Hey, Cool Mom! with Nina Kavin
For the second installment of Hey, Cool Mom!, I'm excited to feature Nina Kavin. She's passionate, she's funny, and she's getting sh*t done in the city of Evanston, Illinois (the first suburb of north of Chicago... also, my home town).
One year ago, Nina started Dear Evanston, an organization that combats inequality through dialogue, storytelling, and community engagement. She's planned dozens of events to bring Evanstonians together and to address issues of racial justice and fairness. She makes great videos of her interviews with Evanston residents and relevant events in the community, which she posts to her 7,000 online followers.
She even does research by streaming city council meetings, while staying cool with a glass of wine.
Nina agreed to share a little about herself today by answering some questions, all in an attempt to answer this most important one: How is she so darn cool?!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 53 years old (which always amazes me because I feel too young and still have too much to learn to be so old). I immigrated to the US from South Africa in 1978, when I was 14 years old. I’m driven by passion, impatience, love of people, and anxiety.
2. Describe your family.
I’m married to Kerry Miller, who is the Director of Professional Responsibility at Baker & McKenzie. I have two kids—a 20-year-old daughter at Bard College, a 17-year-old son who is a senior at ETHS (Evanston's high school), and a dog.
3. What do you do most days?
Most days I spent at my computer in my home office. I also walk the dog, interview Evanstonians, run to the store, or annoy my kids.
4. Who/What is inspiring you these days?
Overwhelmingly, I am inspired by the people I interview (for Dear Evanston). Many of them have faced racism and discrimination their whole lives and yet persevere in the face of these huge obstacles. Their strength inspires me so much. Also, many of the leaders in Evanston, both elected and heads of nonprofits, who work so hard toward making change, serve as a constant inspiration for me.
5. What motivated you to start Dear Evanston?
Good question. It started off as a way to look at youth gun violence in Evanston. And after looking at that, I realized that you could only talk about youth gun violence in Evanston in the context of historical racism, institutional racism, segregation, integration, affordable housing, trauma, and more. I became even more acutely aware of how segregated Evanston is even though we tout our diversity. This leads to all kinds of issues- including violence. Poverty and exclusion does a number on people.
I want to raise awareness about people and their stories, build bridges across race (and of course ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation), to build empathy and connection, and hopefully, change.
6. What books are you reading or wanting to read? Why?
I have a pile of books next to my bed. It’s an aspirational pile. I never seem to get to it. Right now I’m reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. I’m reading it because I started a book group called the Dear Evanston Racial Justice Book Group (join here) and it’s the book we’ll be discussing on October 30.
7. What’s your favorite song for 1) a dance party 2) feeling sad
1) There are so many, it’s hard to pick. But I recently danced to Booyah by Showtek and loved it.
2) Bird on a Wire, by Leonard Cohen.
8. What artists or designers do you like?
Both my kids are excellent photographers and make cool music, so they top my list. Having just seen the Murakami exhibit, I have to mention him.
I love Ngatane, a South African artist who died many years ago at a very young age.
9. What trip are you planning?
Right now we’re in the middle of college trips, so our next one will probably be to Portland. We recently went to Argentina and Chile, but don’t have any plans for a big trip at the moment.
10. What clothes are making you feel good?
I have about 10 pairs of jeans. I live in jeans, faded, soft t-shirts, flannel shirts, Frye boots, and Doc Martin boots my husband bought me for my birthday.
Once in a while I love to wear a dress and heels.
Thanks for sharing, Nina! You are doing such important work for Evanston. And looking super cool while you're at it.
If you'd like to get involved with Dear Evanston, check out the Facebook page here. I highly recommend following. Nina posts great stuff, like this, every day.