in the early evening, many of you were teargassed on the street by riot police while shopping or sharing a meal with loved ones in Tsim Sha Tsui or Mong Kok. Others were slammed to the ground in Harbour City shopping mall, where they had been protesting in reindeer horns and santa hats just hours before. I myself had just left a small gathering at the Hong Kong Museum of Art book shop, where I had felt warm and cozy in the presence of a live acoustic duo. After eating Korean food with my close friends, we found ourselves racing along the pavement as folks behind us began shouting in Cantonese, “run, run from the tear gas.”

My friend worded it as, “another day, another tragedy,” and while I relate to her, I know we are not the only place in the world going through extreme distress and a dissolution of everything we know. As for our internal struggles, I don’t believe there is another side to depression, that there’s a point where everything gets easier. But I do believe that existing despite everything is a resistance that no one can take from you. That imagining a future, when everything seems hopeless, might not make sense but it can get you through another night.

I know that this movement demands every last bit of energy you have left.

Do you remember the last time you felt relaxed? Being a Hong Konger can feel like constantly pushing yourself until you can’t remember a time when you weren’t going somewhere. I know that this movement demands every last bit of energy you have left. But you can only serve your community once you have taken care of your own needs. It’s a cliché to say it, but I’m also saying it for myself. For I have heard it hundreds of times, and still need to remind myself every day.

If you’ve been out protesting or scrolling through Telegram for so many hours that you can’t remember your last sit-down meal, please take a moment if you can, to nourish your body. You need to recover from the constant barrage of negative information and toxic chemicals that are now infused in Hong Kong’s air. You are not frivolous for laughing or eating or just hanging out with your friends. Just like how it’s crucial to take breaks from studying and striving, it’s necessary to tend to yourself in this time of political and social breakdown.

As the days turn into weeks and now months of conflict, my hope is that you hold tight to the values that embolden you. The fight to live as who you are actually are may last your whole life. But every time you insist on defying others’ expectations, in order to preserve your own safety and wellbeing, you create a ripple effect. Your honesty will help others in ways you may not know. Above all, no one has the right to impose a personal or political identity on you. While I understand you have absorbed the struggles of your family and your broader community, you are more than the sum of your trauma. Our collective wounds run deep, but if the tear gas ever clears, we will still have each other.


  • Kaitlin Chan

    Kaitlin Chan is a comic/zine artist and writer from Hong Kong, currently based in Taipei on the Mortimer Brandeis-Hays Traveling Fellowship. She is currently working on a graphic collaborative memoir on queer and Asian identity. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Popula, ArtAsiaPacific, In Other Words, Bat City Review, daikon*, Kodachrome, Asia Art Archive’s Notes, and I Weigh. Her comic Deep End, published in the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, was a Paris Review Staff Pick. In 2018, she co-founded Queer Reads Library, mobile library of queer books and zines.

    Photo Credit: Bryant Lee @bryantlives