Meet Kiron Chakraborty: the creative lead and director behind the latest round of videos produced in partnership with Upworthy, for our Belonging Begins With Us campaign. His passion for inclusivity and ensuring that diverse voices are heard has helped us produce creative that promotes a deeper sense of belonging throughout our nation.
With Kiron’s creative direction, we brought to life five powerful stories of immigrants and refugees connecting with US-born individuals in their local communities—like Jamaika and Phineas and their story of acceptance, community and belonging.
We talked to Kiron about his globe-trotting background, his inclusive approach for this work, and the best advice he ever received.
Makiyah Owens: Could you talk a bit about your background and how you landed at Upworthy?
Kiron Chakraborty: I was born in London but spent the better part of the last decade as a bit of a nomad, traveling around Central America. I dove into remote work a few years ahead of the curve and was writing, editing and producing video projects for a number of clients, including Upworthy. When the world went remote in 2020, GOOD | Upworthy asked me to join them as their Director of Video and I’ve been with them ever since.
MO: How do you think your experience, specifically your background in International Relations and Development, helped inform the work you’ve done on this project?
KC: I’ve been fascinated by maps ever since I was a kid. I would rifle through atlases wondering about the people and places between those pages. Studying [international relations] was an opportunity to keep expressing that curiosity – it also gave me a solid grounding in theory, history and a broad knowledge of the world. Fundamentally, I gained an appreciation for how individual stories can shed light on global issues, which is definitely something that informs how I approach an interview.
MO: What does belonging mean to you?
KC: It’s somewhat fragmented and always evolving. I’ve lived abroad, my coworkers are American, and I’ve spent a lot of my life in London where most of my friends still live. My father was born in Bangladesh but left during the war in ‘71, so we have family scattered across the world. I also have Dutch nationality through my mother, who is Frisian — a small linguistic group in the north of the Netherlands.
Regardless of geography, I feel like I belong in all those places with all those people, acceptance is the thread that ties everything together.
MO: You were described as “the creative force behind Upworthy’s contribution to this campaign.” What makes you particularly passionate about this project and amplifying stories of belonging?
KC: Growing up in London, I never felt a sense of exclusion, I was embraced and in turn I’ve always embraced London. Its easily taken for granted, but living without a sense of belonging is like living without shelter – it’s hard to feel secure, settled or plan for the future. These interviews uncovered the connections between recent immigrants and US-born people, the ways they influenced and enriched each other’s lives, experiences that were very similar to ones that my family and I have been lucky to have, which is why I was so excited to be a part of it.
MO: You did an amazing job of bridging the conversations between the newcomer and U.S.-born and featured participants. How do you navigate and drive these types of conversations, particularly between peers with different cultural backgrounds and native languages?
KC: Each person’s background and experience was very unique and neither side could be simply categorized by their background. It was important that we started from that point engaging each person on an individual level to understand how to tell their personal stories. For those that didn’t speak English, we had incredible translators to help facilitate.
We quickly gravitated to commonalities, finding those touchstones that everyone relates to: family, relationships, food, sports, music and humor. While it’s important to be sensitive to differences, “bridging” implies that what separates us isn’t navigable – but once you wade in you find there are many places where the water is shallow.
MO: How do you think we, as individuals and a society, can continue to create more welcoming communities where everyone can belong?
KC: I think curiosity is one of the most under-rated virtues. We can all have empathy on a basic level, but curiosity is a path into someone else’s life experience. It helps break down assumptions and create real connection. I learnt that from my dad who never fails to make friends wherever he goes in the world, he is genuinely interested in people and in turn, it doesn’t take long for them to become interested in him.
MO: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and in what ways does it drive your work?
KC: My colleague Gabe once told me – if it’s something you find interesting, someone else will too. So, if something tells me there’s a good thread to pull, I try to follow my instinct.
Learn more about the Belonging Begins with Us campaign and how we are partnering to create nation where everyone feels like they belong at BelongingBeginsWithUs.org.