Civil Unrest

I know I haven’t written in what seems to be like forever. This past weekend has been rough. Bombings and attacks that have murdered my people in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Sudan, and Myanmar. No one seems to be talking about it, as if their lives are lesser and not worth these million dollar for profit media outlets time to write and publish about.

The LONGEST civil war in the HISTORY of the world has been going on right under our noses and NO ONE is talking about it. Why is this? Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives because of this violence in Myanmar. The Western world refuses to address the conflict because it is Muslims who are being ethnically cleansed. This is a genocide by definition, yet no one is jumping in to save these innocent citizens.

Syria has been in destruction the past few years and no one is responding to make a difference. More than half of our elected officials are unaware of what is happening, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, didn’t even know what Aleppo was!!! This is getting outrageous. How can these lives being lost go ignored by people who have the power and capability to prevent so many losses?

I urge everyone who reads this to write letters and visit their local government and make a difference. Maybe we can even save lives.

You in the Sky

You stand above the city, staring out into the vast world

One step

People crawling like ants in a hurry to grab the last crumb

The clouds hang low in the dark sky

Two steps

Your cry for help drowned out by the buzzing of people

Shoving and pushing past each other

Oblivious

Three steps

You’re on the edge

You’re ready

Four steps //

You pray

La ilaha ila Allah, Muhamad arasulu Allah La howla walla quata ila bilah

Five steps

You watch the sky rise 

Six steps

You can taste the sky

Seven steps

You’re flying

The Beauty of Cutting

Part 1: Self Inflicted

The first time, you start out by barely grazing the skin

The next time, it gets deeper, and deeper

The last time, it reaches your heart

 

And finally, it begins beating again

 

Part 2: The Aftermath

You stand in the shower, letting the crimson roll down your arm, swallowed by the drain

The water is hotter than fire, burning the skin, the cut stinging

You welcome the pain
And finally, it feels again

Eight Things I’ll Tell My Baby Brother Before His 12th Birthday

An open letter to my baby brother. 

Dear Ahmed,

I hope this letter finds you well. It’s been bittersweet watching you grow into a wonderful little man. There are a few things I would like you to know in order to be successful in this world. 

  1. Be proud of who you are. There’s no one else out there that’s like you.
  2. Wear your name with honor. Contrary to popular belief, you were not named after Ackmed the Dead Terrorist. You were named after our grandfather who fought bravely in Sudan’s battle for independence. You’re a warrior.
  3. When someone asks you if you’re related to Osama bin Laden, say yes. Because we all trace back to Adam and Eve.
  4. When you’re approached by an officer, please cooperate. Yes, sir. No, sir. Of course, sir. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong. Because there’s a 33% chance you won’t come back home. And I want you to always come back.
  5. When you’re application is turned down because your name sounds too Arab or too Black or too foreign, do not be disappointed. It’s their loss. And when you find out that you are making 75 cents to every dollar your white coworker is making, do not let it go. You know your rights so fight for them.
  6. Dream. And dream big.
  7. Education is key in this life. Knowledge is what will give you the power needed to break through the stereotypes. Go to school, teach yourself about the different cultures in the world, be aware of your surroundings, know your history, where you came from, be active and know what is happening in this world. In your world. 
  8. Don’t stress mom and dad out too much. They’ve sacrificed so much to give us the best life. So, it’s okay if you can’t get that new lego set.

I’m frustrated that I these are things I have to tell you. But our world is messed up and this is the reality. I’m grateful you are still here so that I could have the opportunity to share my wisdom with you. 

Thank you for letting me do your makeup and nails. Thank you for being my personal bodyguard. Thank you for not telling mom. Thank you for being the best little big brother. I love you. I may not say it, but I do. 

Signed your big sis, 

Afnan.

Farewell Address

It seems as if a lot of my peers are doing these “goodbye” posts so I guess why not? Besides, there are a lot of things I have to thank for this blog. Before I begin, I would just like to point out that I will still be using this blog, and I will be publishing, although may not be as frequent as this last year.

I remember the day Dr. Ayers introduced the topic of blogs. He had us title our pages “Things Ayers told me to write down.” He instructed us to choose three topics of our liking. Mine were social justice, book reviews, and another two topics I can’t remember. We were then told to pick one and create subtopics. I chose social justice and my subtopics were women’s rights, Black rights, LGBT+ rights, and Muslims’ rights. Obviously, this is what I went with. I am very glad I did. This blog has forced me to research my facts and I have come across many interesting, yet angering things. This blog has also contributed to my decision of going into law and ensuring justice is served for every single American, poor or rich, black or white, man or woman.

The class itself was also an enjoyable environment. I wish my school had offered AP Lang race and social issues course this year so I could have taken it. This blog has also given me many contacts, from Huffington Posts Black Voices also. I am glad and saddened by my choice of the topic. I am glad because it is something that directly affects me and every single other person. Also, with the topic of social justice, I will never run out of things to write about. The saddening thing however, is the topic forces a very serious, and at times angry, tone of voice on my part. My readers probably all thing I am a stickler and uptight. I promise, I am not.

I will probably only blog over the summers since my school years are about to be hella busy. I am not going to lie though, not having a deadline and dealing with all of that stress is going to feel so good. It sure is bitter sweet. This blog will always mean so much. Speaking of meaning, I know I mentioned what Triple Threat means but I don’t think I described Living In the Never. Living in the Never is a symbolic saying for me. I live in a place where men and women are equal, as well as Blacks and Whites, poor and rich. I am being realistic here not pessimistic, this is something that will never happen. So, I call it Living in the Never.

Now that you know all of my deepest secret, friend, this is farewell and an “I will see you later.”

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

“Out of sight, out of mind,” an expression used since the 13th century, seems to be a perfect title for this blog post. The fact is, police are still killing, and Blacks are still victims of racial profiling. The police are still killing us Black folk, and the world has stopped paying attention. Nearly 300 people have been shot and killed by police so far this year, according to The Washington Post’s unofficial tally. You see, this has been a reoccurring theme in Black justice history. A problem is final brought to the front of the media, the media reports it for a few months, then they move on and report something that actually gets people to watch it. Really, Black lives do not matter here. No one seems to care that we are dying and being killed, because we are Black and don’t really matter at all to this world.

On Tuesday, I attended my first City Hall meeting. There, they read the proclamation of Law Day, a day that is dedicated to having the town’s youth realize the ability we have to make a change in our community for the bettering of all citizens involved. This day is also dedicated to remembering any historical actions where the youth were the cause of change. Last year, the theme was The March to Selma, where a congregation of thousands of African Americans came together to protest for their voting rights. This year, the theme was The Children’s Crusade of 1963. We watched a 40 minute documentary about The Children’s Crusade (which you can watch here—–https://vimeo.com/83236126). This film was so empowering I cannot even begin to explain. There were so many emotions that were brought out of me: sadness, anger, fear, happiness, and the most powering, pride. Pride for the kids who looked like me taking a stance for rights that now, are benefiting me. Rights that protect me.

After watching the film, we had a keynote speaker come and talk to us. The speaker was the NAACP President of the Nebraska-Iowa chapter, her name is Betty Andrews. Now, if you know me, then you should realize what a huge deal it is to me to have had this specific speaker. Andrews had us shout a repetition of empowering phrases.

Dream big, Dream bold!

Yolo, do it now!

You can do it!

And the most important, I CAME FOR CHANGE!

Side note: After hearing her speak, I approached her and said, “I want your job.” She laughed and we exchanged contact information, and she told me that I would be great for the role of the Youth NAACP president of the Iowa-Nebraska region, how exciting!

Betty C. AndrewsPhoto of Betty C. Andrews

Needless to say, Andrews got us pumped up and ready to go. So, we marched from the Public Library to the City Hall, escorted by police cars, and the mayor of our town, as well as multiple federal officials. 

Photo by KWWL of me and friends marching in town. My sign reads, “Kids are catalysts for change.” And my friend’s sign reads, “I came for change.” The march was fun, although we did receive plenty of dirty looks from annoyed drivers.

Anyway, so back to my point. After realizing how many innocent people have been murdered by police officers across the nation, I was pissed off at first. But, after yesterday, I have been enlightened. I got to speak with multiple police officers, and I heard their side of the story, I realized that the killings are not the officers’ faults. It is our system that trains officers to be more wary of Black faces than White faces. I mean, I already knew that but it was a lot easier to be angered at police officers as a whole entity rather than the individual training departments.

I also learned that my city’s police department is integrating a racial implicit bias test for trainees before they can enter the work force. This reassured me that my city was doing something about the recent racial profiling and police brutality. I can only say that I am proud and hope this will better my community. I went for change, and I found it.

Pricetag

On Monday, April 26, 2016, the city of Cleveland has announced its agreement to pay 6 million dollars for the death of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy who was shot and killed for holding a pellet gun.

New York City paid 5.9 million dollars for the death of Eric Garner.

Baltimore agreed to pay 6.4 million dollars for the death of Freddie Gray.

So, to many, Tamir Rice’s family got off very well with the settlement agreement given by Cleveland. Unfortunately, people have not recognized the meaning and symbolism behind this idea of “payment for murder.” Putting a price tag on a Black life is the same as saying that we are not worth much. 6 million dollars? That is not enough for what happened to either of these Black boys. They were young, and they had their entire lives ahead of them. They were supposed to have families, go to school, get jobs, have dreams. Are their dreams really only worth 6 million dollars?

The average funeral cost is in the tens of thousands of dollars. And the family’s grief is priceless. Police departments should not be able to kill someone, whether white or black, female or male, straight or homosexual, smart or stupid, no matter anything, and be able to get away with it by paying people off. What people are failing to realize is that this is a bad habit to get into, and it’s as if our nation has been practicing this routine over and over. A person is wrongfully shot, the family is paid a belittling amount of monetary value, and the shooter and his or her organization can sleep soundly at night. This is ridiculous.

I am not sure if anyone remembers, but over the summer, there was a white male shooter that went into a predominantly black church, prayed with the people of the church, and shortly after, shot and murdered nine African Americans in the same place that he had just prayed in with them. Just this past week, Dylann Roof, the shooter, who is facing two death penalty trials, is sentenced to death row.

In my opinion, the Justice Department is making a huge mistake in seeking his execution. I have never really had an opinion on whether or not the death penalty was moral, however in this case, I do not believe it give the lives lost justice. Roof should not get away with an easy death. He should be forced to face the consequences of his actions, the consequence of killing nine African Americans in cold blood. Rather than getting away with an easy death, Roof should be sentenced to life in prison where he can be taught a lesson that he should not mess with black people.

Those nine lives that we lost on that fateful day deserve justice.

Black Movies

This past weekend, I watched three films that were very enlightening and the main characters were African American. The first, titled Race, was a documentary-like film based on the life of Jesse Owens. He was conflicted with going to the Olympics of 1936 in Berlin. On one hand, if he went, then that would mean he condones the Nazis treatment of Negros and Jews. On the other hand, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Owens had been training his entire life for this one moment. In the end, Jesse Owens went to the Olympics and won 4 gold medals, breaking several world records. Hitler refused to congratulate Jesse Owens for his success. Also, the two Jews that were supposed to be on the relay team were told that they couldn’t participate. I guess if I was in Owens shoes, I would have gone to the Olympics, won the four medals, in a way that tells Nazi Germany that they will be stopped. Anyway, so that was one movie I watched, and enjoyed a lot. I’ll probably talk about the other two films in another blog if I have time. In the meantime, Roots is coming out this memorial day and I am stoked. The original series was my favorite TV show when I was in seventh and eighth grade. I am excited to see what this one will bring!

Jesse Owens (right) running in the 1936 Olympic Games

Marvel v DC

Growing up with a brother five years older than me, my childhood was filled with trading Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon cards, action figures, and superheroes. There was never a day that I didn’t touch a comic book when I was younger. At first, it was just to spite my brother. He did this funny thing when he was younger where he would throw a tantrum and his voice would get really high and squeaky. It would send me into fits of giggles. Then, I started stealing them because they were entrancing.

Now, grown me, loves watching Marvel and DC films (not so much of a reader of the books anymore, unfortunately). My older brother has grown out of his comic book, action figure phase. Fortunately for me, I have a younger brother who is obsessed. He has gotten me hooked on The Avengers, Iron Man, The Flash, Batman, Superman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and my recent, and all time favorite, DareDevil. Now, that is a list of a mixture of characters from DC and Marvel comics. The question, however, is which one is better?

Some argue that DC is better because it brings all the loners or “outsiders” together and make them matter in the story. For example, Superman is a symbol of the American dream, fighting the immigration debate, home versus heritage, and such. Batman, an orphan is brought up and becomes a civil liberator, rather than save his big multi million dollar company. On the other hand, Marvel could be seen as better because, if you think about it, Spiderman was also an outcast in school and a loser. So I mean….

In my opinion, I prefer Marvel over DC but Ta Nehisi Coates prefers DC over Marvel and he is a cool guy so I mean….I don’t really know. Also, I did a Twitter poll one time and I found that most of my followers preferred DC.

 

 

Save Humanity

Angelina Jolie’s speech is being talked about all over the internet. In her speech, she is addressing the audience of the UN Security Council, begging for everyone watching to help save refugees. After watching the video, I was intrigued to see the benefits of housing refugees in our country. Obviously, me being Muslim and all, I must be for refugee help. But here are some interesting facts that should be addressed when denying a human being access to human rights. 

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, developing countries host over 86% of the world’s refugees. The world’s poorest countries are hosting more refugees than the world’s wealthiest countries. This is because developed countries are not prioritizing the humanitarian needs of refugees. As countries are becoming more stable, they are seeing a decrease in citizens under the age of 18 as the country transitions into stage 5 of population demographic mode.

A study released by a German Think Tank reports that Germany’s birthrate is the lowest in the world with 8.2 babies born each year per 1,000 persons. More ominously, the proportion of working-age residents in Europe’s economy is on track to decline from 64% to 54% of the population within the next 15 years, meaning fewer workers contributing to social security benefits such as pensions and health care. The demographic model of these countries is shaped like a V. Prioritizing the humanitarian needs of refugees will bring economic benefits to these developed countries because as the UN Refugee Agency states, last year, 51% of refugees were under 18 years old. This is the highest figure for child refugees in more than a decade. The LA Times states that admitting these young asylum seekers in Europe could offset the aging population.

Two World Bank economists Massimiliano Cali and Samia Sekkarie have demonstrated that the economy in Lebanon, where over a million Syrians have fled, is currently experiencing its fastest economic growth rates for five years, with forecast growth of 2.5 percent. They say that refugees from the neighboring country are an important source of demand for local services and that they are pumping their own savings and the international aid money they have received into the Lebanese economy. The World Bank noticed similarly positive effects on the Tanzanian economy in the 1990s, after people fled there from civil wars in Rwanda and Burundi. Economic benefits resulting from prioritizing the humanitarian needs of refugees will save more lives because of the improvement of the quality of life not only for refugees but also for the nation’s citizens.

In a press conference, Adrian Edwards, a United Nation’s spokesperson stated that without the ability to work, many refugees struggle to make a living. Lack of livelihood opportunities or access to the formal labour market was cited as a problem by refugees in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. The lack of access to legal work leads refugees, desperate to provide for themselves, to resort to informal employment – risking exploitation, working in unsafe conditions or having payment withheld by unscrupulous employers. If caught working illegally, some refugees face sanctions, for example in Jordan being returned to a camp. The UN Refugee Agency reports that the current inter-agency Syrian regional refugee and resilience (3RP) plan for 2015 is only 41% funded, which has meant cuts in food aid for thousands of refugees, and those that get it having to survive on US$0.45-0.50 a day. This means that refugees needs are not being prioritized currently which forces them to resort to exploitation. By prioritizing the humanitarian needs of these refugees, these refugees will not have to face exploitation in their work, nor will they have to do any illegal labor that could harm them and others around. Having a decrease in exploitation saves lives, not only refugee lives but also the nation’s citizens’ lives.

If you take none of this, then realize that each country in the world has a moral obligation to help these refugees. No country should have to override their carrying capacity because the richest countries in the world are too busy sticking their noses up. If you don’t buy the moral obligation, then realize how beneficial it is to take in refugees. The good outweighs the bad in this case every time. Not only are there economic benefits for all parties involved, but also, there would be a decrease in exploitation.

We all have a moral obligation to save these human beings. By saving the refugees around the world, we are saving humanity.