The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


College sophomore Taylor Hamilton takes social activism on to Instagram through his passion for drawing. | Courtesy of Taylor Hamilton

College sophomore Taylor Hamilton is turning his passion for drawing into a platform for social activism.

Hamilton found a love for drawing when, as a four-year-old, he used to copy the cartoons that he would see on television. Now, he uses his work to draw attention to social injustices.

“I mostly want to show in a universally understandable image, for the people who don’t always see the extent of what’s wrong into these certain cases, in a way that everyone can understand,” Hamilton said.

At Penn, Hamilton is a part of Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation, also known as SOUL, which he thinks goes hand-in-hand with what he writes and draws about.

As Hamilton began exploring his potential as a writer, he found themes that he considered worth translating into artwork.

Originally, Hamilton’s work was on his Facebook account, and only his friends and family had access to his pieces.

Eventually, he decided to start an Instagram account to showcase his art. He used the alias “Kiakili” on his account. The word “kiakili” is Swahili for “emotional intellectual,” which Hamilton said fits his personality.

“I’m a very free-thinking and thoughtful person who tends to show emotions visually,” Hamilton said.

His account was originally recognized for his depictions of famous people, until a drawing that he uploaded relating to police brutality went viral.

In June 2015, a video circulated on the internet showing a police officer roughly restraining a bikini-clad 14-year-old for being too rowdy at a pool party in Texas. Commentators argued that the girl would not have been treated with such brute force if she wasn’t black.

In response to the incident, Hamilton created a photo depicting the scene that garnered over 1,300 likes on his account and was also shared thousands of times on Tumblr and other social networking sites.

The drawing shows a black person’s hand reaching out from a body of water. One white hand is holding a phone and taking a video or photo, while another white hand is pointing a gun.

Underneath the photo, Hamilton wrote, “Black men and women are constantly drowning within ‘the pool’ of systemic oppression without a hand to pull them out.”

Recently, Hamilton has done a drawing about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. He hopes to display his artwork this year in the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, an annual event in Philadelphia where black artists display their work.

This drawing, entitled "Lead Me", speaks on the double entendre of constituents trusting politicians to lead them and instead are faced with lead poisoning. | Courtesy of Taylor Hamilton

Hamilton has been to the event before both as a spectator and as an artist, where he sold children’s books and T-shirts.

Though he no longer sells T-shirts, he is still working on writing a children’s book. Thus far, Hamilton has published one book called “Seven Days With Carole,” a story in honor of the legacy of Carole Robertson, one of the three girls killed by the Ku Klux Klan in a Birmingham, Alabama church in 1963.

Hamilton is currently working on writing books on the other three girls who were killed, each of whom received the Congressional Gold Medal nearly 50 years after the incident.

All the proceeds that Hamilton raises from his books will be donated to the Jack and Jill Foundation, an organization that helps African-American kids and teens get the connections and resources they need to find a job.

“Once you recognize that you have something valuable,” Hamilton said, “You always want to see how far you can take it.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.