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@the.sisters.project See full size profile   Combatting negative stereotypes of Muslim women by showcasing the diverse & inspirational stories of them Concept, photos & words by @aliayphotography

1 week ago

“I try to start every day like it is full of promise and new. I try hard to look for positivity and love in every situation but admit it’s sometimes challenging- but I know my gut always wants me to start from a place of positivity.” ▫️ Isha is 45 and a human rights lawyer, an avid volunteer, and a mother of three girls living in Winnipeg, MB. She is the Executive Director and senior counsel with The Manitoba Human Rights Commission, an independent agency of the Government of Manitoba.  She also volunteers a lot in her community and is currently the incoming Chairperson of United Way Winnipeg. She told me she loves being a part of “United Way Winnipeg because it allows [her] to connect to community organizations doing work to improve the lives of others in [her] city.” When I asked Isha what her proudest accomplishment is she told me, “I feel privileged to be able to advocate for and work with people who have experienced discrimination based on their sex, ancestry, disability, or gender identity for example. I feel honoured when they trust me to be their voice and tell their story. I feel immensely proud when I can be part of remedying some wrong that has been done to them or better yet, when I have been part of changing the way others think about them or the systems that may work against them.” What’s most important to Isha is that “we acknowledge that every person is born with worth and dignity. Ensuring that people are treated with equality has always been something that drives me. It seems that there is an undercurrent of prejudice running amongst the educated and seemingly enlightened, and it is almost more dangerous than the hate being spewed by the fearful and ignorant- because it’s not being called out.  It is important to me that we do something about it.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

1 month ago

“When I first moved from Toronto, an extremely diverse city, to the Prairies, I used to avoid my culture at all cost; food, clothes, activities. It was all so embarrassing to me but now I feel like I’m the spokesperson for Pakistan and its undying culture.” ▫️ Anum is 22 and works at The Global Gathering Place, a Saskatoon based settlement agency for immigrants and refugees, and will be pursuing the field of Physiotherapy in the near future. When she is not there, she loves improving her home decor skills and doing photography, especially in Saskatoon’s canola fields. She told me she likes the fields because “of how calming it is; it makes me feel closer to my roots. I’m from a small town/village in Pakistan and this is as close as I can get to home.” Anum’s own favourite quality is that she can easily make people laugh and feel comfortable. When I asked Anum what her proudest achievement was she told me, “my parents immigrated to Canada and left behind their families and their careers just so my siblings and I could obtain a university education, and Alhamdulillah thanks to them and God, three of us siblings have completed our first undergrad degrees, some working towards their second degrees and the little one has just begun hers! Seeing the glow of pride in my parents’ faces was worth all the nights stuDYING in the library.” Anum told me a quote that inspires her life is, “The solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems. True happiness occurs when you find problems you enjoy.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

1 month ago

“Because I’m Indigenous, I feel wherever I go in Canada that I am accepted.  If not willfully, then forcefully lol. Because of my heritage, I get 2 stereotypes wherever being an addict Indian and a terrorist Muslim. So, people may see me as such. But in Edmonton I don’t feel that.” ▫️ Fatima is 29, is a kindergarten teacher at an Islamic school, and is raising two young, beautiful children. She is pictured in the MCE Mosque in Edmonton because “it’s a place I’ve been coming to since I became a Muslim in 2008. I’ve seen it grow. I’ve met lifelong friends who now have kids that grew up with mine. I go for talks and events and dinners. I clean it, I tidy, I turn lights off and on, put the Qurans away. I help with open houses. It’s a home for me. I have a special place for it.” To Fatima, family is everything. She said, “When you have kids, that’s all you live for. You do everything to protect them. You do everything to make them happy. With a spouse, it’s the same. They are your world. Everyone who doesn’t see them like you see them is crazy.” She loves being creative, especially “writing, painting, colouring, drawing, doing henna, playing around with hairstyles on [her] girls’ hair and nieces.” She also is a polygot who speaks English, Cree (her native language), Arabic and some Moroccan. She said, “Assalamu alaykom. Tansi. Bghiti chi hajja? Bon chance! (In no particular order)” Her own favourite quality is her empathy. She told me, “I always try to put myself in other people situations, no matter how difficult it my be. What if this was me? What would I do? How would I feel? What would comfort me? What would make things worse?” Her proudest achievement is completing the fifth pillar of Islam, Hajj.

1 month ago

“I know I can’t save the world but if I can make it a tiny bit better for a few people during my passage here that would be a great accomplishment.” ▫️ Seynabou is 42 and is a Senior Project Management Consultant specialized in health informatics. She dedicates much of her time to volunteering; for the past 10 years she has volunteered in the Downtown Eastside (where she is pictured), an area of Vancouver known for high levels of drug use, poverty, and homelessness. She told me, “initially I was involved in a monthly lunch program but in the last 4 years I have been mainly focused on working with the Downton Eastside Neighborhood House (DTESNH) as a board member and fundraising committee member. Since 2015, we have also been organizing an annual iftaar dinner at the DTESNH during Ramadan. It started as a collaboration with a group of Muslim friends and has now morphed into a partnership with the Vancouver Madinah youth group in the last 2 years.” Seynabou has also for the past 8 years been volunteering for various initiatives related to the fight against cancer. When I asked Seynabou what her own favourite quality is she told me, “I am a good planner. It all started since I was about 10 years old and decided to plan my grandparents’ visit. I had drawn an airplane with the words ’They are arriving’ as the first item of the schedule.” When Seynabou is not making an impact to the Vancouver community through her work or volunteering, she loves finding time in her schedule to be exposed to different cultures and sceneries through travel. Her favorite place to find herself is near the water for how it makes her feel soothed and reinvigorated at the same time. Her proudest achievement is “living [her] life with integrity and dignity because these are important values [her] parents and grandparents instilled in [her].”

3 months ago

“Advancing gender equality is most important to me. I believe more attention and effort needs to be made to ensure we are supporting and uplifting women and girls both domestically and internationally. There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be done to address factors like conflict and war, poverty, access to health care and equal opportunity which continue to disadvantage women and girls from succeeding. As a woman of the South-Asian diaspora, advocating for gender equality means talking about power and privilege, challenging gender and cultural norms and understanding the different intersections of my identity in shaping my lived experience.” ▫️ Laveza is 25 and a Member Outreach & Government Relations Coordinator at the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation. Her work allows her “to engage civil society, private sector, and multiple levels of government to work collectively to advance sustainable development in Alberta, Canada and internationally.” Her proudest achievement is that she was “selected to attend and participate as an official Canadian delegate for the High-level Political Forum at the United Nations.” She continued, “this is my proudest accomplishment because this opportunity is monumental to the unfolding of my career. I’ve dreamt of the moment in which I would stand within the United Nations feeling a sense of pride of how far I’ve come while being able to envision the years that await me.” Laveza’s hobbies include reading books, particularly by women of colour and from different diasporas, and finding herself in new environments that will offer her a new perspective. The one thing Laveza knows for sure is that “there is immense power in people mobilizing for causes/issues they are passionate about and their ability to transpire change.” She hopes that she is perceived as a leader, an advocate, and an ally. ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

3 months ago

“While on the job, I would often be asked the common question of “so, where are you from”? This has always been a question, that, to me as a visible minority is quite exclusionary. I hate generalizations, but this unfortunately means some people still perceived Muslims as the “other”. I wear many hats, but at the end of the day I’m Canadian… and I look forward to the day when being a Muslim Canadian doesn’t immediately mean you’re from a different place.” ▫️ Alia is 28 and is an Internal Medicine Resident Physician and will soon enter her Respirology (lung specialist) fellowship program. One of the most challenging experiences of her life was getting into medical school. Alia sets her ambitions high, so for her, “nothing is ever promised when working hard towards your goals.” Clearly, she did get into medical school, and because of that, her proudest achievement is “succeeding in having the opportunity to practice medicine and help people and their families as they tackle medical hardships.” What’s most important to Alia is her family “because they really do center me and provide me with an undying sense of fulfillment and perspective.” When I asked her how she would like to be perceived she told me, “I honestly hope, as a professional, excellent at her job, who can hopefully inspire other girls who look like her that hard work pays off.” Alia’s biggest hope is “on a macro level, that people rid themselves of biases and get to know and love each other.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

3 months ago

"'If you have a sapling in your hand and the End of Times arrives upon you – continue planting it." This saying, attributed to the Prophet of Islam, is one that inspires me greatly. This statement begs the question, why go to all the effort for a tree that will not bear fruit in that moment when the world is ending? This hadith teaches that no matter what the circumstances may be, or how futile your efforts may seem, it is one's responsibility to continue contributing." ▫️ Naz is 38 and is a Client Operations Manager at Alberta Pensions Services. When I asked her what her proudest achievement she told me, “perhaps it’s my ambitious nature or perhaps it’s the influence of my name (Naz is a Farsi word meaning Proud), but I have always felt propelled to make my parents ‘proud’ of me. There are always wins and gains along the way, but it is the relationships that exist in our lives that are the most meaningful. I think I have beautiful and profound relationships in my life with the Divine, with friends, family, and coworkers, and I think that’s ultimately what life comes down to – the relationships you have with others.” When I asked Naz what’s most important to her she told me, “I feel quite passionately about improving relations between Muslims and Judaism & Christianity. The Abrahamic faiths have so much in common, and unfortunately there is so much Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism on both sides as a result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” Her necklace pictured actually spells Zohara’ in Hebrew gifted to her by a dear spiritual friend who is an Orthodox Rabbi residing in Israel. Naz commented, “Zohara is equivalent to the Muslim ‘Zahra’ which means brilliant, shining, light. I feel compelled to live up to that namesake now too!”Naz’s biggest hope is that “the global Ummah can once again rise with dignity and hearts filled with serving the Divine and humanity, hope that there can be peace in the Holy Land, hope that oppression and injustice will one day cease in Muslim lands.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

3 months ago

“As a child, I would escape a lot by reading constantly. It is when I am in the world of wonder and imagination that is reading that I feel most at home. Similarly, I was also a painter and musician for years and I sometimes still spend time on the palette and canvas. Exploring through a physical medium is meditative and a kind of irreplaceable solitude where you can just be in your body with yourself as you are…It is in the process itself that I find myself.” ▫️ Nakita is 32, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Religious and Socio-Political Studies and is the Owner and Editor-in-Chief of The Drawing Board which is a writing company. She is also a mother of two, and an extremely dedicated and notable community organizer who volunteers with many grassroots groups in Edmonton, AB. Her community work is born out of the one thing she knows for sure which is that “every person is a person of intrinsic worth and dignity.” Nakita continued to say, “my life is dedicated to recognizing and honouring that in everyone I meet. Everything I do in community is simply a variation of that God-given truth.” Her greatest passion is writing, especially prose and non-fiction, which she loves to do when she is not doing academic work or writing for her research and business. When I asked Nakita what her proudest achievement is she told me, “Surviving multiple childhood and early adulthood traumas. It really is a testament to my adopted faith and practice of Islam and to those around me who helped me build traits of resiliency that I am still around.” She told me her own favourite qualities are the coping mechanisms she developed to deal with her traumas. She continued to say, “particularly my ability to critique. It is a double-edged sword: if left unchecked, one can become hypercritical, bordering on perfectionism. However, I have done a lot of work in listening to my critical voice and in channeling it into the areas where it shines best: academic analysis, community building, and addressing social issues.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

4 months ago

“Arundhati Roy said, ‘There's really no such thing as the 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.’” ▫️ Tasnim is 23 and is a registered social worker, the premier’s receptionist (speaking directly to the publics concerns), and is a community disability worker. She has worked many roles under the NDP government as a constituency assistant, a ministerial intern at Ministry of Children’s Services, and con-currently completing her final practicum at Ministry of Community Social Services. Somehow, she also finds time to volunteer with Islamic Relief on multiple initiatives and fundraisers.  She told me she is “honoured to serve people every day and to be a part of discussions that have an influence on how our society is shaped.” What’s most important to Tasnim is relationships. She continued to say, “The relationship with myself, with Allah swt, with my family, my friends, the folks I cross in the street, the voices I connect with on the phone, my global family, the items I purchase, the colonized land I benefit off, the voting decisions I make… Everything is related, and each of these connections is what ultimately is the most important to me.” Tasnim told me the one thing she knows for sure is that “there are mass levels of systemic injustices that are ongoing and very real, in the land we occupy and all over the globe. Dialogue and raising awareness is one part of liberation-based change but we also need to be about it. Do not compromise your values and the revolution you’re undeniably a part of no matter. My justice cannot be at the cost of another oppressed group. Educate yourself, raise your consciousness (what does being anti-oppressive, anti-capitalist, intersectional-feminist mean to you?) then be ready to bring receipts and organize.” When I asked Tasnim what her greatest challenge is she told me, “every intersection of my identity poses as a challenge - being a woman, a person of color, a Muslim, having invisible disabilities, etc. Fighting institutions and ideologies is not easy...” 👇CONTINUED IN COMMENTS👇

4 months ago

“The older I get the less I know anything is for sure” ▫️ Wedad is 29 and owns and designs her own clothing line, Afflatus Hijab, based out of Edmonton, AB. Her biggest hope is for her business to be seen and worn widely and be as successful as possible. One moment that exemplifies this goal was when she showcased her line at Maarkah New York Fashion Week. It was her proudest moment because “it was something that was completely out of my comfort zone, it totally scared me to do it. But I did it and was able to accomplish a long-life goal.” When she is not dedicated to growing her business, she is very family oriented, noting that she loves simply hanging out with her family, husband, and friends. When I asked Wedad what’s most important to her she told me, “to treat people with respect.” She continued to say, “often times when people start doing good in their business or start receiving attention they become self-absorbed and lose the humbleness. My goal for my life is to just treat people with respect and to never think you are better than anyone else.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

4 months ago

“Feeling the water with my feet, listening to the water move, and the constant flow of water reminds me that EVERYTHING will pass. And all with grace and beauty, the river reminds me of who I am.” ▫️ Souad Farag is 28 and a financial professional working as an Investment Development Director. What’s most important to Souad is creating positive energy for herself and others, to make life easier, and to connect people. This value can be seen in her avid volunteerism since she was in her youth. She co-founded a nonprofit called “GirlzNiteOut” with her sister when she was 21, an empowerment program dedicated to providing a safe and fun environment for young women to be themselves and grow. 7 years after the organization was founded, her proudest accomplishment is the sisterhood bonds she helped create and how parents tell her that, “because of the programs, their daughter(s) are better people; more focused, driven, caring, the women they are is in great part due to the programs they attended that helped shaped them as they discovered who they are and are capable of being.” Now “GirlzNiteOut” has developed into “HopeFemmeYYC” (Hope stands for: Harmony. Ownership. Passion. Empower.) It’s a movement that empowers women to take ownership and embody their passions harmoniously. When she is not working at her day job, attending to her role as executive director of HopeFemmeYYC, sitting on advisory boards, mentoring young people, or volunteering elsewhere, Souad loves being outdoors, reading, or finding a good adrenaline rush from sports or experiences. Souad told me what inspires her and motivates her the most is love. She continued, “Love yourself, love your creator, love nature, love others, love. Love love. Love being kind, respectful, punctual.” She hopes to be perceived as someone “who loves others, without condition.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

4 months ago

“My dad is a mechanical engineer, but he had to work as a pizza delivery man during his first years in Canada. My mom is a doctor, but she had to work as a cashier in Tim Hortons. My parents worked so hard to build a life for me and my siblings here; that’s put a lot of pressure on my siblings and myself to succeed and make our parents proud. I’ve been writing diary entries since I was in grade six; I have a decade worth of journals. In the diaries, I always reminded myself of my goal of making my parents proud. I would come home exhausted from school and clean the entire house for my mom. I would shovel the snow outside with my brothers and dad. Being Pakistani, the importance of family is greatly emphasized. There’s no such thing as “family life” in Pakistani culture; your family is your life.” ▫️ Hafsah is 19, a nursing student at the University of Calgary, a social media ambassador for her school, a behavioural aide for a child with autism, and a henna artist. She also volunteers as a photojournalist with “Humans of UCalgary” (inspired by Humans of New York.) She told me “there is an intrinsic need for humans to feel valued and empowered, especially as part of a community, and that’s what I aim to do with the work I do.” When she is not doing all of the above, she loves finding herself alone in a park, watching the birds fly by and the people walk past. It’s the simple things that make her the happiest. When I asked Hafsah what her proudest achievement is she told me, “running for Vice President in high school. I struggled with insecurity for years as a South Asian Muslim. I hid my brown-stained skin, my lunch that smelled like curry, and my arms that were hairer than my peers. I went from hiding my face in hallways to having it plastered on posters in the hallways. This was the first time I truly I felt confident in my identity. It was my first step in presenting myself to the world, in a sense.” ❗️👇CONTINUED IN COMMENTS 👇❗️

5 months ago

“I want to show that I can conquer the world if I want to. My hijab or low vision won’t stop me from doing what I love and want.” ▫️ Komal is 26 and a graphic designer working in Calgary’s Muslim community. When I asked Komal what she is most proud of she told me “it’s the small things that matter.” She listed examples of feeling pride when her design work helps her local community, or after helping organize fundraising events, most notably when she raised funds for the Orphan Sponsorship Program in partnership with Islamic Relief. When Komal is not helping her community, she loves to dive deep into a book, admitting she never leaves the house without her e-reader. Her own favourite quality is her compassion and ability to love. Komal’s biggest hope (and wish) is that one day she’ll be able to drive, despite her low vision. In spite of Komal’s positive energy, when I asked her what her biggest challenge has been, she admitted “every day is a challenge.” When I asked her if she could explain further she listed: “The challenge to be a good Muslim every day. The challenge to go to work and give your best while having the best intentions. The challenge of trying to be a good human being and making sure that no one is hurt because of your words or actions. From morning till midnight, we all face countless challenges. They may be different for different people. They may be big or small, but they are challenges nonetheless and require some sort of courage to deal with.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

5 months ago

“I consider myself a lifelong learner in every sense and recognize that all great minds before me who I’ve admired did not stop educating themselves once their formal degrees were complete.” ▫️ Mim is 28 and a resident physician in psychiatry at the University of Calgary. She is pictured at Foothills Hospital which serves as the backdrop of her education for the 5 years she trains to become a psychiatrist. Her proudest achievement is getting into medical school because “it was the culmination of a lot of things: finding a career path that fit perfectly, fulfilling the immigrant parents’ dream; achieving the privileged status of “doctor”; and suddenly feeling liberated to now do all the other things I wanted to in life.” Mim has many talents and passions in life, but her favourite quality about herself is her moral compass. She told me, “I feel empowered by my faith and my upbringing to remember that doing what’s right doesn’t change depending on which way the wind is blowing in society’s sense of morality that day. Treating people with respect, not taking advantage of others, making the right decision whether anyone is watching or not—those principles remind me that I have grown to become a young woman with a sense of integrity” What’s most important to Mim is to do things with passion, and that she surrounds herself with people who feel the same way. She continued, “I feel like anytime anyone feels obligated to do something, or does it out of some kind of expectation, the results are inevitably dry. Anytime I’ve done things for the right reasons—because I truly believed in a cause—it’s been infinitely more rewarding.” Mim’s biggest hope is “to inspire people to be their authentic selves and feel comfortable in their own skin as they’re pursuing their passions. I think unfortunately a lot of folks, especially in the Muslim community, have had to quiet down a lot of their dreams and hobbies because they’re not conventionally fruitful or lucrative. Yet I’ve seen time and time again that when my peers have dug deep inside to create something they want to, the outcome has been outstanding.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

5 months ago

“My biggest hope is for young people to be more empowered in all communities. Their empowerment is for the betterment of the future.” ▫️ Kohawar is 26, works for Islamic Relief Canada as their Calgary Coordinator, and works in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. She also actively volunteers at community events and various local and international initiatives. Her proudest accomplishment is “being able to travel to the Rohingya camps and being able to bring awareness on the issues that some forget about when it is not highlighted in mainstream media.” She continued, “I was really able to see the privilege that I have and from there I can see what I wish to do with that privilege. As a young person, we sometimes forget how lucky we are and being able to experience that not only broke my heart but gave me more of a purpose in life.” Kohawar’s favourite quality is her empathy, she continued “I think the world is lacking empathy.” One thing she knows for sure is that “love is an innate tendency that we all have. I think we live in a world where there is a lot of negativity but if we return to our innate tendencies, the world would be a better place.” When I asked Kohawar what her most challenging experience has been she told me, “my disconnect with my culture for a significant portion of my life. I knew the main things, but when I went back to Pakistan, I realized that I was disconnected in the sense where I couldn’t speak the language. I questioned at a young age why I was running away from who I was. I knew my friends wouldn’t accept that aspect of me, so I hid my culture and would not have friends over.” Kohawar told me a pivotal moment for her was when she embraced her culture and identity because that’s what made her who she is today. She continued, “it’s what I wish for everyone. Be who you are and never look back. It’s what Canadian identity is about.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

5 months ago

“Creating and expressing ourselves is a fundamental aspect of being. It is also an opportunity to learn about ourselves and heal some of our inner wounds. “God will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves”. We must recondition ourselves to love the process and to express ourselves in healthy and effective ways, so we can better understand one another. All of the battles and issues we face begin and end with us. If we can conquer ourselves, we have won the battle. Everything around us is chaos but within art, I find peace.” ▫️ Nada is a self-employed artist and painting instructor. She is pictured in her studio, her safe space, where she can be “creative and messy,” and “where the magic happens.” She has recently transitioned into pursuing her passion full-time in Calgary, AB, leaving her background in Toronto’s corporate sector, and her success in Bahrain’s restaurant business behind. Her proudest achievement is when she moved her whole life from Toronto across the world to Bahrain where she knew almost no one. She added, “I am proud of myself to taking a risk and an opportunity and put myself way out of my comfort zone. Before moving to Bahrain, I gave away the majority of my worldly possessions and every single thing I owned fit in 5-6 boxes. It felt amazing to detach from everything I had been holding on to. I have since adopted a much more minimalist lifestyle that I am also deeply proud of in a world filled with excessive consumerism and almost innate need for things with no limit in sight.” Besides painting which has been a big part of her life since she was a teenager, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, baking, beauty and makeup, reading and listening to motivational talks, and spending time with her family, husband, and friends in intimate settings. Her favourite quality about herself is her “ability to love so deeply with ease. I have a really big heart and can connect easily with people.” What’s most important to Nada is “living a life of service and significance.” ▫️ See more of Nada’s work here: @expressionbynada #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

5 months ago

“My biggest hope is to have a community based social safety net for refugees and low-incoming newcomers so no one is left behind. I also hope to have a society without bigotry and hatred especially towards Muslims and other minorities.” ▫️ Saima is 39, a community activist, community organizer, and does community outreach. Her proudest achievement is, “helping thousands of Syrian newcomers settle in Canada.” She continued, “I was able to mobilize hundreds of Calgarians to welcome the refugees warmly upon arrival with smiles, stuffies, chocolates, and flowers. Our group helped people start up their life with housing, food hampers, clothing, furniture, and the necessities of life. We supported the newcomers with translating and practicing English and find their way around town. We enrich their lives by offering our friendship and helping them learn their new surroundings by taking them to the zoo, to the mountains, by reading to their kids and inviting them over to share meals. We help them find employment and launch their businesses. In turn they enrich our lives by hosting us in their home for food and conversations about ways how they can become nation builders.” Unsurprisingly she told me her favourite place to find herself is “in a Syrian newcomer family’s living room during the late evening listening to stories about their lives.” When I asked Saima what a fun fact about herself is she told me, “I love to travel to far-away places alone especially those countries with a long history of conflict. Not sure if that is fun but I get a high from visiting places that you read about on the news.” ▫️ #thesistersprojectgoesacrosscanada

6 months ago

“There is a lot of validation that comes from the media. I have always felt like people who looked like me were underrepresented and it was evident in the characters I chose to write about in stories as a child or in things I used to illustrate. My most challenging experience is forever ongoing as I tried and am still trying to find value and worth in myself and the stories that come with being a person who looks like me. Growing up Black is hard. People do not always appreciate Blackness and sometimes blatantly dismiss you because of this. It happens everywhere from airports to mosques, from grocery stores to parks. Well, combine that with the steady struggles of being Muslim and that creates a very straining experience. There is lots of patience that goes into being Black and Muslim in a society and world like this.” ▫️ Uma is 25, a teacher, and a poet. She told me she is proud to be a “teacher and poet in Calgary’s Islamic community. As a member of the community, I feel like the representation that comes along with being a Black Muslim woman in the classroom or on stage is validating to many other children who share aspects of my identity.” What’s most important to Uma is respect as it is “free to give and free to accept so it costs no one anything. I have seen how people disrespect one another and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially when children are the ones being disrespected. For that reason, I make a conscious effort to respect people’s space, time, preferences, and overall personhood.” Her own favourite quality is “how soft I am. I cry a lot because I feel a lot and that is one of my favourite things about myself. My sensitivity makes me the kind of teacher and the kind of poet that I am and I think I am very lucky to have the softness that I possess.” When I asked Uma what her proudest accomplishment is she told me “becoming the woman that I am.” She continued, “I was raised by my parents to be curious and bewildered as often as possible so maintaining a sense of wonder in my adulthood is probably my greatest accomplishment. CONTINUED IN COMMENTS👇