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Brown Girl Lifted

because life @ the intersection is personal & political

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racism

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.

I am frequently intimate with myself.
Because I am intimate with myself
I realize that the stumble of words across my tongue do not have to
constantly explain to others the wires of my hair
Or my brown skin
Or the sound of my voice.
I am borrowing a line and I want to be self-serving when I say
I wish myself well on my journey to the sun.
I wish you well on your journey to the sun
To the core of you, of me burning and throbbing and raging
There is a growing mind in here
And it is fertilized
But it used to be simultaneously plagued with a blight
Of whiteness and micro-aggressions
masquerading cradling lilywhite hands for ones that constrict and strangle
And dilute the richness of my blackness into “you talk white, you speak well.”
There is a growing mind in here
And it is not close to tiring
There is no holding it back
Only holding it tender
There is no holding it back
But there will be some who wanna hold it captive
and someone who will render it inactive
Incompetent
In. in. in.
I’m not folding in on myself
I’m throwing by blackness on a white canvas
my skin turning the color of earth’s clay I smile
my minds eye my eye’s mind opens to light
opens to darkness for without the dark who could shine
my eye’s brown and black thank god for that eye
that lets me see how the world operates
you know, the world that holds the sclera above the pupil
and how could you treat the black center of something so cruelly even my burnt kneecaps are fed up
the pigmentation comes to a head on my legs
I used to see them as burdens why aren’t my legs the same color throughout
But then again I’m not the same color throughout
“I’m not white I’m golden” my seven year old tongue spits
Split in half
And once my skin called out to be named (a political statement, self-preservation)
i became fluent in the language of myself
and i pray my syntax seeks to confuse the uncomfortable
who cringe in white cocoons


Samantha Adams is a 19 year old sophomore at UW Madison pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing, and a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. She lives in Madison but her heart resides in her hometown Milwaukee, WI. She believes her words can be just as powerful as her actions. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of black girl magic…and she’s working on new ways to take care of herself in an environment that is not always kind to women of color. She thanks Aarushi from the bottom of her heart for the opportunity to be featured on such an empowering blog!

Addressing Racism Online: An Open Letter

A couple of days ago, someone I consider to be a close friend sent me this mildly offensive meme that for one reason or another, she assumed I would find funny rather than offensive and hurtful.

racist meme

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Had it been something that somehow ended up on my Facebook timeline, I would have scowled in silent indignation and kept on scrolling. This ugly thing was staring at me in my messenger presumably waiting for verbal approval accompanied by LOLing emojis.

We’ve never discussed issues of race or racism in the past mostly because I felt some trepidation about addressing the issue directly for fear that she would shut down and become defensive as we have come expect from those who declare themselves “colorblind”.

What I DID say, in retrospect, left much to be desired.

“There are a bevy of fucked up implications in that meme. You probably shouldn’t share it with anyone else”

In that moment, I thought it got the point across — a conversational, softball way of saying, “Yeah, no, not funny, definitely racist.” without having to explain too extensively. I didn’t want to run the risk of insulting her intelligence by giving her a run down of why it was offensive, but then, if she saw this meme on Facebook, chuckled to herself and thought, “I know who would enjoy this, let me send this to Trisha”, then I probably should have assumed her racial aptitude also leaves much to be desired.

This is an open letter to my friend. Words I wish I had the quick thinking and intrepidity to actually say when it happened.

Continue reading “Addressing Racism Online: An Open Letter”

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