Fighting Prejudice With Words
In today’s episode…
Saadia Faruqi shares some good book recommendations about South East Asia and refugee issues in her segment “Books You’ve Never Heard Of:”
- The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
- Escape from Allepo by N. H. Senzai
- The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola
Ann Braden shares her conversation with Kiran Waqar, a high school senior and a member of the slam poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change.
“I desperately tried to be white…but obviously I was brown, obviously I was different…Being able to go up on a stage with other people who understood where I was coming from really gave me the courage to say, ‘Okay, I’m not alone in this. There are other people who are just like me.’ And by doing slam poetry, speaking our truth in front of other people, there are people in the audience and people online who will come up to us and say ‘That’s my household, too. That’s my life, too.’ And that community and knowing that you’re not alone has me realize, ‘Why have I been so scared?’ Because…if no one talks about this, then we’re all just hiding in the dark, and it’s time to come into the light. There’s so much more out there than being scared of your brown skin.”
— Kiran Waqar, a high school senior and a member of Muslim Girls Making Change
To find out more about Muslim Girls Making Change and their amazing work, check out these links:
In our conversation, Kiran’s specifically gave a shout out to the book Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
Finally, the episode concludes with Ann’s segment “Moving Beyond: Because Books Have No Boundaries.”
I’ve been thinking about this year’s theme of the National Council for Teachers of English: “Raising Student Voices: Speaking Out for Equity and Justice.” It’s incredibly relevant – and it’s proving to be the lynchpin that can move our society in the direction it needs to go. And helping students see their inner strength reflected in the pages of a book can be a powerful way to set the process in motion.
It’s striking how much we have to learn from this generation of young people – and how important their voices are. The speeches all over the country on the day of March for Our Lives were a reminder of that. We heard honesty, we heard poetry, and we heard passion.
After the massacre in Newtown, I had begun organizing and laying the groundwork so that where I live in gun-loving Vermont we could someday pass gun laws. But these students did what I couldn’t. Their voices cut right through the gun lobby’s rhetoric. They inspired people to show up en masse. Thanks to them, a comprehensive gun bill is now on it’s way to the Governor’s desk.
But it isn’t just the students at the microphones who have something to offer. A year ago I was asked to give a workshop about guns at a high school that’s at the center of a rural gun-owning county. I focused the workshop on finding common ground on the topic of guns, and even though 95% of the students came to the workshop against any new gun laws, we STILL we able to have a thoughtful, civil discussion grounded in the beliefs that we all want to live in safe communities and that we all want our constitutional rights to be protected.
Every generation has something to teach us. And this generation coming up has A LOT to teach us. That means it’s up to us to give them the tools so that every one of them can find their voice and the tools to raise it up, and then to step aside so they can make their voices heard.