Uncategorized

Phi Theta kappa A Mile in Our Shoes, Pt.2

By Dana Abdulhay

Studs
Q. What are the most significant factors that contributed to where you are today as a person?
I grow up in a middle-income family that definitely helped me. I feel like I was gifted a lot of opportunities; I had several choices to where I can go to high school. I was able to go to a unique one — it was [a] very personal and very small school with like 400 people, so I made a very intimate relationship with teachers and students, and I feel like that grounded me in appreciating the community. And to the fact that I grew up in a very, very stable home.

shoes2

Photo by Studs

Q. What kind of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than yours?
Definitely in high school — even if it was small [it was] very diverse. And because … it’s such an inclusive community, I got to share my experiences with people of different backgrounds. Here at SMCC, working at the tutoring center helps me so much as well, and my work, at a restaurant primarily. We have prerelease workers who are released during daytime to work; most of them have been awesome, and they’re just appreciative to be out and doing something productive … . One friend I made through working at my restaurant, she was an Afghani refugee, and I became very good friends with her and her family — still, to this day.

Q. Have you ever faced difficult challenges, that have prevented you from being who you are?
I have struggled quite a bit with depression in my life, but that’s part of who I am. I don’t know if it challenged who I am. Probably my greatest challenge is financial, and I work a lot, yet I can only afford to be at community college. I still must work and go to school, and it’s incredibly hard to dig out of my financial situation. But I don’t know really if it prevents me from being me. Maybe just a little bit.

Q. Have you ever witnessed prejudice? And whom is the prejudice aimed towards? Have you been a victim of prejudice?
I have witnessed it, especially working in service industry. I saw it on someone else. Definitely witnessed sexism; I haven’t witnessed a large amount of racism, but sexism, I feel like it’s much more easy to pass off as a normal thing. I would say sexism is incredibly common in my life, especially working at a restaurant.

Q. Who is the most influential person in your life?
My Calculus teacher. She changed my life, because I’ve always been concerned with not being good at math — I’m incredible at math, I now realized. It’s taken a long time to grow my confidence … I was always intimidated by it, and when I finally got to Calculus … that one teacher changed my life. She was just a good friend, she cared about how you are doing, what your progress was; and if you put something in, she would make sure that you’d be recognized. And she became a personal friend, really — she’s writing my recommendation, which I highly appreciate, and she taught me all the math I know … .

Q. What are you most afraid of right now?
Self-actualization. Will I become what I want to be, or will I just kind of take what it is and be what the world gives me? I’ve got lots of goals, a lot of interests, but I would say my greatest fear — it would be not letting them happen, not seizing the opportunities that are placed in front of me.

Q. What’s the happiest moment of your life? Saddest?
The happiest and the saddest moment of my life is when I walked from Mexico to Canada for five months; when I got there I didn’t know if I should be happy or sad. My happiest moment would be that entire journey and achieving the goal … when I got there, finally, I was with one friend who I have been hiking all through Washington with, and it’s bliss. You know you’re done, you’re finally going home — it’s kind of nice, but you also know you [are] leaving … . “What’s next, what do I do now, where do I go?” is the feeling I got after finishing the journey. And from that five-months-long journey doing something I am passionate about to nothing, to working at a restaurant.

Dorcas
Q. What are the most significant factors that contributed to where you are today as a person?
I went to the Boys and Girls [Club]. They have a lot of clubs and people who supported me and helped me to be active. I did some volunteering and civil-rights work. Other factors [are] moving to the U.S. three years ago. I’m from Congo, but I grew up in South Africa. Moving to America opened my eyes to a new world. I think that this is the biggest factor that helped me realize how the world is big and you are small when you start to move around.

shoes dorcus

Photo by Dorcas

Q. What kind of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than yours?
Being in the second whitest state in America and seeing how everybody is different than me. I face a lot of ignorance about South Africa, and the comments that they say and how they’re shocked when they realize that I speak English fluently.

Q. Have you ever faced difficult challenges, that have prevented you from being who you are?
I was born in Congo, but I was raised in South Africa since I was nine months old, I see myself as a Southern African Congolese. One of the challenges that I have faced [is] that South Africans wouldn’t view me as a South African, so one of the reason why I’m here is because of xenophobic attacks in South Africa against the Congolese and Somalis and suburban and immigrants in general. I have experienced racism there; people would put me down because I’m a Congolese and they don’t want us to speak our language, asking us to speak English only. These experiences that I faced made me insecure about my color, language, my culture. When I moved to the U.S., I got educated more about black people in America and Africa; I started reading about racism. From that I started to decondition the way I think, so whatever I learned from others, I turned that and educated myself about these aspects in the right way. From that I started to view things differently — being black is awesome, being African is beautiful, etc. — and changed the way I look at myself and be happy with what I am on. Taking and removing the negative that I have been fed up from others and changing it to positive outlook.

Q. Have you ever witnessed prejudice? And whom is the prejudice aimed towards? Have you been a victim of prejudice?
Yes, I remember back home in South Africa when they would say “Go back to your country,” asking me to go back to a country that I don’t know anything about. That makes me [have] sympathy with the DACA kids. Also here, towards my friend who’s activist on social media, she gets all the hate for being a Muslim refugee/immigrant activist. They call her everything — terrorist, jihadist, she’s been attacked on social media and in real life as well, people have come up to here and threatened her in person.

Q. Who is the most influential person in your life?
Activists, women of color all around the world that try to make their voice heard despite what others tell them. They inspire me to speak up as well.

Q. What are you most afraid of right now?
I’m afraid of ignorance. It bothers me how ignorant some people are and how they spread false information about things that they don’t fully know about. And how on social media they would fight you and they don’t want to listen or understand, but just fight.

Q. What’s the happiest moment of your life? Saddest?
When I watch TV and my favorite drama. Saddest: when I see how ignorant some people are, and they don’t know about it and keep talking like they know everything. Especially people with power.

Q. From your own experience, what is the advice that you would give to someone who’s going through the same thing?
It’s very important to listen to other people’s experiences. Everything I know, I knew it from listening to others’ experiences — why they thought that, why, why they think that way. That makes me stop being judgmental. And coming with an open mind, especially living in Maine, [which] is diverse, with many different religions and different cultures.

This article is the second part of an interview series courtesy of Phi Theta Kappa. Part 1 was published on the front page of the April 10 Beacon issue.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s