I was speaking to my cousin yesterday about the kind of art that I tend to make: morbid, sad, melancholic, etc., and how I didn’t know how to reconcile that with the kind of activism I’m passionate about.
Is it a self-fulfilling prophesy to say,”I’m actually a sad person, and thus I like to make art for the sad, broken soul?” I write about some pretty morbid stuff, and I don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics, or from writing in detail about traumatic events.
Some people may call it trauma porn. I call it catharsis. We each have our own ways of healing.
When I started this sexual assault awareness campaign, I didn’t think about my own personal work. I only thought,”I’m sure there are people who are struggling in our community, which loves to sweep everything under the rug and pretend that nothing bad happens, and maybe I could provide an outlet for people to share their stories, so others can KNOW this actually does happen in our community.” Before a problem can be solved, we must first acknowledge that it exists. We’re struggling with that part, and this was an attempt to bring that to light. Sexual misconduct/abuse does occur in our community, and its often goes unnoticed because the victims, often female, are shamed into silence.
Whilst doing that, I also get back to the business of writing, because that’s my spirit. I write to get everything out. I write especially when I’m sad, but I realize now that I lied when I said I do my best work when emotionally distraught. I haven’t been able to produce any work that I’m proud of this week, because there has been a dark cloud over me, and all my demons are home. Especially one big Shaytaan who has a way of throwing me off and making me crumble, no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much I think I’ve built myself up.
So since I’ve been unable to write anything new, I looked at some old work to share, and they’re all morbid, sad, taking the worst way out, etc., and I thought, “I can’t share this! I don’t want people to be sad, or think of suicide as a way out, and especially if they’re already there, I don’t want anything that I write pushing them over the edge!”
How much are we responsible as artists for what other people take from our work?
Do I have to make a choice? Do I have to choose between artistry which keeps me alive, and activism which also ignites my soul? If so, how do I make that choice?
Do I choose art, because without it I cannot live, and step back from the arena of activism?
How do I as a loudly outspoken person step back from activism that is personal to me as a woman, and as a global citizen?
July 4th – America’s independence from Britain. Damn those Brits, btw, they’ve literally colonized half of the world. How many countries are celebrating their, “independence from Britain?”
Somali Americans, is this our true holiday?
Wait. Hear me out.
Many of us have been in this country for a long time. Some of us were born here. The Somali state collapsed in 1991. We’ve spent our most formative years here. We went to school here, and some of us have moved on to have children here. Our lives here are cemented, our connection to Somalia minimal. Many of us are citizens and have promised to renounce any other citizenry. Did we lie?
I am also one of those people who are nostalgic for Somalia, but most times reality sets in. What is there for me in Somalia? Myself, a self-proclaimed loud mouth heathen who has so much to say about culture, religion, and society? What would I do there? What would I do in a country whose President and officials have to be guarded by AMISOM, soldiers sent from other African nations, and life is cheap? You could say the wrong thing, or look defiantly at a police officer, and there goes your precious life. Gone in a flash. Where many of the things we take for granted here, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association to name a few, are nonexistent.
A land where your only protection is your clan, and your genitals; if you have the right ones.
But America is testing my patience and love for it right now. This is supposed to be the greatest country in the world. Many flock to this country from all over the world. The land of the free. But how free am I when I’m worried about my black son being gunned down by those who have sworn an oath to protect and serve? How free am I when Donald Trump is the POTUS making us officially the laughing stock of the world? How free am I when I’m worried about my visibly Muslim sisters and cousins? How free am I when immigrant children are separated from their parents and locked up in cages?
Both seem pretty bleak, right?
Personally, I don’t know MY connection to July 4th. None of my ancestors were here then, and people who looked like me, black people, were enslaved. There was no independence for them. However, my experience as an immigrant is different from African Americans whose history in this country goes back generations, and it’s not a good history. But I do know that it can be worse.
As I ruminate on these things, I think of how do we move forward?
Can I recognize that yes this country has a sordid history when it comes to minorities, and even currently with Trump’s immigration policy, AND still love this country as it has given me, an immigrant, a chance at life? Is it tone deaf to say,”I love this flawed nation. It has given a chance at life. God bless these United States?” I cannot just flatly say this is a terrible country. Period. It isn’t for me, because I wouldn’t trade America for my homeland, and neither would many other Somali Americans, if they’re 100% honest. Even those deported to Somalia say they feel they are in a foreign country in Somalia than when they were in America.
She took the tube out of a thin, small black bag and looked at it for a moment. It had a beautiful woman with milky white skin on it. She opened the cap, turned it around and pushed it back onto the top to break the seal, and out came this white cream. She had a piece of a mirror that she borrowed, well stole, from the girl next door, and she stared at herself, squinting her eyes, as it was rather difficult to see through the cracks of the glass. She placed a little bit of the cream on the tip of her index finger, and placed dots on her cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, and using round motions applied it all around her face. She looked to see if it made a difference. It didn’t. Yet.
“Nayaa, did you cook the anjero?” her mother screamed from her room. She jumped up from where she was seated and ran outside to set up the charcoal stove. She placed a few charcoals underneath it, doused a little gasoline on top of them, threw a lit match in, and started fanning immediately. She was running short on time. The boys would be up soon.
“Yes, hooyo, I’m still cooking it,” as if she didn’t just start. The fumes from the stove irritated her eyes. She started to rub then, but now her eyes were burning. She tried to open them with no luck. She couldn’t see anything, and tears were coming out of her eyes. Frustrated, she reached around for some water, but couldn’t find anything. She stood up to look for some, knocked the gasoline on her dress, and bumped into the charcoal stove, lighting herself on fire. She dropped onto the sand, and started rolling, screaming for her mother, “Hooyo, help me! Hooyo, help! I’m on fire, Help!!!” Her eyes were burning, and in between rubbing her eyes, and rolling to stop the fire, sheer panic started to envelop her. Then utter darkness enclosed in on her as she closed her eyes. Is this how death feels? Am I really dying?, she thought.
Her mother, unsure of what to do, reacted on instinct and threw water on her daughter. The girl screamed in terror, but the fire was extinguished. Then silence.
“What happened, nayaa? Can’t you cook a simple anjero breakfast without setting yourself on fire?” She screamed at her unresponsive daughter. She squatted down next to her daughter and nudged her little bit with her index finger to get a response from her. “Hoda, wake up! What is going on with you? Wake up!!” No response. She jumped up as sudden realization hit her, and ran to the neighbors, screaming, and crying, “I need a doctor! Someone get a doctor! My daughter! Someone help me!!!”
“Nadia, what’s going on? “said Aisha, her neighbor. “What has happened to Hoda?”
“She ‘s dead! Someone help me! She’s dead!” cried Hoda’s mother. “Please, call someone for me! Please!” She fell down on her knees raising her hands up in the air in prayer,” Ya Allah, why?? What has caused this to happen? Please make her well! “she wailed on, as her neighbors ran to Hoda. Aisha’s husband, who was a physician, was home and instantly felt for a pulse. It was faint. He covered her, picked her up and ran to the car. There wasn’t an ambulance in the small town, so he had to drive her to the nearest hospital which was 25 kilometers away.
The Diana cream was still in the bedroom. In it was the promise of lighter skin. She’d be a fair beauty. Men would come from afar, begging for her hand in marriage, and pay her mother so much money in dowry. Songs would be made about her, she would be renamed caddeey , and her soon bulging blue veins, appearing underneath her light skin, would be a wonder and amazement to them. Her prince charming would come from America, or England, and take her from this miserable life of waking up at 5am to make anjero for her five brothers whom her mother favored. She would show her. Her old man skipped town a long time ago and left her mother with all six kids of theirs. She had to quit school to cook and clean after the boys. After all, she was but a girl.
Hoda was in the back of the car feeling numb as her body was throbbing with pain. She lay still, and her eyes were closed. The wind was howling outside and swooshing the trees back and forth. It was actually a rather sweet melody and it lulled her to sleep. The birds were chirping and instead of darkness, she saw light and felt as though she was being carried away. Her breathing slowed down, and she took her last breath while thinking of her mother; how she ignored her presence all the time other than yelling at her to take the boys to school, or to clean up after them once they ate, and how she never showed her any love and affection as a mother. She would often remind Hoda how she looked like that useless tool of a father of hers. She was going to show her… She was going to be great. She would be the one Hooyo would be so proud of and love the most.
There was so promise in her plans, but they started with Diana, and ended with Diana.
THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2013
He was a coward but I was too blind to know it.
I won’t drink myself to a stupor.
I won’t smoke a cigarette to lift this cloud.
I have to let the pain in, let it run through me, and out.
Even when it hurts so much
Even when I’ll do anything to make it go away
I have to accept it
And love it
Because through it all
I’ve learned so much