Somali Americans, is July 4th our true holiday?  

 

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.

 

Diana

 

Diana

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.

 

He was a coward but I was too blind to know it.

THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2013

He was a coward but I was too blind to know it.

He used to be my hero
Stand up to the teacher that
Would discredit me and my work
At school
Always coming to my defense with
My stepmother
And other family members
But he didn’t have the balls to stand up to patriarchy
And this new renewed faith that told him he was no man if he couldn’t control his women
He couldn’t stand up to them
He stood no chance to men so strong in number and misogyny disguised as conviction in their faith
We would walk out of our home and me without hijab and his new friend the sheikh would tell ME, my fathers daughter, to go back in the house and cover myself and my father would be standing there silent… As a coward who had no balls to say, no and mind your own business
He said, I embarrassed him
He couldn’t go anywhere because of me
And my shameful behavior
I was 12
What shameful behavior was I capable of?
I just wanted to read and write my poetry. I wanted to dance in the wind with my hair flowing and the sun shining on me… I wanted to feel and experience happiness, like I used to before religion found its way to my father’s mind and corrupted it
A coward he was who wouldn’t stand up for me when the neighbor boys harassed me and got suspended from school for it… He said, I provoked them. He was a coward! How low can you stoop when you accuse your minor daughter of provoking grown men and not stand up for her and vilify their behavior?
Such is the power of patriarchy. It makes a grown man lose his basic instinct to protect his daughter
                                  *********************************************************
I wrote this when I was 26 years old. I didn’t edit or change anything about it today when publishing. I thought about fixing errors, or style to make the flow better, but I thought,”it’s better to reflect on the growth that happened between then and now.”
Where was I at 26 and where am I at 31? 5 whole years. That’s a lifetime. I’ve done some growing. I’m a little less angry. Still very angry about female oppression around the world. It’s interesting when you get older and you realize how bad it actually is. Every day, I’m reading about a woman in India gang raped, a women in Italy doused in gasoline and set on fire, women in the Congo ironing the breasts of their girl children in order to prevent sexual assault or from men to look at them in a sexual way, women in my own homeland getting raped and not receiving any justice – at times even be married off to the rapist in order to “cover her shame.” Cover HER shame as though she has done anything wrong by being sexually violated. There is no shame on the rapist. She is the one who has been defiled, her marriage prospects over because,”gabar god ha kaaga jirto mise guri ha kaaga jirto,”(a daughter is better off dead or in a marriage home), her reputation tarnished. That is the state of affairs for women in 2018. The developed world is seeing a reawakening with #metoo campaign holding men accountable. The underdeveloped world is still struggling with basic human rights for women.
So when I look back at being angry at my father for upholding the patriarchy, it dawns on me that he is a victim of it too. “Men greater than him in number.” That’s real. Its hard to stand against the status quo. Who has the physical and or mental strength to deal with it day in day out and continuously fight? And still live, pay your bills, raise your children, and try to have some joy in your life?
Sometimes the fight seems redundant and moot. Tiring.
But the fight must continue.

Feel it All

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

About myself

 

Tale of a Boon’s Wife – Fartumo Kusow

I met Fartumo Kusow on Twitter after I devoured her book and decided I had to pick her brain. I sent her a direct message, because I just had to tell her how taken I was with her book, how I finished it in one day, and how this was such an important story to tell. I met Fartumo again (this time in person) on January 19th in Columbus, OH at the Ohio State University at her book reading organized by the Somali Students Association, and we had an amazing discussion about her book, the various themes in the book, and about Somali society today and yesterday. We had a great audience, young and old, who had much to say about their experiences, the societal expectations and standards, and the different world we live in now in after displacement and civil war.

I hope you enjoy our talk.