I couldn’t believe what had happened! It was just another ordinary day as I stood in line at the cafeteria. I was in middle school, 7th grade to be exact, eager to get my lunch and join my friends Rachel, Jessica and Jawad. I stood a few students away from grabbing my lunch tray when all of a sudden my head is yanked so hard from behind I could feel myself choking from the pin of my hijab.
Somebody choked me!
Somebody attempted to rip my hijab off my head and as a result choked me!
I turn around in tears gasping for air to only come face to face with a girl I never met before.
I see my brother running my way as I prepare to go into defense mode.
Still shook and confused from what happened, all I could get myself to do is roll up my sleeves to throw a punch at her.
He holds me back and in a stern yet calm voice says, don’t do it. You don’t want to get into trouble. It’s not worth it.
Raging with anger, I squirm and do my best to resist.
He didn’t understand.
No one understood.
I’m the only girl in the entire middle school wearing a headscarf 4 years post the September 11th tragedy. I’m an automatic target in a school of over 400 students to be called a terrorist, the daughter of Sadam Hussein, the niece of Osama Bin Laden.
“There’s nothing worse than targeting an innocent child for being who they were raised to be.”
I didn’t know what the term was back then. I hadn’t realized that I was being discriminated against and that in this day and age, it would be attributed as a “hate crime”.
My brother and I decided to keep what happened a secret. We thought we’d get into trouble by our parents or any adult for that matter. I kept the fear, the anger, the resentment in for no one to see.
I bottled it all away for months. For months I starved myself. I felt alone. I fell into depression and the only person I was hurting was myself.
Living two lives as a Muslim-American was not easy. Different cultures, traditions and religions played a big role in my upbringing. And let’s not forget the fact that I am a first generation Moroccan American girl living as a lower-class citizen in urban Colorado.
It felt as if I was born into the lowest pit of the human pyramid.
The labels I received early on were masked as lessons in disguise. Every label whether from society or myself served as a lesson. The two biggest lessons I learned early on are:
- Do Not Underestimate The Power of Words. Growing up, we hummed to the rhythm of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Reality knows that words do hurt and have a massive impact when used the right way.
- The Power of Kindness.
I know what it feels like to be discriminated against, to be judged for being who I am and I’ve made it a mission to be kind to those around me no matter their race, culture, lifestyle choices and more.
Most recently, I took part in the UnleaSHE YOU photo shoot campaign partnered with Boo2Bullying. The campaign’s mission is to raise awareness on bullying through a bold and artistic photo series displaying the labels given to us by society, friends and family, or ourselves.
The campaign attracted so many incredible people of all different backgrounds. There were college students, models, actors and actresses, activists, doctors, veterans and more. The space was intimate and the energy was loud. Everyone connected over one special trait – vulnerability.
It took vulnerability from everyone to resurface the labels given to us by society or our past. It took vulnerability to be topless in front of strangers. It took vulnerability to expose our deepest insecurities to others.
The unleaSHE campaign showed me that everyone I’ve encountered has faced or is currently facing an internal battle. Many of us are scared of sharing our past because of fear of judgement. A solution would be to open up a safe space for other to share their story. Lend an ear and see the depth, connection and friendship it builds.
Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.
– Brene Brown
As a team member, a model, an activist, a HUMAN, I cannot express how deeply grateful I am for this experience. To be in a campaign partnered with Boo2Bullying has given me the ability to open up and share my story while raising awareness on bullying.
There is a hidden power when one chooses to unleaSHE their voice and story. What Are You Ready to UnleaSHE?
For more information or to show support, visit:
*Be a part of the unleaSHE YOU photo campaign to fight against bullying*
Order online at unleaSHE.com
Proceeds benefit Boo2Bullying ♥
Be Bold. Be Fearless. Be Kind. Be Authentic. Be Grateful. Be You.