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Brown Girl Lifted

because life @ the intersection is personal & political

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citizenship

I am a half Iranian girl who just so happened to be born in the United States of America. Just a poll – are you ok with me being here because I have my Polish/German mother’s light skin and my father’s dark hair instead of his Middle Eastern year round tan and my mom’s sandy brown locks? Are you ok with me being here because even though my father was raised Muslim, I was raised Catholic – thank God I was lucky enough to be trained in the ways of an “appropriate” religion even though its teachings have also been used to kill and enslave others for hundreds of years.


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Are you okay with me being here if I don’t get the privilege of knowing hundreds of family members that live overseas because they are not allowed to come to my homeland – those that have tried have experienced humiliation, racism, been detained, strip searched and held at a border for months. At least kids in high school were upfront about their fears when they would ask me if my father wore a turban, wanted to bomb American or carried a gun.


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Did you know when I cover up my hair with a scarf in the winter the outline of my face looks like my Anty Maryam’s and my eyes are a perfect match for my Muslim Grandmother who passed away years ago. My heart hurts for my people who are being marginalized and stereotyped as “dangerous” for their religious beliefs. I am even further conflicted that because of one tiny choice made by my father years ago and sheer luck – I am allowed the privilege of acceptance and ambiguity in the United States.


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I am literally crying with relief that my American-Iranian father did not choose to visit his homeland at this time – but there are many who are living in this nightmare right now with their parent, spouse or friends trapped in a shitty airport.


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Here are some things I never thought I would have to explain, but apparently I do: Americans can also be Muslims, being Muslim does not mean you hate America, there are Americans who (shocker) do not LOOK Muslim but are, there are Americans who look “white”, who are Muslim, there are Americans who are not practicing Muslims who have family members who are that they love very much, there are people who look Middle Eastern that are NOT Muslim.


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An “us” vs. “them” mentality is what leads to genocide, holocausts and hate crime. If you want to marginalize Muslims, then please count me as one of “them.” I easily could have been.

 


Katrina Simyab is a lifestyle blogger, event designer and storyteller. She blogs at Inspo and Co. While she loves to travel (especially to anywhere with year-round warm weather), she currently calls Middleton, WI her home. She is obsessed with finding new experiences, brilliant things, and interesting brands that she can share with her readers. A pretty pusher and brave babe, Katrina loves to keep it real, using her social media to share her personal experiences. She lives to explore all the little things that make life lovely while inspiring others to live beautifully and with bold honesty.

Inheriting America’s violence: an immigrant kid on home and leaving

10407623_1656932877859372_5773064684406291616_nPerhaps this makes me ungrateful, but I know that as america stands today, my citizenship cannot save me. I have been talking with friends about using our american passports to fly somewhere far away where we can make a new home and begin our lives as expats. We will not be known as a refugees, though the state of violence against Black people and Blackness in the u.s. is genocide and has been petitioned to the U.N. as such.

I know that being born into my americanness is a privilege. I did not have to risk death to arrive on u.s. soil, I did not have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in a taxing and never-certain process. Even though there is a place my parents call back home, I do not have to fear harassment and deportation. Still, despite having been born and raised in “the land of the free” I am concerned deeply about death.

I have scrolled past countless articles detailing Black death in america. I have glanced over them and lowered my head. I am exhausted by the news. I worry that I’m silent and yet don’t know what to say about the death abounding, the murders made of hate, so many Black lives taken, so many trans* lives, muslim lives, so many children, elderly, and ill individuals murdered. I have a friend who is very certain of one thing: he is finished with the u.s. and I do not blame him.

Although I’ve dreamt of it, I am less certain than he is when it comes to leaving america behind for good. As the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants I carried a rasta-esque ideal vision of back home. I considered it a place to escape to. I wrote this poem called “abandon” because I thought as Ethiopia stretched her hands to God, she would scoop me up, cradle me in her arms, and keep the u.s. from eating me alive.


In December 2015, I visited Ethiopia for the first time and will spend my whole life reflecting on what my first trip to Ethiopia meant, what every subsequent trip is going to mean. I feel there is so much I cannot say, only having glimpsed a bit of Ethiopia during my four-week stay in the capitol city. I will say, that for all the promised land dreams I had, I always knew, even if vaguely, that Ethiopia has its own violences.

There I was in Ethiopia, loved, cared-for, blessed. Also, undeniably a foreigner and a guest. I went for many reasons and quickly realized I could not be saved from america or my americanness, it was embedded in me. In fact, that I feel refused full citizenship and rights to healthy, happy, and uninhibited survival within the u.s. is part of my americanness because of its history and what was built long before my family ever arrived.


In my father’s house, CNN is always on and when Trayvon Martin was murdered, his face, constantly in the news cycle, became part of our living room, like a portrait. One day, my father said, “he looks like your brother.” This moment of admittance said aloud what I knew to be true the moment I began filling forms and naming myself as I have always felt and been seen, as Black/African american. I knew these dangers could befall our family, no matter our names or our origins, no matter where we came from.

I dropped my head when I read about the tragic loss and violent murders ofTaha, Muhannad, and Adam, three Sudanese american boys who were shot execution style in Fort Worth, Indiana. Though police have said their murders are not a hate crime, the deaths of these three boys are being attributed to racism, anti-Blackness, Islamaphobia. Their lives existed so deeply in targeted intersections it makes sense to suspect a hate crime. While we wait for more information to arrive, a petition for justice exists.The petition demands the Fort Worth, Indiana authorities to conduct an active and thorough investigation.

When I learned they were Sudanese I couldn’t help but think of their parents and if they ever imagined the land of opportunity would eat their children like this. Did their fathers see a young man slain by white fear and think, “he looks like my son?” Afaq Mahmoud, my friend and the cousin of Taha and Muhannad, asked her own questions in a statement that has been shared on the Our Three Brothers Facebook Page: Do you know what it takes to run from war? Do you know what it means to flee from one war zone only to land in another? Do you know what it means to flee to “safety” and have it swallow you whole?


Beyond grief my life consists of archaeology articles and labs, surviving on a white campus, and working to remember Black Joy. In the midst of this all I eagerly await a moment to read something away from my course work. A copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me sits on my bookshelf. I’ve yet to read it but I’ve listened to interviews, I know the reading is required. I know he tells his son, “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” I know this to be a truth of my own life — america is my country no matter how I feel about it and no matter where I go.


Hiwot Adilow is a singer-songwriter, poet, and performer. The Philly born daughter of Ethiopian immigrants writes most heavily about Love and the complexity of immigrant Blackness in all its gore and glory. Her writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Apiary Magazine, Duende Literary, and The Offing. She has also appeared on NPR’s Tell Me More and Wisconsin Public Television. Hiwot is a member of the First Wave Learning Arts Community’s 7th Cohort. She currently at UW-Madison pursuing a degree in Anthropology with a certificate in African Studies.

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