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How Shaun King Combines Writing And Activism: BUST Interview

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You may know journalist Shaun King’s byline from his many articles on police brutality as Senior Justice Writer for the New York Daily News, and as a contributor to the Daily Kos. Or maybe you follow him on Facebook like more than a million other readers. It’s also possible you’ve seen him on your college campus, speaking about the social justice issues he so passionately covers. But, inside the Brooklyn home he shares with his wife, Rai, and their five children, he’s just Dad. “Nobody in my house is remotely impressed by me,” the 38-year-old says over the phone with a laugh. “My kids [who range in age from 4 to 18] don’t see me as influential or anything like that. They’re not asking me about my thoughts on what’s going on in the world. They want to talk to me about school or whatever it is they’re into right now.”

Balancing such a large family with an impressively prolific writing career—he’s written approximately 1500 articles exposing injustice in the last four years—can’t be easy, but King says he is just as committed to being present with his kids. “When we’re all home, I’m not working,” he says. “I’m not on my phone. When I’m home, I’m fully domesticated.”

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A lifelong writer who was involved in activism in one way or another for years, King was working at a non-profit in Los Angeles in the summer of 2014 when a friend sent him video of a police officer killing Eric Garner as he plead, “I can’t breathe.” It was that video that set King on the path he’s on today. “We’ve all had that moment when there was an injustice that hit us particularly hard,” says King. “That video shook me.” He took to Facebook to write about what he saw that day, and over the next few months, he would also write heartfelt posts about Mike Brown, John Crawford III, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice—all black men and boys killed by police officers. “I just became obsessed with trying to tell these stories from a perspective missing from mainstream media,” says King, who explains he’s also committed to combating news stories that “take the emotion out of these injustices.”

“Some days I feel like my writing is making a difference and some days I don’t know if it’s making an impact at all,” says King, admitting, “I’m frustrated in a lot of ways.” But one thing keeps him going: “For some families,” he says, “the only justice they’ll ever get is to have their stories well told.”

By Sabrina Ford
Photographed by Seher Sikandar

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This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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