Keisha Neoma-Quinn was taught to love the environment from an early age by her father, a university professor of Biology. For as long as she can recall, Keisha’s parents who would take her on regular family hikes and canoe trips. Growing up, she lived in Brazil and New Zealand thanks to her father's work, where she had opportunities to learn about the natural world in research areas seldom traveled by tourists.
Today, Keisha maintains an avid passion for the environment, and has just completed her third year of the Studio Arts Program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her artwork, particularly her sculpting, is very nature-oriented, appealing, and delivers meaning social messages that reflect the fusion of science and art in her life. “To me, understanding the science behind a piece really adds to what i’m thinking and to what goes into it to inform the viewer”, she states.
Keisha has produced art for a group exhibition promoting the Eat Local Campaign in Hamilton. She also creates graphics to support the advocacy of environmental organizations such as Hamilton 350 and Fossil Free McMaster. Simultaneously, Keisha is also most of the way through a degree in the McMaster Arts and Science program.
Yet Keisha’s activism also goes beyond her art-- When she was 12 years old, she joined her parents in camping out along the route of a proposed and highly controversial expressway. For the same campaign, she organized a 50-person kid’s protest at Hamilton City Hall and presented the mayor with a petition from these young demonstrators. “I was very upset about the way the city was responding to our concerns about the Red Hill Expressway project that they were planning. I was hoping they would realize that this was my future and the future of my classmates”, she notes.”From this event I learned the power of the influence I can have on my peers.”
When she was 14, she also created a “claymation” for the documentary film “Glass Through Concrete: The Struggle to Protect the Red Hill Valley”, released in 2004.
At the moment, her efforts are largely focused on her involvement with Fossil Free McMaster, a new initiative to have the university divest its endowments of fossil fuel related companies. Concerning her vocal enthusiasm and on-campus advocacy for the movement, she states: “We are hoping to make a statement as a University, which is supposed to be about education of youth and living towards the future, and not moving towards something that destroys our planet and threatens the future of our children."
Most recently, she was involved in occupying, camping out and even being arrested for her non-violent protest as part of the Swamp Line 9 Campaign. The campaign aims to protest proposed plans to use aging oil pipelines for the transportation of tar sands bitumen under Ontario -- and specifically through high density areas of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.
When asked what sort of advice she would give to someone who is interested in the environment, but doesn't know where to begin, she cites Missouri activist and one of the biggest influences for her work, Julia Butterfly-Hill: “"The question is not 'Can you make a difference?' You already do make a difference. It’s just a matter of what kind of a difference you want to make, during your life on this planet.”
Keisha encourages all to seek out new experiences and join community environmental movements.