Mariame Kaba is the founder of Project NIA, an organization devoted to abolishing youth incarceration. Tweeting as @prisonculture, she has 110,000 followers reading her insights on fighting injustice.
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But many of those followers are surprised to learn about her particular pop cultural obsession: Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Each year, Hallmark churns formulaic holiday films out by the dozen, all taking place in a seemingly all-white, Christmas-crazed universe rooted in conservative small-town values. That seems like it’d be an odd fit for a black Muslim woman from New York City like Kaba.
“For me, I love the anthropological whiteness of those films,” says Kaba. “I'm pretty sure there are white people who live like that. I don't know any of those white people. I find it fascinating for that reason.”
She turns to the cheesy holiday flicks as an escape from her emotionally draining work. “If you are constantly trying to address very horrible injustices to people,” says Kaba, “I don't think you want your movies to be about those things, too.”