BLACKPRINT DEC 2017 • ISSUE 1
PROBLEMATIC THINGS OVERHEARD AT AU
CENTURY AMERICAN TH WOMEN
OP-ED: BLACK WOMEN DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING CLUB SPOTLIGHT: BORICUAS @ AU
SISTERHOOD: THE ACTIVISTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ON CAMPUS
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS Wow. So here we are. After only about a year-and-a-half, The Blackprint has gone from this cool little idea to launching our first zine. Tired of hearing white students report on issues that impact my community, I decided to join The Blackprint in fall 2016. Then some reason, they let me run it. And, I’m glad they did. When I became editor-in-chief I was determined to move The Blackprint in a more “news-y” direction. I knew we could do more than just culture pieces and blog entries; I wanted to prove it makes a difference who reports the stories that matter. Whether we’re celebrating the launch of the African American and African Diaspora Studies program or reacting to a hate crime made to divide our campus, we need diverse voices to report these stories. I look forward to our weekly meetings because I get to be surrounded by other people of color who love this work just as much as I do. My team inspires me. The have made The Blackprint what it is.
LAUREN LUMPKIN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
You wanted us, and now we’re here. Shout out to everyone who made it happen. So, what exactly does a ‘Letter from the Editor’ constitute? An inconvenient self-explorative narrative? A summarization of the bonnet-bound, unshowered, crusted-over eyeliner clad nights I found myself deliberating between font color #FFFFFF and #FFFFFE? Maybe it’s a soliloquy, a homage to how I single-handedly encompassed what the sisterhood of marginalized bodies looks like. Wait, a conflictive interpersonal dialogue. That’s it. A half-page self-indulgent rant on how proud I am of The Blackprint’s first zine, well because, I am.
JENNA CALDWELL PRESIDENT
Providing a platform for not just the leaders that push our campus forward in new directions, but the true (and not for a lack of better terms) boss bitches that head our community, is a truly remarkable opportunity. As a freshman, I did not see many people who looked like myself holding powerful campus positions. And this wasn’t necessarily because they weren’t there, but it was because they weren’t put on the same pedestal as some of our more recognizable colleagues. Two years later, as an upperclassman, I am proud to to serve as The Blackprint’s president and to work toward making sure every voice is heard, every accomplishment is acknowledged and every bonnet-bound, unshowered, crusted-over eyeliner clad night is spent making sure that we are, in fact, recognized.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
AU EXCELLENCE 4 CULTURE 18 CAMPUS 28 OPINION 42
AU EXCE 4
EMEM SAMIA WARSAME
Emem Obot. They/Them. 21. Chicago. International Studies major. The Darkening. SW: When did you get into social justice? EO: I got into social justice my freshman year of college, when a student called me the n-word for the first time. Growing up, and during my school years, I dealt with racist white people all the time, always trying it, always testing it and always having to fight. So, when I’m paying [American University] $60,000, I’m not going to sit there and allow racists to ruin my college experience like they ruined my high school experience.” SW: As a Black person, what does social justice mean to you? EO: “To me, social justice is the idea of liberation. The injustice in this society is so ingrained, therefore we need a new one. In my opinion, we need to deconstruct [society] and rebuild again.” Samia Warsame: What is the mission of The Darkening? Emem Obot: The mission of The Darkening is to be able to create a space for racial justice through education and mutual aid by strengthening the Black community inside and outside the campus. We added mutual aid recently because now we are definitely more invested in the D.C. community, and a lot of the issues we face on campus [are] intertwined with the D.C. community as well.” SW: What does The Darkening do on campus? EO: What we have done in the past was cre-
ate the AUx program, which is a class first-year students can take that delves into the topic of race, class, gender and sexuality. [AUx] was one of our initiatives to create a more inclusive curriculum by addressing all experiences, not just the ‘white experience’ that has usually been addressed and centered within academia. Currently, we are pushing for the creation of a living and learning community centered around African American studies, which is important because [African American Studies] is very new, and definitely should be invested in, especially with this new Anti-Racist Research Center. SW: What are the goals The Darkening wants to achieve this year? EO: This year, we are definitely focusing more in-house, and trying to educate the campus as a whole. We are also trying to figure out why certain changes have occurred on campus, such as the increase of police presence and the upgrades they have gotten since last year that, to me, are very questionable. We also have an issue with the Board of Trustees, who are responsible for a lot of the [gentrification] of D.C., and it would be nice to know if [American University] has any investments in properties that are causing areas of D.C. to become gentrified. We are also focused on rallying with professors on campus and gaining their support in order to coalition with them. As I mentioned before, we are definitely trying to achieve the idea of a living and learning community
centered around the African American Studies major. SW: Do you believe The Darkening has the ability to mend what many are referring to as a “divisive Black community” here at American University? EO: Since I’ve been on campus, I have seen a lot of conflict between leadership, but one thing that I have not seen ever is it being aired out to the rest of the AU community. Whether we heard about it or not, at the end of the day, it happened. This issue with the current divisiveness stems from the concept that a lot of the time, [when] we think we’re acting for justice for the community, we tend to replicate the same abusive patterns that we are calling out. I just hope that the freshmen can see that we need to establish better ways of communicating with each other, and to do that we really need to double down on our egos and be vulnerable with each other. If we can’t do that, we’re not going to be able to do anything.The Darkening doesn’t cater just to Black folks, but brown folks as well. When the community is ready to communicate, The Darkening can mediate. But unless that demand is actually out there, we cannot step into that.
as a mentor and organizer for Blackout: Generation Liberation which is an offshoot program of Food, Clothing & Resistance Collective that’s geared toward educating the youth in an empowering way. We really focus on working with young revolutionaries and radical artists to build a revolutionary culture. Food, Clothing & Resistance Collective is an organization that literally does that. Feed the people, clothe the people and teach them how to resist. We mostly focus on using the Panther principles that were used by the Black Panthers to really enrich the community as a whole. SW: As a graduating senior, what advice do you have for freshmen? EO: Be strategic, be intentional and take responsibility for your actions and decisions. Also, don’t forget to have fun while you’re here. As an organizer, yes, we do focus on a lot of heavy issues, but we find the time to relax and have a good time with friends. Try to build meaningful relationships with others, and don’t just dispose of each other because they don’t agree with you. We’re too small [of a community] to do that.
SW: What are you involved in outside campus? EO: Off campus, you’ll usually find me working
ROSHNI JENNA CALDWELL
Roshni Sharma. She/Her. 20. New Jersey. International Relations & Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies. South Asian Student Association. Jenna Caldwell: What is the mission of South Asian Student Association (SASA)?
Roshni Sharma: I would say the mission of SASA is to serve as an organization celebrating South Asian identity and culture for whoever has an interest. We aim to show the rest of the AU campus that we are here to support our fellow South Asian students, and friends/allies, and help foster a community of belonging.
our agenda that bring an audience wider than just our membership and engage the AU community. We also host Henna fundraisers, bonding events with membership, our annual Formal, general body meetings, and other smaller cultural events. Through these events we hope to build a larger community and expand interest in South Asian culture. JC: Recently some have raised the question of whether or not SASA is only representative of Indian students on campus. What would you tell these people?
RS: Though we aim to represent all South Asian JC: Why did you choose to become involved in countries and the diaspora, we can sometimes the organization? fail when the club unknowingly focuses on a majority one specific country and religion. This RS: I first got involved in SASA after searching has seemed to be prevalent before I got to for cultural orgs at AU online and learned we campus, but some students brought up really had a SASA. I knew I wanted to join because my great points this semester on the little things the South Asian culture and identity was something organization does that might not seem inclusive I was just learning to embrace as a senior in high and what we can do to better represent a wider school, after years of trying to conform and hide variety of the South Asian students we have on from my roots. I was the only Indian girl in my campus, not just Indians or Hindus, since SASA grade until high school- then there were 3 of us! is not a religious org at all. I say to the people I knew I wanted to connect back to my culture in who voice these criticisms that their opinions college and I joined SASA my first semester at are definitely valid and through dialogue I AU, and after learning they had an open eboard understand their POV better. Sometimes we, as position I became Publicist my first semester as marginalized POC, feel underrepresented or well. I was Publicist until Spring semester Sophothered in America, but it is important to recomore year when I became President and now ognize our own privileges we have despite this Iâ€™m a Co-President with Gauri Chopra. and how we might other the people around us unintentionally. I encourage more conversation JC: What does SASA do on campus? and transparency on this issue and am committed to listen to criticisms about SASA, as well as RS: SASA hosts recurring cultural events such as constructive criticism we will be taking forward Jalwa, our annual All-American Weekend culture immediately and into the new semesters. It is show, in the fall and Holi, our festival of colors my personal mission statement, as well as SAcelebrated in some South Asian countries,in the SAâ€™s eboard, which has been the most diverse in spring. Events like Jalwa and Holi are staples to terms of ethnicity in most likely the history of
SASA, that we acknowledge our faults and serve the student and represent the South Asian student body more effectively through event programming, discussions, media profiles, and our message.
may take some time to realize the progress that needs to be made at first glance.
JC: How has being an Indian-American student on campus shaped your experiences at AU?
RS: I think we face a similar systemic issue of underrepresentation with other POC and marginalized groups on campus. We don’t have enough classes in our Asian studies department and we have always had the battle for more academic representation. Since some Muslims are also South Asian SASA has been with MSA on the movement for Halal food on campus and see it as a large discrepancy on AU’s part in failing to serve their student body.
RS: I came to AU as the first American in my family and the first person in my family to go to a private institution for higher education in America. Though I acknowledge my privileges of being able to attend AU it does not come without its struggles. My culture and identity as a woman cannot be Indian without being American or American without Indian. My identity has lent me to learn about topics and subjects that have roots in issues back in India, has made me eager to share my viewpoints as an underrepresented group on campus, and has made me involved in showing solidarity with other POC orgs and marginalized groups on campus. I think one of the biggest impacts my identity has had on my experiences at AU is the way in which I evaluate or criticize AU. Because I come from a very patriarchal society and a family of women who have not had the same opportunities as me, I am inclined to be grateful to even be at AU and receive an education. I think this can sometimes skew my viewpoints and though I definitely know AU is not perfect I
JC: Are there any systemic issues south asian students face on campus?
JC: Do you have any advice for the next generation of women of color entering AU? RS: Don’t be afraid to do what you feel passionate about, but also do not forget that you’re allowed to take a step back when needed. Often times women of color have double the weight of being underrepresented on campus because of their non-white ethnicity and also being a woman in a male-dominated society. In classes, why do the white male students often seem like the loudest voices in discussion or debate? I feel like society has invalidated WOC to the point that we feel our voices are not as important as others. I encourage WOC entering AU to be that voice.
AUTUMN KIARRA DELOUIS
Autumn Grant. She/Her. 20. Political Science. Baltimore. Director of Accessibility, Student Government. Kiarra Delouis: What is like to hold a student government position? Autumn Grant: Freshmen year [of college] I was on hall council. It’s more of a smaller position where you are elected by your hall, so I was elected as the VP of recognition for Anderson Hall. AG: I’m glad I ran for senate. It’s a slight transition because your constituency is a little different. The focus was on serving campus wide needs, and no longer about dorms. The only thing that changes is more of the scope, like college is a lot bigger than my highschool and even though AU is not a huge school, the scope of your job becomes a lot bigger.
AG: A lot of times people work against admiationstiron, but the goal is to be the representative body that helps to bridge the gap between students and admin. Our job is to represent the needs of undergraduate students on campus and bring their voices up to administration and get the things that concern them to a point where they can be heard and understood by the people who have the power to make those things happen. KD: As a senator, what makes you get out of bed every morning?
AG: Knowing that I have a student leadership position is what gets me out of bed every morning and I think of it as a privilege because their are people who voted for me and are counting on me. People are actually holding student government accountable. While it only shows during the negative times when people are KD: Do you feel a lot of pressure to be great or riled up, asking questions about what’s going seen as the example or does being Senate feel on, knowing that people are counting on me almost effortless/natural to you? motivates me.People express their opinions and ideas in different ways, so that also is like a moAG: “Because college is big I personally haven’t tivator. I kind of want to be the voice in helping felt singled out as that 1 person [ in instances] people who either feel like they don’t have that like ‘oh that’s the senator’. I have had a few expe- space or pushed out of it or intimidated. riences, but I never felt pressured to act different or to try to control or conduct myself in different KD: How do you cope with discouragement? ways. I don’t know if that’s due to the setup of the senate since there are 30 members so it’s a AG: When discouraged, I’m a verbal person bigger body and not as much pressure is put on who likes to talk things out and think about what individuals as opposed to the executive branch happened. where the President and VP hold specific positions. They have people working behind them, but their names are the in the forefront.
KD: What are student government’s goals or objectives?
An example of one of her more recent frustrations was when her and her colleagues attempted to make the Ad Hoc committee for diversity and inclusion a permanent committee. AG: “Ad Hoc means that the committee is just called by the speaker. The speaker is basically the leader of the senate. Making the committee permanent means that there will always be a committee for diversity and inclusion, and that’s what we need. We don’t need to be something that’s only called upon when a hate crime happens or when people get upset and want to talk about it. The original setup was that matters of diversity and inclusion was under another committee. They were kind of getting swept under the rug. We felt this should be a stand alone committee. We have a lot of things going on with this and enough topics to tackle. It was a struggle to receive support and there was a lot of back and forth. The first resolution that we wrote up for it ended up not passing. It was re-introduced this semester as a special committee which is slightly different, but still more important than an Ad Hoc so it’s still a step up towards improvement, but it won’t go into effect until the new senate gets sworn in.
AG: There were times where I was like if this is Fall, I don’t know if I‘m going to be here in the Spring”. “It’s scary because it impacts your work. Sometimes you ask if it’s worth it or you consider finishing at another school. I know that it’s something that students sometimes think about when it comes to finances. I had a roommate who actually had to leave school because it got too expensive. She ended up being out of school for the time being and it was like ‘oh my gosh’, this is real, and it does happen to people. You start to feel that detachment from the school and question why you should have Eagle Pride. KD: What does “Girl Power” mean to you? AG: Girl power is women/girls utilizing their strengths to change the world and make things happen. There are certain gifts and talents attributed to being a girl/women. Being able to use that in positive ways, especially when society tells you that some of those traits are negative, (like being loud or bossy or powerful) is not bad, and I’m going to use it to my advantage to get things done.
KD: Are you ever fearful of your future status as an AU student?
CAMILA ALEXIS ARNOLD
Camila Cisneros. She/Her. 19. Miami. International Relations. Venezuela Perspectives.
Alexis Arnold: What is Venezuela Perspectives? Camila Cisneros: The person who originally had the idea to start Venezuela Perspectives left back to Venezuela. Last year, a few of us decided to resuscitate it. Those of us who decided to bring it back are the new board members. It’s a long story and there was a mix-up with the email, but basically we have to wait until next semester to redo the club process and get officially recognized. AA: How has being Latinx shaped your experience at in life and at AU? CC: My culture is probably the most important thing to me. Everything has revolved around that. I mean my regional focus for SIS is Latin America. My internship is the Venezuelan American Leadership Council (VALC). My father is Venezuelan, so I identify as half Venezuelan and half Colombian on my mother’s side. I follow all the traditions, learn about the histories of both countries, and do my best to stay involved. I was born and raised in Miami so yes, I am Americ an, but Miami is a whole other category aside from American. People say it’s like another Latin America. Regardless, I am proud to be all three: Venezuelan, Colombian, and a Miami girl. Having so many identities can confusing at times, but in a good way. I don’t know exactly what I am, but I am happy to be proud of so many things that are a part of me. AA: For those who don’t know, can you give a short summary on what lead to the situation in Venezuela right now?
CC: To put into simple terms, President Chavez came into power in 1988 with a promise of socialism that sounded really good on paper. I don’t really blame people for voting for him back then, but then things started to go south by the 2000s. There was a lot of poverty and resentment toward the government, and the only people who supported him were paid off. He would bribe people with money and food. After he died, President Maduro came into power and everyone thought things were going to get better. And they didn’t. Even to this day Maduro gives CLAP Boxes, boxes of essential fo,od and supplies to people who say they will support him. You’ll see very poor women on national television saying they support him while holding the CLAP boxes because that’s what they have to do for food. AA: There are several other Latinx organizations on campus; why do you feel that Venezuela’s issues should have a dedicated club? CC: It’s very important to get this recognized because it is a very important Latino issue. For example, the reason I joined AU League of United Latin American Citizens was because they said they focused on Latino issues. So I joined and even went to the convention this past summer, but Venezuela was not mentioned once. And it just breaks my heart. I recognize that there are many
important Latino issues, but this also deserves recognition. I’m not saying it’s more important, but it should be recognized by other Latinos. Not enough Latinos who are not Venezuelan talk about it. It’s a really serious situation on so many levels and I just want to raise awareness about it so people take it seriously. The main goal of the club is to discuss our point-of-view issues and to bring Venzuela up as muchas we can. AA: What is VALC? CC: VALC is a media company dedicated to Venezuelan-American relations. They basically work with Congress and Venezuelans in America to help get democracy to Venezuela through an American perspective. They also share communications on Venezuela. The reports are almost daily, but it depends how fast I work because I’m the communications intern. I try to touch as many subjects as possible each week. Definitely go to their website, www. venezuelan.us, if you want more information on Venezuela that doesn’t come from a government-owned website. AA: What do you hope to do for Venezuela in the future? CC: I just hope to de-escalate the situation. It’s probably not going be the Venezuela it once was. It was a very rich and very strong nation back in the ‘70s. My dad tells me stories of how amazing life there was, so I know it won’t reach that level again in the near future. But I want to make it a place that’s habitable because it’s a
dystopia right now. That’s not even exaggerating. Everything that can go wrong in our country has gone wrong. I decided to shape my career around Venezuela, especially because my father is from there and I visited as recently as 2013. I have had deep connection to there and it all began when I chose my major. I always thought to myself: why can’t someone bring about a change? But instead of asking who’s gonna change it, why don’t I say I am going to change it? So I set a game plan: I am going to study international relations, Latin America, work with Venezuelan companies and start my way from there. And that’s kinda where I am now. AA: Why is improving situation in Venezuela so important to you? CC: I have seen family members asking around on Facebook and WhatsApp, ‘Who has milk i can [give] to my three year old son?’ It impacts my family a lot. Not a lot of them have the financial stability to be safe over there. Many of them have left and others are doing without food. So it’s very personal to me. When the subject of Venezuela does come up, it’s usually in Econ class when people are talking about hyperinflation or arguing for why socialism is a bad idea., but there’s no humanitarian sentiment behind it. It hurts when people just use it as an example and ignore the personal sentiment behind it. There are real people starving and dying.
GENÀE ZSHEKINAH COLLIER
Genáe Hatcher. She/Her. 18. Maryland. Sociology. Umoja D.C.
anniversary of MLK’s assassination and it will be called the Emancipation Gala.
ZC: I’ve seen many post on social media about Umoja DC, can you tell me about the organization and what inspired you to start it?
ZC: What are some of your life goals and dreams?
GH: Umoja DC, is a multicultural organization that exists to represent the interest of and coordinate events for Black undergraduate students throughout DC. It’s dedicated to promoting the cultural, educational, political and social needs of Black students. I was inspired to start it, because I felt like there was a gap in the amount of black centered programing for students and when you’re in college everyone always stresses networking, but sometimes it feels like there aren’t people to relate to that I want to network with. So I figured by uniting Black undergraduates throughout DC that gives us a much greater sense of community and also much more networking opportunities.
GH: “Wow, I’m 18 and I need to have my life goals figured out” [Laughs]- I’m still in the process of figuring that out. I know that after undergrad I want to go to law school and I’m interested in pursuing a dual law and master in public health program. I’m looking at like working for nonprofit organizations, I’m really passionate about food insecurity for minorities in inner cities and I’m also really passionate about sexual assault prevention and advocacy. I also one day want to be a part of congress, that’s like my ultimate goal and maybe one day be the president, who knows? [Laughs] -but Maxine Waters, I’m like in love with her and I want to be her when I grow up. Those are the plans right now, but they are subject to change.
ZC: What are some goals you have for the organization?
ZC: You’ve already said Maxine Water, but who are some of your other role models?
GH: I want people to feel like they have a backbone in DC. Going to a PWI especially, you feel really alone and you feel like the community is super small, but to know that you can turn to other people throughout DC that’s like my ultimate vision and when things happen, like the racist incidents that happened at AU, to know that you have people from other schools that will back you up. One of the things that we’re planning is a gala that will commemorate the 50th
GH: All the big Civil Rights leaders, like Malcolm X and MLK. I feel like if Malcolm X and MLK had a baby that would be me [laughs]- because everyone always tries to pick sides, but I feel like when you merge them together, it’s like goals. ZC: Was there a time in your life when you felt your Black wasn’t beautiful? How did you overcome that feeling? GH: So, in high school, my freshman year I went to one of the predominantly Black school in the
county that I’m from. Then my Sophomore year I switch to one of the predominantly white school in the county- that was a huge culture shock and also is one of the reasons why I became more conscious and woke, because I started to see how systemic issues played out around me and also started to deal with microaggressions. But the beginning of Junior year I started to go natural- well return natural, you can go something that you already were- so return natural and I did the big chop. My hair was really short and I was around a whole lot of white girls that had super long hair and I felt really hyper aware of my Blackness. I wouldn’t say that I felt “Not Beautiful,” but I just felt, just a general sense of all eyes on me and I felt there were a lot of stereotypes being projected on me all the time, so my appearance being that much different made that feeling of general inferiority.
recognition that she deserves and she’s gonna be on the 20 dollar bill!- She one of the original woke people! ZC: Do you have any advice to share with other young women of color? GH: To be unapologetic about who you are, which is kinda be yourself but a little bit more of accepting of yourself. Also to not let outside voices tell you that you’re wrong for being who you are. And to be proud of who you are and your accomplishmentsalso hype yourself up! We’re awesome #BlackGirlMagic.
ZC: You’re in an Uber Pool with 4 famous figures, dead or alive. Who would you want them to be? GH: his is a really hard question [laughs]. So, I’d have to say one of them would be Malcolm X, just because his autobiography really inspired me and is so awesome, I recommend it. This is so cliché, but Beyoncé. She’s a Queen! Maxine Waters and Harriet Tubman- she’s just like...Wow! Also talk about being recognized far after you’ve already been gone,the amount of people that she helped is just crazy. I’m so glad she’s getting the
KIRSTEN SOPHIA HOLLOWAY
Kirten Jay. She/Her. 20. San Francisco. Journalism. Asian American Student Union. SH: What is the Asian American Student Union’s message? KJ: I think ASU’s message is to show the community that we are here for them if they need support, and that we are here to offer resources and just a sense of community that I think is really lacking when you only have 6% Asian population on campus. SH: Why and how did you get involved? KJ: I had a friend that was involved on the eboard my sophomore year and I went to a couple of events. At the end of my sophomore year, I got involved with their eboard and was event coordinator the first semester of my junior year. I think it was something that I was really passionate about but wasn’t aware that it was on campus until late into my sophomore year. At that point I just felt that I needed to get involved to really feel like I was a part of the community and I really wanted to be able to make sure that freshman don’t feel as lost as I did when I first got to AU. Coming from San Francisco I never really felt like a minority but coming to D.C. was a completely new experience. I was sometimes the only Asian in any of my classes and stuff like that. It was a weird feeling and I didn’t like it. I think that freshman year I didn’t know that ASU existed, and I think that’s why I joined; to be able to have that better community so that people coming in can be able to find it easily and be able to provide people resources and a space to talk about issues or whatever they are experiencing on campus. SH: What do you do?
KJ: I’m ASU’s president and I help coordinate events. I talk with everyone, I am always on all of the email chains. I coordinate with AU resources and I talk with other student organizations on campus. Just helping people on the eboard make events that they are passionate about become real. SH: What does girl power mean to you? KJ: Girl power to me means being there and supporting the women in your life. I think it means that there’s this community of shared experiences and while not everyone has the same experiences, because of intersectionality and all of that, I think girl power means that we are there for each other, we are supporting each other and that we have that community there to help hold us up. SH: What are your goals here at AU? KJ: I think for here at AU, bringing a sense of space and community to AU campus is really important to me, and having people feel that they have a space that they can be themselves and talk about their experiences without feeling like the one minority on campus. Like whenever your class talks about race issues and people are like “oh yeah you wanna weigh in on this?” and I’m like “oh because it’s because I’m the only minority in the classroom, fine, thanks”. To be able to share that with people that have similar experiences and not feel like a token minority or weirdly studied by SIS people. Also, to be a real person and not having to worry about fitting in with the predominantly white campus. So, I think that is my goal here. SH: Who would you consider to be a role
model? Or who inspires you? What inspires you? KJ: Not to be cliché, but my mom is a role model to me. She runs her own business and she has for pretty much my whole life, so the whole concept of woman leading business has never foreign to me. People ask me “when did you did you discover feminism” I’m like “it was always kind of there because my mom ran her own business and that’s all I’ve really ever saw” We had people in our community who were scientists at Stanford and great moms and I would hang out with them. I think having a mom who is just such a strong woman who had to deal with a lot has just made her a really great role model and I think she is literally one of the wisest people I know. I think that’s why; not only her strength but her ability to be soft as well. Her compassion for people and her empathy have really helped me grow as a person and make it more about community rather than “how can I do this in the most efficient way possible” Its more of “how can I help people’s lives” SH: Favorite movie?
SH: Do you have any advice for the next generation of women of color at AU? KJ: I think it’s important that the next generation comes into AU with a sense of confidence and determination to go “why don’t we have this resource for WOC on campus?” and to actually do something about it. If I could give freshman me advice, I’d say that you can make a difference on campus! As cliche as that sounds, nothing is too big or impossible if you stick to your goal and continue to question AU because these 4 years are yours and you should be able to create the type of campus you want and to not be afraid of rocking the boat a little bit. Find each other, support each other, learn from each other, and above all, protect each other- we’re a small group on campus and it’s so important that we’re looking out for one another. Stand together in solidarity and build the community. Be brave, try to connect to resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance.
KJ: Mulan has always been a favorite and I think Stick It was a great movie. Those two are my favorites.
DIVIDED BY COLOR, UNITED BY FAMILY ALEXIS FOSTER
Artwork by Kirsty McKenzie
My sister and I grew up in the same household. We went to school together and borrowed–occasionally stole–each other’s clothes. Our relationship resembles a typical sisterhood, but that isn’t always clear from the outside. One distinct difference leads people to view us as unequal: She is brown-skinned and I am fairskinned. Colorism is not a new term or experience for minorities, especially the Black community. Black people have faced different treatment based on complexion since slavery. Light-skinned slaves worked in the house while dark-skinned slaves worked in the field. This division created the false narrative that light skin is superior to dark skin.
showcase Black families depict colorism inside the household. The light-skinned relatives are typically portrayed as the most attractive. “The Proud Family,” “The Fresh Prince of Belair,” and “My Wife and Kids” are just a few examples of sitcoms that show colorism’s effect on the family. Light-skinned characters such as Penny Proud and Hilary Banks are portrayed as popular, attractive and successful compared to their darker-skinned relatives. They receive favoritism from family and friends,, creating problems greater than a typical sibling rivalry.
Colorism is not an issue exclusive to America; it takes place in many cultures and communities of color around the world. Skin bleaching creams are used throughout Africa and Asia, where darker skin is often criticized both in and Colorism persists today and influences many outside of the family unit. Some women resort industries. Whether it’s film, fashion or music to specialized cosmetics to give them the aplight-skinned, Black women pearance of a lighter-skinned and men have traditionally woman and benefit from the “The consequences of received favorability. praise fair-skinned women colorism are not left on receive globally. Stereotypes in media influence society’s image of what the doorstep, but often There is no doubt that cultural a Black family should look invited directly into norms, established by society like. and families, influence one’s the home. ” identity. It is almost impossiMany are unaware of the ble to embrace one’s beauty diversity in skin tones in families of color. Having when there are so many external pressures that to constantly inform strangers that, yes, that is define what it means to be Black and beautiful. in fact my sister despite our drastically different complexions, becomes an inevitable chore. Colorism has created an internal battle within communities of color. Minorities must not only False perceptions lead to questioning, stares be equipped to deal with racial prejudice from and prejudice. American University sophomore outsiders, but also attempt to triumph a hierMorgan Downing has encountered prejudice to- archy of complexion within their own commuward her family, as well. Downing’s father’s skin nities. Women of color, such as myself, should is darker than her own, and she said she’s been not have to question how they compare to their stared at in public as a result.Her experience sisters, cousins or friends. The reality is, there differs with her light-skinned mother. “Colorism are no boundaries to beauty. Every shade of has made me question the way my family is melanin matters. viewed,” said Downing. The consequences of colorism are not left on the doorstep, but often invited directly into the home. There are instances of families, unconsciously or consciously, following societal stereotypes. Many television sitcoms that
“Rise” - Solange “Holy” - Jamila Woods “Bright” - Kehlani “Great One” - Jessie Reyez “Wait a Minute!” - Willow “Grown Woman” - Beyonce “Needed Me” - Rihanna “Wonder Woman” - LION BABE “Go Gina” - SZA “Put Your Records On” - Corinne Bailey Rae “VRY BLK” - Jamila Woods (ft. Noname) “Superwoman” - Alicia Keys “Losing” - H.E.R. “3:16 AM” - Jhene Aiko “Forever” - Noname
THE BLACKPRINTâ€™S FALL PLAYLIST NYLA JENNINGS
Artwork by Shastina Simpson
A YEAR IN REVIEW: WOMEN WHO MADE WAVES IN HIP-HOP OLIVIA SHALHOUP
Artwork by Elley Wagner
CARDI B Bronx, NY With her notorious chart-topping single Bodak Yellow, Cardi B made history this year. She is the first woman rapper to fill the number 1 slot of Billboard’s Top 200 without any features, following Lauryn Hill’s Do Wop (That Thing). Becalis Almanzar got her start on Love and Hip Hop, and gained the majority of her fame through her funny yet brutally honest instagram videos. She has been working on rap for years, and her hard work paid off by bringing her to the top of the charts, the stage at the BET Hip Hop Awards, and concerts venues across the country. Her relationship with Migo’s Offset has fans swooning, especially with the introduction of her raindrop shaped engagement ring. PRINCESS NOKIA Harlem, NY Not only is Princess Nokia a badass lyricist, but she is a de facto activist as well. She is known for not shying away from conversations about racism and sexism. She even directly engaged her audience when a fan said “show me your tits!”, by stopping the show to yell at him, “Are you being f*cking disrespectful?” and jumping of the stage to throw hands. Her iconic “women of color to the front” line during her tours along with her steadfast fundraising for Puerto Rico and other causes has given Princess Nokia a name in both our spotify playlists and our hearts. REMY MA Bronx, NY Remy’s name this year comes from her iconic diss track aimed at Nicki Minaj, shETHER. The New York rapper, who brought Cardi B on stage with her before the release of Bodak Yellow, won BET’s Best Female Rap Artist Award this year, and recited some of her most famous diss lines for some extra shots at Nicki during her acceptance speech. These were not her last, and it looks like there is talk of the New York rapper throwing even more shade her way in the future. 2018 looks promising for Remy, remember her name. KAMAIYAH Oakland, CA Kamaiyah, the Oakland rapper, made a name for herself in 2017. She was the only woman to make XXL’s 2017 Freshman Class, and her song “How Does It Feel” has become a bay area classic. Her first album, “A Good Night in The Ghetto,” put her on the map. She idolizes tomboy icons of the 90s, like Aaliyah and Missy Elliott. Kamaiyah took 2017 to prove that she can hang with the big names, and she doesn’t plan on stopping soon. KALI UCHIS Alexandria, VA Kali Uchis, a singer, songwriter, producer and fashion icon as well as a DMV native, rose to the top of our radar this year. Her hits “Tyrant and “Ridin Round” spent time on the DMV local radio stations, but soon became international classics. Kali Uchis is a Colombian-American artist whose fan base ranges around the world. She is also known for her out-of-the-box style, where she expresses herself with extravagant diamonds and bold neon pieces. RICO NASTY Prince George’s County, MD Born in New York but raised in Maryland, Rico is truly one of a kind. Complex called her Nicki Minaj meets DMX, which is instantly understood after hearing her sweet, yet gruff delivery. As a strong rapper, songwriter and single mother, Rico Nasty really does it all. This year her mixtape, “Tales of Tacobella,” blew up and, her second project “Sugar Trap 2” dropped in October. Rico performed at American University earlier this semester when she opened for A$AP Ferg.
Tell me of all the ways I look ‘more professional’ with this hair Tell me of all the occasions I should force it to be this way: the job interviews, the career fairs, the dates, graduation pictures, headshots for my professional LinkedIn profile Tell me that I am now even more white-passing with this hair, more palatable, appealing, conforming Tell me that I should not love my natural, wild curls because they are undomesticated and must be tamed, for they don’t look like your beauty It’s okay if you tell me those things Even my Mama would agree, because that’s how far we’ve been conditioned to internalize their white point of view of everything, even of ourselves But don’t you dare tell me it’s just hair It’s always that deep with whiteness
I AM NOT MY HAIR AYA ELAMROUSSI
Artwork by Alexis Arnold
MPUS AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM | ZENA ASSI 29
BORICUAS @ AU MARIAH ESPADA After Hurricane Maria swept through the Caribbean, Puerto Rico came to a standstill as millions waited for what became an inefficient response from the Trump administration. i Nonetheless, a group of women on campus took it upon themselves to come together and form a club in an effort to rebuild their country. Within only a few months of being an on-campus organization, Boricuas @ AU has managed to raise over $2,600 and receive recognition from Forbes Magazine. Luckily, The Blackprint got to speak with the clubâ€™s chapter leader, Daniela Martinez Berrios, for a closer look at the clubâ€™s initiative and what the future has in store for them.
Artwork by Caroline Casey
Mariah Espada: What is Boricuas at AU? Daniela Martínez Berrios: So Boricuas at AU is the Puerto Rican student association on American University’s campus. We are a pretty new organization. We decided to create the club because of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and how helpless we felt being far from home while at AU. We wanted to help anyway that we could… we wanted to bring the community together. The club has been an organic upbringing. It started as a Facebook group and now we are trying to get more formalized on campus, as our end goal is to make Puerto Ricans feel like they have a space on campus to come together and feel at home. ME: Why do you a feel like a club as such is needed on this campus? DMB: I feel like it is much needed, First of all, this is important for people that identify as boricua. Providing a space where we feel that community unity is necessary. We need a space to talk about what our country is facing. At the end of the day, PR is a colony of the United States. In predominantly white institutions we usually talk about the rights of America, rather than fully focusing on its wrongs as well. We need to highlight more of those political wrongs. Colonization and the subjugation of a people is a moral and political wrong. We need to bring about more awareness about the social, political and economic structural barriers that Puerto Rico is facing. ME: Who does the club welcome? DMB: We are welcoming anyone that wants to stand in solidarity with us as we try to rebuild Puerto Rico. We do encourage all latinx and POC people to get involved. But, once again, all are welcomed. ME: This Blackprint zine issue is all about female empowerment. Your club was mostly created by females and continues to be led by a majority of females. Can you tell us more about the female power within the club?
DMB: So I’m all about the #GRLPWR. It’s amazing to have other women that are empowering and are focused on getting better. Right now we are six Puerto Rican women that are invested as community leaders. We want to make a change for our country. It’s admirable to have women alongside me to look up and continue to grow uplift and grow with one another. I’m excited to see how our different perspectives guide our club in the future. ME: We saw that you guys were featured on a Forbes Magazine article. How was that? DMB: Wow, that was amazing. We did not expect it at all. Complete shock. Forbes? DANG! We are so happy that what we are doing got national attention. People see that we wanted to help in anyway that we can and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. We just want to help. ME: What is in store for the future of Boricuas@ AU? DMB: Long term, we want to see an organization that has powerful tides with AU administration, faculty and staff. We want to bring interesting, critical discussions on policy, race, socio-economic stances, etc. We want to find the similarities between Puerto Rico and the States and how we may not be that different after all. At the same time, we also want to highlight the differences and how Puerto Ricans are subject to second-class citizenship in comparison to those in the states. We want to educate those that may not even know that PR is a U.S. territory. We want to build on those discussions in this AU environment. You can donate towards Hurricane Maria relief efforts through the club’s official venmo account: @AUwithPR. 100% of the proceeds go to ‘Unidos por Puerto Rico’
"I MEAN SHE WAS BLACK, BUT SHE WAS TOTALLY HOT ENOUGH THAT I WOULD BANG" - LIBRARY
"I MEAN, YEAH, I GET NOMADIC PEOPLE DON'T PRODUCE TRASH, BUT LIKE YOU NEED TOOTHPASTE" -SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL SERVICE "YOU'RE ONE OF THE GOOD MUSLIMS" - LETTS HALL
"I MEAN, I JUST DON'T THINK THE [N-] WORD IS YOURS TO RECLAIM" - ANDERSON HALL "COLONIALISM IS BAD AND ALL BUT IT WORKED IN INDIA, SO?" -SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL SERVICE
THINGS OVER "SO IF A WHITE PERSON IS WALKING THROUGH A BLACK NEIGHBORHOOD, WOULD THEY GET STOPPED BY THE POLICE?" - SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS "HOW CAN SHE WEAR A HIJAB AND BE A FEMINIST?" - SPA
"WAIT, SO WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORD NEGRO?" - CONSTITUTION HALL “IS THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR RACIST?" - MARY GRAYDON CENTER "I HAVE TO PROVE MYSELF BECASUE I’M WHITE" - ANDERSON HALL
RHEARD AT AU "IF IT'S THE CLEAN VERSION I DON'T SAY IT, BUT IF THE RADIO PLAYS THE DIRTY VERSION I THINK IT’S OKAY TO SAY THE N WORD. I'M NOT GONNA LIE, I DO IT SOMETIMES." -MARY GRAYDON CENTER "I MEAN BLACK PEOPLE MUST HAVE AN EXTRA MUSCLE IN THEIR LEGS OR SOMETHING, HOW ELSE COULD THEY DOMINATE THE NBA AND NFL?" -SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS "ARE BANANAS REALLY RACIST?" - SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION "I NEVER REALLY KNOW WHAT THE CHINESE KIDS ARE SAYING, BUT THEY HAVE A LOT OF MONEY, SO IT’S FINE” - SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION
"IS BLACK LIVES MATTER A TERRORIST GROUP ?" - SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS "BRO, DON'T BE NERVOUS ABOUT YOUR JOB INTERVIEW, THEY'LL PROBABLY HIRE YOU ON THE SPOT. THAT'S HOW AFFIRMATIVE ACTION WORKS." -STARBUCKS "IS SHE LIKE A MEXICAN?" "I DON'T KNOW, SPEAK SPANISH TO HER OR SOMETHING?" -DAVENPORT COFFEE LOUNGE "I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THE MEDIA IS COVERING THE HUMAN ASPECT OF DACA ” - MEDIA PRODUCTION CENTER
HAIR-TIMACY: WOC & HAIR MARLIN RAMOS Hair politics is relevant to our everyday lives . Explicitly for some, but implicitly for all. Society’s distinct perspectives on hair differ depending on it’s texture, style and placement on our bodies. Such distinctions are largely rooted in racism, colorism, sexism and classism. Apart from keeping us warm, hair also serves an art form -- an intimate expression. Still, society deems some forms of hair expression taboo or less valuable; especially, the hair of ethnic women. Here are the stories of a few women who embrace their hair beauty differently:
MADISON ON BODY HAIR:
SHELBY ON BODY HAIR:
“I think you notice it at the beginning and you notice it spiritually, physically and mentally because I felt more femininity in having my natural body hair. Growing out my armpit hair was really sexy and sensual for me at the beginning. I just felt grown all the time. Now it’s not like that anymore, I don’t even notice it.”
“I wanted my [armpit] skin to be healthy. It’s like any other area of skin on your body and it needs moisture. So I posted a pic with a pit mask and people were commenting stuff like, that’s so gross, but it’s literally the opposite. This is hygienic. For me, it has just been a part of the holistic body cleansing process that I’m going through.”
TYLER ON LESS IS MORE: “After shaving my head, doing my hair is more of a ritual and I really enjoy it. It’s short so it’s not hard but I enjoy palm rolling it to give it some texture and using products. I like that process now, and it’s really meditative and I think I look good! This is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt with my face in like a really long time and I like my curls.”
TEANNA ON VERSATILITY: “[A wig is] like an on-the-go kind of thing. You can switch up the styles as much as you want. If you’re a person that gets tired of the same look, and you like to dye or straighten your hair, a wig is good! Because you’re doing all of that to hair that is not your own and keep your natural hair safe. It’s about longevity and wigs are becoming more and more realistic looking.”
REINA ON HAIR ACTIVISM: “When I had straight hair, people would tell me I looked more Spanish and less Black. Transitioning to my natural hair was a health growth for my hair but for me mentally too. There was a natural hair movement when the Black Panthers were around, and I think that’s all coming back now because we see that there’s no room to be complacent. “
AKUA ON PROTECTION: “Protective styles are about more than the aesthetics. Sometimes it is definitely about the aesthetics, like when you want a certain look. But I know for me it’s just the easiest way to take care of my hair and protect it from dryness. When I wake up, I don’t have to comb it and I don’t have to style it to make it look a certain way.”
20TH CENTURY AMERICAN WOMEN JENNA CALDWELL
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY | THE TALON 37
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY | THE TALON 39
#PLANBforAU JENNA CALDWELL Sex is normal. Whether filled with the intense and forbidden passion of the stay-at-home mom carrying on an affair with the pool boy down the street or the awkward shuffling of limbs causing that red-head girl from statistics to fall off the bed and wear three coats of foundation to cover the mark of someone still trying to master the rhythm﹣sex is normal. What isn’t, is the stigma attached to sex. For so long, we have shamed those who have sex too early or too late. We turn our noses up to the women in their thirties who still have boyfriends, because premarital sex is deemed only acceptable (if at all) in one’s early 20s. Worst of all, we make it inconceivably difficult for those wanting to prevent pregnancy as a result of sex.
The stigma that surrounds emergency contraception is something the campaign wants to dismantle. Women face barriers like cost, transor the fear of being “We want every stu- portation rejected from their local phardent to understand macy (it is legal for pharmacists refuse emergency contrathat, for many, emer- to ception).
gency contraception is an important step in taking control of one’s sexual health; it’s not something to be ashamed of”
In October 2017, the Trump administration expanded the rights to employers to deny women insurance coverage for contraception, issuing a guidance on religious freedom. That same month his administration backed a bill that would make it a crime to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Proven to be society’s second-class citizens, women have long had their bodies governed by men. The plight of women’s rights has been a long and tumultuous journey that American University students are refusing to sit idly by.
safe space where students get to take deeper dives into specific topics within reproductive rights and justice. The organization this semester launched #PlanBforAU, a campaign with the goal of ensuring that every AU student can access emergency contraception.
Students to End Abortion Stigma (S2EAS) is a campus club with the mission of fighting against the stigma and shame attached to abortion and contraception at AU. S2EAS offers a
“We want every student to understand that, for many, emergency contraception is an important step in taking control of one’s sexual health,” said S2EAS Founding President Becca Thimmesch. “It’s not something to be ashamed of.”
The campaign’s organizers also want to make sure every student on campus has access to accurate, inclusive and comprehensive information about when and how to take emergency contraception. The campaign currently has the support of the Wellness and Student Health Centers. S2EAS is working to bring emergency contraception on campus, but first it needs to find a supplier. Contracting third parties like Aramark, American University does not have the last say on the decision. Nonetheless, as for the future of S2EAS, Thimmesch says that they’re “cautiously hopeful to begin rolling this out next semester, and then to expand our educational programming next fall.”
Artwork by Caroline Casey
NION AMERICAN UNIVERSITY | THE TALON 43
BLACK WOMEN DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING DEVONTAE TORRIENTE Sports journalist Jemele Hill returned to hosting her show on ESPN after nearly two weeks of suspension. The company cited Hill’s political social media posts that violated company policy as the reason for her suspension. Hill had been absent on Twitter for about just as long as she had been suspended. When she tweeted about returning to hosting duties, it brought back memories of the controversy from when she tweeted on September 11: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
This behavior of publicly attacking and undermining the credibility of Black women isn’t solely reserved for our Racist-in-Chief. In the past month, at least 60 people have spoken out about Harvey Weinstein’s patterned history of sexual assault, one of them being actress, director and producer Lupita Nyong’o. Nyongo’o published an op-ed in the “New York Times” on Oct. 19 about Weinstein attempting to take advantage of her while she was a student at the Yale School of Drama.
“I had shelved my experience with Harvey far During the daily press briefing, Press Secretary in the recesses of my mind, joining in the conSarah Sanders called on ESPN, a private comspiracy of silence that has allowed this predpany, to fire her. ator to prowl for so many she wrote. She ex“Black women are the years” Now rewind to Oct. 4, when plained that now that others four U.S. soldiers, including conscience and back- have spoken out, she feels Sgt. La David T. Johnson, bone of our society, but obligated to do the same. were killed by enemy fire in Niger, according to the not necessarily because “I had shelved my experience Department of Defense. On with Harvey far in the recessthey chose to be. ” Tuesday, Oct. 18, Myeshia es of my mind, joining in the Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widconspiracy of silence that ow, received a phone call from Trump where has allowed this predator to prowl for so many he told Johnson, “I guess he knew what he was years” she wrote. She explained that now that signing up for but it still hurts,” according to others have spoken out, she feels obligated to Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, the Florida Demodo the same. crat who accompanied the widow during the phone call. However, of the 54 women who accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, Nyong’o is the only Trump later publicly denied Rep. Wilson’s one Weinstein disputed. Weinstein denied the claim, followed by his Chief of Staff John Kelly claims in a statement through a representataking the stage at the daily press briefing (see tive: “Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection a pattern?) to denounce Rep. Wilson’s comof the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant ments. Trump took to Twitter to further deactress and a major force for the industry,” a nounce the congresswoman. representative for Weinstein said in a
statement. “Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed.” Nyong’o is also the only Black woman to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct. To ignore the racial (read: racist) dynamics of Trump specifically targeting Black women and their critiques in order to discredit them, and then Weinstein doing the same with Nyong’o, would be to ignore the big, Black elephant in the room. Even in light of the onslaught of accusations that I have no doubt ring absolutely true, Nyong’o was singled out in an attempt for Weinstein to invalidate and dismiss her. In an article for ESSENCE, Midwin Charles :rites “Since taking office in January, Trump and his administration have made it a point to demean Black women on a public stage, especially when that woman challenges White male authority.” That goes for Trump just as much as it goes for Kelly, Weinstein and, by virtue of her position, Sanders. I’ve had the privilege of having incredible Black women in my life--my mother, aunt, grandmothers, and countless cousins--and I can assure you that nine times out of ten they are several steps ahead of everyone else. Black women are the conscience and backbone of our society, but not necessarily because they
chose to be. Rather, it’s because, as Malcolm X said, they are the most disrespected, unprotected and neglected people in America, which often means they are forced to bear the burden of everyone else’s abuse and incompetence, yet still provide solutions for the problems they had no hand in creating and actually actively worked to prevent (take 94% of them not voting for Trump for example). This is not particularly profound or new; Black women have been trying to tell us all along and it does not become any more valid through my reiteration. Whether that is opposing the outright bigotry and lack of basic human decency spewed by those in the White House or denouncing the disgusting behavior of people like Weinstein and the men who sat in silence as he ruined lives, the onus isn’t on them to fix any of it. The onus is on all of us to listen to and believe them the first time, especially as those they challenge attempt to undermine them. All in all, the lesson is quite simple: Black women are not here to clean up the mess anyone else made. Especially when they told us not to make it in the first place.
Artwork by Caroline Casey
For 1,802 days, I covered my hair. I wrapped my curls in all sorts of fabric—cotton, silk, satin-you name it. The hijab, the Islamic head veil, sat on my head for five years—until one day, I walked out of my house without it. My dad even drove me to get a haircut, my first professional one in years. My split ends were not easy to deal with, and neither was the decision to remove such an important part of my life.
ing the hijab because somewhere along those 1,802 days, my intentions behind my choice to wear it changed. Having realized hijab is part of Islamic culture, not the religion, I was no longer wearing it because I thought I was pleasing Allah (SWT). I kept wearing the hijab because I was afraid of what would people think of me if I removed it, especially the Muslim community-- where it’s understood that hijab is not to be removed once worn. Removing it is often negatively judged by the Muslim community and seen as a regression in faith.
From the ages of 16 to 21, I chose to cover my hair. As a Muslim, I grew up with the concept that hijab is an integral part of the religion. When I decided to wear it, my family tried “El nas hatoul eh?” is a saying in Arabic that to talk me out of it. “Wear it later. You’re too means “what will people say?” It rang in my young.” But I held on to the concept that we ears every time I wrapped my hijab when I are never guaranteed tomorrow, and I wanted started having doubts of continuing to wear it. to please Allah (SWT). When I wore the hijab, Once I realized how much the weight of peoI felt brave for being able to ple’s opinion of me infiltrated wear my Muslim identity in a “ I felt brave removing such a personal aspect in my country that isn’t too fond of the hijab, but it was a life, I knew I had reevaluate people like me. my character.
different kind of bravery than when I decided to wear it five years prior.”
However, deciding to take off the hijab was the harder decision. I spent about a year thinking about it. In that year, I thought about removing my hijab almost every day. It caused me a lot of anxiety on the daily. I sought advice, but no one risked swaying me either way. That was a decision I had to make on my own, and I knew that. Left with no other option, I had to get real with myself. HELLA real. I acknowledged the mind that made the decision to wear the hijab in 2011 was not the same as the mind that wrestled with the idea of removing it in 2016. (No, the presidential election had nothing to do with this struggle.) More importantly, I changed. I no longer saw Islam and Islamic culture as synonymous. I saw them as separate entities, and, to me, hijab belonged to the latter. Islam places colossal value on the intentions of one’s heart and actions. I didn’t keep wear-
Removing the hijab didn’t feel like a sin. I didn’t feel like I was disobeying Allah (SWT) in any way. Once again, I felt brave removing the hijab, but it was a different kind of bravery than when I decided to wear it five years prior. It was the kind of bravery that challenged me to choose me before choosing to allow other people to shape personal aspects of my life. There is tremendous power and freedom in not caring about what people think of you. Removing my hijab has taught me that my experience with removing the hijab is that my heart and mind are my my best consultants. Listen to them. They do not lie. The reality is, everyone I meet will judge me, but I get to decide how those judgments will impact me.
UNVEILING AYA ELAMROUSSI
Artwork by Lirio Sogno
SPECIAL THANKS TO...
EMEM OBOT ROSHNI SHARMA AUTUMN GRANT CAMILA CISNEROS GENAE HATCHER KIRTSEN JAY
LIRIO SOGNO CAROLINE CASEY ELLEY WAGNER KIRSTY MCKENZIE SHASTINA SIMPSON AUTUMN GOODMAN
DECEMBER 2017 • ISSUE 1