I met Kaltuma five years ago , you know you are going to be friends a long time when your first conversation is endless, we had similar interests in fashion, we both loved Medina (a dutch songstress) and hated the same people – PERFECT recipe!
We were also Architecture students and part of the very small percentage of females in our classes . There was always the low key pressure to do really great .. the opportunities were endless, we had such big dreams, fresh out of High school and ready to conquer the architectural world .
Several Years later , I a Marketing and PR Major and Kaltuma a Peace Building & Development Major and traveler of the world meet yet again after several years to simply connect , share stories. and Inspire to be Inspired .
When you see my face, what narrative of me have you created in your mind? How long did it take you to create it? The second you saw me, or after uncomfortable 5 min of small talk? Or after years of knowing me. I can share a couple of scenarios. various narratives people have created, expected me to be, thought I am or was.
Back home in Kenya. My identity is shaped by stereotypes formed by ethnic groups as a way divide and separate each other or understand each other. I’m not Somali enough for the Somalis. I’m not Kenyan yet to those who consider themselves true Kenyans.
In US, my identity is a black Muslim if I choose to wear my hijab. When I don’t have my hijab, I’m just black. Either way I’m at the bottom of their so called privilege totem pole.
In the countries I’ve visited in South East Asia, they said I’m Sri Lankan, not African. What that means, I am yet to find out. In England, they probably looked at me and decided I was a Somali refugee. I’m not a refugee.
In the Muslim communities I’ve been apart of, they expect a woman to act a certain way, to occupy a certain role that fits the narratives Imams have preached.
Like myself, you may have struggled through the years to understand who you are, which narrative is the Truth. You have wished to fit in, to stop these feelings of otherness. I’ve learned to embrace this outsider minority status. It took me years, but I’m here now. I’ve chosen to transcend all these labels and boxes as are too small for me to fit into. These misconceptions and stereotypes are now stories I collect and share with my family and close friends now.
Times have changed , our dreams bigger and better. There is no stopping us !
The Journey Continues !