Meet Kristen McCallum: CEO and Founder of SafeWordSociety
Kristen McCallum is the CEO and Founder of SafeWordSociety—a QTPOC+ (Queer and Transgender People of Color) visibility company that focuses on highlighting the narratives, triumphs and overall experiences within the QTPOC+ community. Kristen is a queer black woman from Mount Vernon, NY and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. She’s a Writer, Producer, Speaker, Advocate, Entrepreneur and also a Virgo, which she commonly uses as a framework to explain her high pressure personality and her ability to have her hand in so many pots!
From a podcast, now wrapping its 5th season, to a blog, to a thought provoking card game, to a community; SafeWordSociety has made an impact on QTPOC+ visibility by way of representation and conversation. We were thrilled to chat with Kristen about SafeWordSociety and it’s incredible impact.
What inspired the creation of SafeWordSociety?
I’m the friend in the group chat who starts all the discussions. At brunch, I always wanted to have discussions; we got into such good conversations, and I really wished everyone could hear the things we talked about. One day I thought, “Why can’t people hear what we’re talking about?” I had never listened to a podcast, I didn’t know anything about audio equipment, but I gave myself a week to find out what to do, what equipment to buy, and find out how to edit audio on YouTube. I scheduled a recording session with my friends in my living room by the end of that week, and episode 1 was created!
I was so nervous about [recording the first episode of the podcast]. I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to sound like, or how long it was supposed to be. We used some janky mics from Amazon, and I had no idea what to do on the audio mixer. I had only known what I was doing for six days at the time. The concept for the episode [online dating as QTPOC+] was amazing - we had just had that conversation over group text, so it was like a conversation we would normally have. As for the name: me and my friends went to a house for my birthday, and again, I started a random discussion and we started talking about safe words. (Excerpt from Got a Girl Crush Interview with Rachel Lee)
It’s evident that SafeWordSociety is all about teamwork. Introduce your team to us and their respective roles.
Well there's me and I do A LOT of things but that's the nature of creating something and pushing it forward. I'm pretty much the visionary & operations person -- I do strategy, planning and all of that. I'm also the producer & editor of the podcast!
My team came together pretty organically, they're my actual friends who I sometimes consider as doing me an extended solid. They're going to hate that I said that though because they never see this as doing me a favor, they really just love the work too. It's not always easy working with friends, don't get me wrong, but you see what we create... we're out here. So, there's Lamika Young — Podcast Co-host and Outreach Director for all things SafeWordSociety. She's the one to get in contact with if you want to work with us or have us featured/visit! Then we have Alanna Fields — our Creative Director, a visual artist, Gordon Parks Scholar and MFA candidate at Pratt Institute. More recently we added Doreen Pierre — our Sr. Digital Content Producer, a Menswear Blogger, Photographer & Videographer. We've also been really lucky to have an amazing Digital Marketing Strategist, Tara Martinez who helps us out when her busy writing schedule allows!
How important has it been for you to maintain a QTPOC+ aimed media platform like SafeWordSociety’s podcast and blog?
I’m a published writer, and a lot of times I’m wary of submitting my writing for websites. Everyone is looking for content that’s applicable. Sometimes it’s difficult for a person who has a narrative like mine to send something, then be told [by a publication] they are not interested. You have to ask yourself, “What part of my marginalization are you not interested in?” It’s been difficult to get people interested in our work – it’s not less quality or less of anything, but people focus on what is trendy, and QTPOC+ aren’t trendy. We created the blog because I wanted to figure out a way to publish writing I care about, and a place for interviews with people I would love for this community to know more about, but might not be able to make it to the podcast. Now that we’re in season four, and we’re booked until the end of season five, so the blog is the place for writers in the community who want a platform, or aren’t ready to submit to huge publications.
With respect to the podcast, I hope listeners are taking away a lot. What I try to do in each conversation is for people to see that even though we have struggles, we have grown through a lot of them. There’s a lot of trauma in the QTPOC+ community, but inside of that, people are having genuinely good times in their lives. We laugh too, we have bad dates, and we burn things when we cook. We get married, run businesses, make money. There are a lot of things to be proud of, and I hope listeners see things they don’t otherwise see. Before I started the podcast, I didn’t know a lot of successful QTPOC+ people existed as chefs, or successful entrepreneurs, because no one chooses to highlight that. [When] I’m thinking of topics, I’m intentional in thinking just about the topic, not the identity of the person. If I want to talk about cooking, I look into the community for chefs that identify as QTPOC+. Our topics cover literally everything-– music, art-- then we just look for guests in that field.
How do you think your one of a kind Visibility Pack card game is changing the conversation / discussions associated with QTPOC+ community?
I had been thinking about the visibility packs for a long time. Cards Against Humanity is triggering as fuck, and especially in this time, it’s not fun to laugh at that kind of stuff. [The Visibility Packs] are a form of learning and engagement. I’m sure other people want to have conversations but aren’t sure how to start them. I’m from a Jamaican family, and it’s really hard to have discussions when you don’t have the appropriate language. If we write the questions that we think should be asked, then you can never say the information isn’t there-- you just have to go get it. (Excerpt from Got a Girl Crush Interview with Rachel Lee)
You mention the word ‘Vybe’ a lot, but spelled with a twist. What does Vybe mean to SafeWordSociety?
Our energy. Our team. Our commitment. It's really just about the way we exist with each other and within our communities. It's also a promise to bring authenticity, creativity and respect to everything with a SafeWordSociety stamp —so when you see it, hear it, experience it... you know it's us.
Do you have any upcoming collaborations, new projects, or accolades that we should be on the lookout for?
We're working really hard on strategy and planning these days because we have some really exciting projects in the works! SafeWordSociety is operated by a small team of volunteers and are currently seeking grants and/or funding opportunities.
Kristen is all about expansion, representation and even more representation. This past May, Kristen was the keynote speaker at University of Albany’s Lavender Ceremony, an LGBTQ+ based award ceremony for graduates. She curated dance parties for QTPOC’s at a local bar/lounge called Vybe. SafeWordSociety also launched merchandise that includes the Visibility Pack card game and pins with dope phrases like “I’m here for the queers!” which can be purchased here. Kristen has also revealed that she has a book in the works and would also love to do a live tour with her Podcast.
Read more about Kristen and all she has to come on her website kristen-mcccallum.com and follow her on Instagram @_kriskaye. You can also keep up with SafeWordSociety by subscribing to safewordsociety.com and follow the Instagram @safewordsociety.