Kim Wall was the first person to make me feel at home in the United States — which was unexpected, since she was a complete stranger and, like me, new to the country. "What's your name?" she asked me warmly. We stood in a classmate's apartment in Harlem, clutching red Solo cups; I'd arrived minutes earlier, feeling lonely and nervous. “You can call me Kimillionaire," Kim added, deadpan. I started to laugh, and she joined in. Everywhere she went, Kim left brightness behind: it’s that legacy that the Kim Wall Memorial Fund, the GoFundMe page of which went live Friday, will work to honor.
In early August of this year, Kim was killed while on a reporting trip in Denmark. She was 30 years old.
One summer evening, Kim climbed aboard a submarine to interview a source. Always drawn to quirky stories — she had investigated the nuances of Shanghai Disneyland for Time, how far Cubans will go to catch shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians for Harpers, and how “furry” subculture had been unfairly stigmatized for the Guardian — Kim had been interviewing a man who had built what was considered the world's largest homemade submarine. (The man in question, Peter Madsen, has been arrested and charged with Kim's murder.) The evening of Aug. 10 would be the last time Kim was seen alive.
The events of that evening have been heavily scrutinized, and with good reason. But long before the circumstances of her death drew public attention, Kim lived in a way that made her, to quote one of her professors, “alive in ways that most of us can only dream of being alive.” Passionate about women’s empowerment, goings-on in China, and Akon, Kim was the most present and joyful person I’ve ever known.
The Kim Wall Memorial Fund will work with the International Women's Media Foundation to allow young female journalists to cover subculture and, in Kim's words, “the undercurrents of rebellion.”
Set up by Kim's closest family and friends, the GoFundMe page explains: "Kim would have wanted more women to be out in the world, brushing up against life. We are asking for your help in realizing her vision of this braver, lovelier world."
Kim was playful and quick to joke — she once successfully convinced me that Sweden's first-grade syllabus included a mandatory IKEA furniture building class ("Oh, my God, Kim, I had no idea!") — and she was also deeply and passionately committed to her work. Three days before her first Christmas in graduate school, I found Kim working quietly by herself in the main study hall on campus.
On that day, every single one of our classmates had gone home or given up on work for the holiday period. Kim had not.
In a Facebook post, Kim's mother, Ingrid, wrote of her daughter:
She found and told stories from many different places in the world — stories that need to be told. Kim traveled for several months in the South Seas to let the world know what happens with the people on the islands that are disappearing due to atomic bomb detonations. She [visited] earthquake-ridden Haiti, the torture chamber of Idi Amin in Uganda and the mine fields on Sri Lanka. She gave voice to the weak, the vulnerable, and the marginalized people.
"That voice was long needed, and still is," Ingrid added. (Translated from Swedish by Viola Gad)
The Kim Wall Memorial Fund will make sure that this voice — the work to which Kim dedicated her career — will not be extinguished. You can donate here.
For more information on Kim Wall's life and work, please visit Remembering Kim Wall.