Keewa Nurullah, Founder of Kido, Says Chicago Is Untapped Potential …
Written by Vocalo Radio on February 20, 2020
Keewa Nurullah is a performance artist, event organizer and the owner of Kido Shop in South Loop.
Keewa is the founder and owner of Kido, a children’s clothing company dedicated to spreading joy. It’s been featured in Chicago Magazine’s Best of Chicago 2019 and operates by the motto: “Put on the positive!”
She sat down with us to talk about her childhood in Chicago, why Kido’s physical location is so important, and how we can all start looking at the world in a little more color.
Where in Chicago did you grow up?
I was born in Chicago! I grew up in Chatham, which is on the south side of the city. When I was growing up, Chatham was full of middle class families – some lower-middle class, some upper-middle class – but I remember knowing all of my neighbors. I remember kind of roaming the neighborhood freely without any fear, you know, knowing certain houses – the scary houses the other houses – and just riding bikes and doing our thing in the neighborhood.
Now I live in Hyde Park and it’s funny because Hyde Park feels more like a community to me…but I actually don’t know any of my neighbors. [laughs] Like I don’t know anyone on my block. But because of the university we have access to so many different people from all over the world. So I love raising my kids in that neighborhood because just in their own community, they have exposure to so much.
Growing up in Chicago was awesome. As a performing artist, I got all of my training here. I went to music at Merit and AACM; I learned how to dance at [a] children’s dance theater and Bryant Ballet; I went to Free Street for theater. And I don’t think I realized until college that not everyone gets that kind of well rounded, artistic education, as I did, in Chicago.
Tell us about why you started Kido and how it’s grown.
I started Kido when my son was about eight months old in 2016. And it was purely because of, you know, when shopping for him for clothing, the choices were so limited…especially for boys: drab colors and really just not a lot of options. So I started it kind of for just cosmetic reasons, I guess. And then it’s just kind of grown into a movement.
After we started as an online business, I knew that I would have to connect with people and families in person. So along with vending at certain events, we started having story-times and a family day party called the Baby Soul Jam – just to connect families and increase the sense of community between families on the south side.
Now, two years after we started, we opened a storefront. We now are located in the Roosevelt Collection Shops. And that’s kind of become our home. That’s where we have all of our classes. We have story-time, music events, and workshops – just really concentrating on connecting families [and] providing more offerings for families on the south side.
I just always thought, as a parent, you shouldn’t have to go all the way to Lincoln Park to take a little baby music class with your kid. And then you’re the only person of color and you don’t really feel a sense of community. So we’re providing an option for families on the south side – and easily accessible to west side families as well – to take classes and be around other families that feel more like home.
How does Chicago shape your work at Kido?
Chicago is shaping what I do because, along with having so many great features and great things about Chicago, there’s also so much potential. And there’s so many things that we have yet to really connect and get right. For me, because I’m dealing with not only my kids, but very young children, it’s really an opportunity to start from the bottom, and start from scratch, and really provide change from these early moments for our future citizens.
[With] Chicago being so segregated, to have Kido, and to have a physical space where people from all over the city unite, is really powerful. When you come into Kido, you have families from all over. You have multiracial families from Nepal or Colombia or Uganda: multiracial families, coming into Kido and really sharing an experience.
At the end of the day, what would you like to give back to the community?
I want to give hope back to the community. I want our Kido parents to see the world through the bright and hopeful eyes of their children. There’s so many things going on in the world that, as adults, we can’t help but see through our filter of pessimistic view. But our kids? They don’t know any of that. So in Kido we just want to provide a bright and colorful space so that our parent minds open up and see the world as so positive and inclusive and hopeful…just like the kids do.
What does your Chicago Sound Like?
Shot by Tom Gavin