I sit here and try to write, but it comes up as a blank. You would think that it would be easy to write about something like this, but it’s not, because the truth is, there are a million black and Muslim girls in America, and I’m just one of them. How can I speak for all when I can’t even speak for myself sometimes.
Here’s my first experience.
I was in the second grade. Sitting at a table. I look around the room and there’s only one of me. I feel lost and try so hard to belong, but it doesn’t work. They keep asking me the same question over and over again and I draw a blank. I realize I do not know how to answer it. Then it happens. Someone pulled off my hijab. I just remember sitting there and time froze. Everything around me became still. The only noise I could hear was the noise of children who were laughing at my curly, kinky hair. The hair that has been embedded in my genes. The hair that makes me African-American. They took away something that made me feel protected…my hijab. After that day, the questions never came up again.
My second experience.
I was in the 5th grade, and my cousin and I were on our way to Arabic school. We were playing around and he pushed me a bit too hard, and I fell to the ground on my face. My skin slowly started to peel off and I had to go to the ER for immediate surgery. I lost a lot of blood that day but that’s not what caused my heart to break. You see, I am a daddy’s girl. I love him and without him, I don’t know where I would be. But the next day, I could not see him because it turns out, they took my father into this questioning room and painted him as the man that had hurt me. What’s even worse is that they called him the ‘n-word’. Then they questioned me and I told them what happened and they let my father go, but I will never forget that day because they hurt the one person besides my mom who would go to the ends of the earth for me. I had never seen my father cry until that day.
My third experience but not my last.
At a march for equal rights. In a crowd of 8,000 people. I was standing with my bright red coat on. I felt protected. We were all rejoicing. Me and my friends, adults and children alike. My sign had a heart symbol and a smiley face because love is the only way, right? I was happy and I had the biggest smile because no one could take that away from me, right? Then he came. The man with the yellow shirt. He approached me. And he told me he would buy me a first class ticket back to Africa. He told me I didn’t belong. This wasn’t my country. Something I have been told all my life. My mind froze. I felt so weak. I walked away. I didn’t yell at him. I followed my heart, and it told me to walk away. I couldn’t help but believe that it was true. Sitting in the comfort of strangers who showed me love and kindness, I learned that while I was fighting the battle inside, that I was not alone. It was the actions of another stranger that made it all worthwhile. I don’t know her name, but she told me that I was better than that. I thought my world was falling apart, that my heart was breaking at the seams. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.
Everyone has a story.
Things fall apart.
You fall apart.
We all fall apart.
I fall apart.
It’s what makes us all humans.
This is what I have so far, but I’m not yet done telling my story.
Even if my story becomes nothing but a distant memory. I want you to remember this: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Everyone has a story, everyone has their own personal struggle that they go through. The most important lesson that I learned from these experiences is no matter what happens, we need to continue to fight. Every experience is a test on our strength and perseverance. We can do this because the greatest of people had to overcome a struggle and obstacle and fight through it. We all have a purpose in this life, and it is vital that we fulfill it to the best of our ability.