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Looking back on my life, I truly am amazed at my younger self. You see, I lived in Fulton County until 8th grade. I was turning 13 when my parents moved us to Forsyth County out in Cumming, Georgia. Unlike today, my school at the time was so predominantly white that two other 8th graders and I were the only non-white students out of almost 300 of our peers.
During my first week of school, students asked me if I was married (even though I was only 13), were surprised I spoke English fluently, asked me if I’m a terrorist, and asked me why I wore a “towel on my head.” In high school, I was flat out called a terrorist, a sand n*****, and my house pointed out as the “bomb lab.” All of this was happening at the same time as I was growing up, during a time when I was trying to figure out who I am, where I fit, and what I wanted to accomplish. While most teenagers were worrying about which crowd they fit into and the most recent styles and gadgets, I had to constantly remind myself that I knew my faith better.
You see, having to be constantly told about your own faith makes you wonder just how much of the media is right. After all, as convenient as it is to blame figures like Trump and Carson, these attacks from right and left leaning media figures. With such a unanimous condemnation of identity, you begin to lose yourself. One minute you have this identity that you love. The next minute you wonder if you were tricked into something you had no idea about even though I spent a lot of time reading about Islam. I did not just blindly follow it because I was raised in it. But, even though I was educated in it, being bombarded with the hateful messaging about Islam made me question if I just was not as aware as I thought I was. I would come to learn that I was part of the 55% of American Muslim students who was bullied. That means that if you know two American Muslim kids, one of them is being bullied.
Looking back, I always wonder how I managed to stay true to not only my beliefs, but to myself. So much of it had to do with my mom who stayed so true to everything she is. Another major part of it was meeting members of the Islamic Speakers Bureau. For those who do not know, the Islamic Speaker Bureau goes out to schools, churches, synagogues, healthcare institutions, and just about anywhere they are invited to teach about Islam. They do not preach nor proselytize. They simply put a face to a group that continues to be demonized. They gave me a model to look at and taught me how I can be a proud Muslim and a proud American. They educated me on how to talk to others about Islam. They inspired me to want to reach out and be true to myself without succumbing to the negativity. And, they empowered me to take control of situations that most people my age at the time could never take control of through their workshops. Because of that training, situations of aggression became moments of learning for my peers.
The Islamic Speakers Bureau has been a part of my life for 8 years. It has been a part of the fabric of Georgia for 14. On December 1st, a major fundraising event called Giving Tuesday takes place. Every donation given to the Islamic Speakers Bureau will be matched that day. I hope that the Islamic Speakers Bureau is one of the organizations you will be donating to. I hope you help in educating, inspiring, and empowering the youth of this country. It is not enough to just educate the community or educate youth. The problem of discrimination and bullying must have a multi-faceted approach. This amazing organization does that through workshops, presentations, and trainings. This year, donations will go towards our Making a D!fference campaign to educate, inspire, and empower youth. It is not enough to just talk. It is time to give the youth tools to combat serious issue that they face on a daily basis. I hope to see your donation on Giving Tuesday.
To donate, please go to:https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/givingtuesdayforyouth
Ruwa Romman recently graduated from Oglethorpe University with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics. She is very passionate about interfaith work. While in college she founded COEXIST Oglethorpe and served as President of the Student Government Association. Ruwa most recently worked as a Marketing Consultant for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Inc.
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