Muslim Girls Making Change will bring slam poetry to Bristol

BRISTOL — Four Vermont Muslim teen slam poets who call themselves “Muslim Girls Making Change”will share their experiences at a One World Library Project program in Bristol in February. The teens, who are juniors at Burlington and South Burlington High School, perform slam poetry to express their passionate concerns. They will present and discuss their work on Thursday, Feb. 2, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Holley Hall in Bristol at a free event hosted by the One World Library Project and sponsored by Bristol Friends of the Arts.
UPDATE: The performance was moved from Lawrence Memorial Library to Holley Hall because of the enthusiastic response and expected large audience.
Dedicated to social justice, “Muslim Girls Making Change (MGMC) is a youth-led group created by Hawa Adam, Kiran Waqar, Lena Ginawi and Balkisa Abdikadir. All four grew up in Vermont, though their cultural roots include Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Kenya and Somalia. “The voices of young Muslims, particularly African American Muslims, aren’t heard all that much,” explains Kiran Waqar. “People put us in boxes and get blocks around what we look like.” Through performance, the group dispels stereotypes about Muslim women and advocates for positive change.
“Muslim Girls Making Change” was formed almost a year ago. Last February they started writing after hearing about Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival in Washington, D.C. The students were already involved in a range of advocacy work and got excited about reaching a broader audience. “Slam poetry allows us to be heard about issues we care deeply about,” says Waqar.
The four poets write all their own material. Some pieces are collaborations while others are composed individually. Each member only performs the pieces she helped compose. “That’s what we feel most deeply,” Waqar points out. Writing can be hard work, but the fun begins after writing. “We try to present each poem in a way that brings the message forward.”
“Hijab 101” by Kiran Waqar and Hawa Adam, excerpted below, explores the authors’ experience as Muslim American women.
Lesson #4: Hijab and feminism/Feminism today means loving your body/ Accepting your body/Showing your body without any reservation/ And I do that, by covering my body/ By controlling who sees my body, I reclaim it/ It’s my right!/ So next time, you say women shouldn’t be shamed for their clothing/ Don’t forget this hijabi/ I’ll rock my short, or long hijab/ My black abaya/ My niqab and my burkini
The teen performers developed close bonds through their creative journey. The process of writing, rehearsing, traveling and performing evokes a range of emotions from shared giggles to tears. Last summer MGMC reached their goal of performing at Brave New Voices. While in D.C. they experienced blending into a diverse community of young people for the first time, which accentuated their daily challenge of always standing out.
On the ride home the students discussed their feelings. “We all started crying,” says Waqar. “It was the first time we seriously talked about how exhausting it gets to be different…[the experience in DC] got us more comfortable with ourselves and really pulled us together.”
“Muslim Girls Making Change” feel a sense of purpose in their work. “This isn’t just for us,” shares Balkisa Abdikadir. “It’s for everybody else in the community at large…It’s more than just the four of us.” Lena Ginawi adds, “Slam poetry has made me into a better person. I don’t want to let that go.”
For more information about Muslim Girls Making Change, visit http://muslimgirlsmakingchange.weebly.com/.
For more information on this event or about One World Library Project, contact the Lawrence Memorial Library at 453-2366 or visit www.OneWorldLibraryProject.org.
One World Library Project is a local community nonprofit that “Brings the World to our Community” through regular programs as well as a collection of adult and children’s books and films about world cultures, all of which can be found at the Lawrence Memorial Library. The library’s online catalog has a full listing of OWLP items available for checkoutat www.lawrencelibrary.net.

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