30 Under 30: Kim Long

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Kim Long, 27, Glasgow

Kim Long has done a lot to challenge inequality in Scotland. She volunteered for Hot Chocolate Trust for four years, helping this youth work organisation to provide a space where marginalised young people in Dundee felt at home, and where they were surrounded by people who cared about them.  

After graduating from university, where she studied English and European Studies with French, she worked co-leading music classes for young women in HMPYOI Polmont. Shocked by the realities of life in prison for young people, and inspired by the people she met, Kim helped set up Vox Liminis, a new social enterprise exploring the transformative power of music in and around the criminal justice system. 

This work inspired her to start freelancing to work more with women and she began to work with Glasgow Women’s Library, running their young women’s programme and facilitating conversations between women from diverse backgrounds.  

Kim was always political and involved in activism, but it was working alongside young people who faced immense challenges that led her deeper into politics.  

 She decided that she had to do something to tackle these inequalities that kept people in poverty, so she joined the Scottish Green Party and stood for MP in the 2015 Westminster election and more recently stood to be local councillor in May 2017, which she was successful in. Kim’s campaign put the first ever green voice in the East End of Glasgow! 

 She has done all of that, whilst being a personal mentor to other young women and carer for her grandmother. Her drive, kindness, and passion are beyond inspiring, and she’s a true shero, who strives every day for a more equal society. Go Kim! 


What’s your proudest achievement?

I suppose the times I’ve been really challenged and pushed through that. For example, as a teenager I really hated PE, but I went on to play hockey for Scotland.

When I was younger I was really involved in the Church of Scotland; I was the Moderator of the National Youth Assembly and I really pushed for young people’s voices to be embedded in decision-making processes. Because I did that, I became the first ever young person to be on a Special Commission, and specifically it was the Special Commission on Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry, so it was very controversial. It was a really difficult process but I’m glad I was able to speak up for gay and lesbian rights. We helped the church to move past a crisis and eventually in a more progressive direction.

I am also super proud of the work we’ve done in prison. My personal highlight was when I got a bunch of men in Barlinnie to sing in three-part harmony, that’s like a lifetime achievement. I am also proud of the election campaign we ran this year, it was really positive.

I think the thing that I am most proud of has nothing to do with accomplishments, it’s almost the opposite. I spent my first 25 years doing far too many things – I didn’t have to deal with any difficult feelings, because I just kept myself too busy and never stopped. But then last year my mum died and I just totally crashed and I had to stop everything. I cut way back on work, I got counselling, I did a mindfulness course and I started writing loads, journaling. It was really hard. I suddenly had to become really vulnerable and I had to start feeling all of these horrible feelings that I had avoided for so long, but you know, I did all of that and I am so much healthier now. I’m trying to work out, it’s a constant juggle of how to enact boundaries and how to live in a sustainable way, but I am so much more healthy. So, I suppose I’m most proud of learning to embed self-care in my life.

What women inspire you?

I am where I am because loads of people have invested in me. Growing up I had some really wonderful teachers and coaches. My youth workers, Petra Hardie and Val Brown, they taught me how to be an activist, and now they are really good friends. I have been able to work alongside some amazing women, like Alison Urie, who founded Hot Chocolate Trust and is the Director of Vox Liminis – I learnt how to do community work and how to work in prisons with her. Adele Patrick and Sue John who have spent the past 26 years building Glasgow Women’s Library from scratch and they have just created this incredible, amazing national treasure where I get to work with young women who inspire me. I feel so grateful that I live within this network of friends and colleagues that are campaigners and community builders and I learn so much from them every day. I guess the biggest influences have been my mum and my grandma who are and have been strong, difficult, annoying, loving, hilarious, and you know, just wonderful women.

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in the next 10 years?

I think overall, I want to see girls and young women taking up space, whether that is physically or vocally, in boardrooms, sports pitches, stages and classrooms – really wherever they want to be, but taking up space.

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

I struggle with the idea of a glass ceiling, it feels really capitalist with this idea of one woman smashing through it. I always wonder because like you see in stock pictures, when it is always a white woman who’s punching through the ceiling, and I just wonder, who is getting cut by all those falling shards of glass? I don’t think any one woman’s success will be the answer and we need to talk about collective empowerment, which is why I work to build communities. I think we need to continue working together to empower everyone. Having said that, we need to recognise that the barriers are not the same for everyone, so because of structural inequality, there are way more hurdles for women of colour, poor women, queer women, disabled women, transwomen, women of uncertain immigration status. I’m a white cis-gender middle class woman and I’ve now got a position of political influence, so I am exploring how I can use my own power and privilege to wear down those structural inequalities. So for me, at least for now, as well as my political work, that is mentoring young women and being really careful about who I choose to invest in. We need collective empowerment, but it is also about recognising that some people will face more problems because of the structures we live within.

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

I would have Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde and C. J. Cregg.

What’s your message to girls and young women in Scotland?

First thing, don’t believe everyone else has their shit together because they really don’t. I would say work out what is really important to you and work towards that. As long as you are listening to yourself and living a life according to your own values then you’re doing it right. I would also say, invest and take care in your friendships and your community. I know that by practising holding up other women you’re going to be held up when you need it as well.

• these are Kim’s personal views

You can find Kim on Twitter @Captain Kim

You can follow Kim’s political work on Facebook www.facebook.com/KimLongScottishGreens/ 

Pictures courtesy of Katie Noble Photography and Mhairi Muir

You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature a different finalist every day throughout November.

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