healing words

i’ve made a conscious decision to speak openly about my struggles with my mental health. i’m slowly learning what my body needs when i am anxious, depressed and the different ways my PTSD manifests itself. i am learning to become comfortable with how fragile and vulnerable i am as a human.

the last few days have been particularly difficult for various reasons. but i find that in those intense moments of pain and brokenness, help finds its way to me.

a few months ago i had just experienced a racist incident and was feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed.  a friend texted me out of the blue and asked if we could meet. she met me in the hallway right after my class. we held hands and cried. another time i ran into her, she slipped two beautiful bracelets into my pocket. i have been wearing them everyday and throughout the day run my fingers over them. they make me smile.

this past week has been especially difficult. the following words have been life lines extended to me.

  • an instructor handed me a copy of Lenelle Moise’s Haiti Glass and said i could keep it. i read these words again and again:

Instead I took a deep breath. I channeled my outrage into a form of meditation. I reminded myself that I am a writer. My job is to observe and to remember. When push comes to shove, memory is my greatest self-defense. I can be a warrior but I would rather be a poet. Poets live longer.


  • a mentor/writer:

Your job isn’t to change the world. It is to hold up the truth.

  • a family member:

you are so different from every angle and so beautiful.

My God, who has been so quiet,
This must be your work.
As baffling as all of your other mercies



love is not a cliche. i forget that sometimes. my anger is justified, but it should not overtake my power to love. anger should not be toward human beings but toward systems. and i must never forget love. i forget it too often as i grow older and sadder and angrier. my anger is justified and powerful. but i also have the power to be overwhelmed in and with love. and it makes me whole. anger is not sustaining. it is important but it is not everything. love protects me from myself, from my anger from becoming too consuming. love is empathy. love is the Creator. love is wholesome and the only place i feel safe, accepted, at home. the systems in place are cold, unloving, and i am always being cast out. why must speaking about love be cliche? it is all i have. why is it easier to talk about sadness or anger when what i really want is more love? and it is here, available, within me, always open, welcoming me in.



Saying “I am a Shia Muslim” is an act of resistance.

As a Muslim and as a Shia I often feel as if I live in an environment where I have to keep quiet about my faith and spirituality. Within Muslim circles, talking about being Shia is looked upon as inciting sectarianism and division and has lead to the further marginalization of Shia Muslims. In larger, secular circles, the mere mention of faith is seen as backwards and as a sign of intellectual inferiority. I’m tired of both kinds of silencing. Especially in a climate of islamophobia and anti-Shiism, I feel it’s crucial that I am vocal about my identity and refuse the pressure to be ‘acceptable’ by staying silent.

There’s a colonial history of coloured peoples made to feel as if they are lesser because of the beliefs and practices they hold – that they are backwards, uncultured, uncivilized, or in the words of our current prime minister “barbaric”. Being a student in Eurocentric academia, I am faced with a general assumption that spirituality has been “debunked” and those who continue to have faith (no matter what culture they’re from) are behind the times – that we should all think like the White Man now thinks.

This is a legacy of colonialism and empire. There are countless examples of this: from the way indigenous communities on Turtle Island were banned from practicing the potlatch, to the greasing of the gun powder cartridges used by Muslim and Hindu sepoys in the British army with pig and cow fat (which incited India’s First War of Independence in 1857), to the banning of headscarves and niqabs in France, and to the extremely racist and islamophobic rhetoric of New Atheists like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins who continue to paint Muslims as “savages” in direct opposition to “liberal values”. Our beliefs and practices are seen as ignorant and irrational.

As a Shia, I have also often faced many misconceptions and judgements at the hands of fellow non-Shia Muslims. There is also a long history of anti-Shiism backed by ‘Muslim’ states. Many of these anti-Shia states are also closely allied to Western imperialism. Saudi Arabia, the gulf countries, Pakistan (my own country of birth), are places where Shia mosques, Shia professionals, and Shia communities are targets of severe violence.

I don’t want to be silenced as a Muslim. I don’t want to be silenced as a Shia.

Simply saying “Yes, I am Muslim. Yes, I am Shia. Yes, I believe in a prophet, his family, and a holy book” feels like an act of defiance and resistance.

Right now it is Muharram, one of the most important months for Shia Muslims. My community goes in to mourning. We wear black. We remember the legacy of Muhammad’s family – most of whom were starved and killed after his death in the plains of Karbala for refusing to pay allegiance to the tyrant leader, Yazid. Many of us identify with these stories, the characters of these stories, the messages of resistance, resilience, of social justice and resisting tyranny and oppression.

Zainab, the granddaughter of the Prophet and the matriarch of the family, had her veil and the veils of all the women in her family physically ripped from them the same night that almost all the men and boys in her family were brutally massacred. Zainab, along with the prophet’s great grandson and the remaining women and children were then dragged in chains through the streets of Kufa, whipped, taunted, and humiliated. Yet she rose resilient, refused to be humiliated into silence, and spoke with such strong words that she shook the very foundation of Yazid’s empire, which eventually led to his downfall. I have learned of this story from childhood. Every Muharram, I hear it again.

At a time when bigots would love to see me humiliated by forcibly removing my headscarf, I identify with Zainab’s story and it gives me strength to know that my history has examples of resilient woman who stood up for themselves, who spoke against oppression at the hands of tyrannical men, who lead revolutions and created social change.

I don’t need white liberal feminism. I have my own stories. I have matriarchs in my bloodline. And I will tell these stories and continue to hold fast to them, even if they make white liberalism uncomfortable.


Harper’s Canada Terrifies Me

I feel as if I’ve reached my capacity to follow the news around the elections.

I don’t need more awareness on how islamophobic Harper’s Canada is becoming, the rise of violence against Muslim women because of islamophobia, comments on “barbaric cultural practices”. It hurts too damn much. I live this reality every day. I am afraid of crossing the road in my headscarf because what if there’s a bigot behind the wheel who would gladly run me over. This is not paranoia. A friend of mine is recovering from severe injuries after being beaten on the streets of Vancouver while wearing a headscarf. She was hospitalized. I have twice been pushed and shoved by white men in public places.

I feel small. I am afraid. And everyday I hear stories that make me realize how justified my fear is.


“You can’t do that! Stories have to be about White people”

This. All of this.

Media Diversified

Young Writers of Colour

byDarren Chetty

I’ve spent almost two decades teaching in English primary schools, which serve multiracial, multicultural, multifaith communities. I want to explore two things I have noticed.

1)    Almost without exception, whenever children are asked to write a story in school, children of colour will write a story featuring white characters with ‘traditional’ English names who speak English as a first language.

2)    Teachers do not discuss this phenomenon.

Furthermore, simply pointing these two things out can lead to some angry responses in my experience.

Why are you making an issue of race when children are colourblind?”

is an example of the sort of question that sometimes gets asked.

Well let’s look at that. If children were writing stories where the race of characters was varied and random, there might be some merit in claiming that children are colourblind. However, even proponents of racial colourblindness…

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Rape Culture – Cover Your Eyes

While you were sleeping


Rape culture is when I was six, and my brother punched my two front teeth out. Instead of reprimanding him, my mother said “Stefanie, what did you do to provoke him?” When my only defense was my mother whispering in my ear, “Honey, ignore him. Don’t rile him up. He just wants a reaction.” As if it was my sole purpose, the reason six-year-old me existed, was to not rile up my brother. It’s starts when we’re six, and ends when we grow up assuming the natural state of a man is a predator, and I must walk on eggshells, as to not “rile him up.” Right, mom?

Rape culture is when through casual dinner conversation, my father says that women who get raped are asking for it. He says, “I see them on the streets of New York City, with their short skirts and heavy makeup. Asking for it.”…

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