by Rasheedah Na’Allah

I am a Nigerian Muslim Woman
Raised from Jollof rice and my mother’s unwavering love
The cracked red mud of my rich Yoruba tongue
The sweltering hot sun
The boom-boom of the drums
in my pumping African veins
And lifelong happiness,
Happiness that rises as my shoulders move to the rhythm
Happiness knowing that I can unapologetically express myself
By wearing a headdress and engaging the cultured personality I possess
Paving the way for my success
The success that makes me so blessed to say
I am a Nigerian Muslim Woman

But my pride comes with a price
A price not paid when I hear the lies spread
About the place I call home
It is then that my heart is at bay
And those beating drums come to a stop
It is then that the pain and stress climb up to my chest
When people say,

Where did you come from?
No, But where did you really come from
Oh, you’re from Africa?
The continent with less
Food, less water
With no access
To fancy shoes or a nice dress
With no school nor class
Yet nonetheless

You speak really good English
But you’re from Nigeria?
The country with extreme poverty and filthiness
With Ebola and sickness
And wild animals in each living room

So maybe that’s why they consider you savages

I’m always left speechless
No words escaping my mouth
And no more breath so
All I say is

But when people continue to obsess
With the appearance I possess
They overlook the ignorance in their hearts
As they oppress you with their words
To separate, exclude, or write you off from the rest
But I digress

They’ll never be able to force a wave of mess on me
Because I am a Nigerian, Muslim Woman.
Born and raised in the U.S.
A country that has allowed me to see the diversity
In every background and personality
The diversity between you and i
And all the rest

But what if I wasn’t born here?
Does that make me any less?
Worthy of success, opportunity, or happiness

Don’t try to oppress me
Don’t try to belittle me
Don’t call me a mess

Because you think you can confess
That I am considerably less

But you’re wrong
Because we should be the same
The same when it comes to having an awareness
That no matter the success, the money or all the excess
You are not better than the rest
You may be richer in wealth, but I am rich in happiness
Happiness built within me from serving those with less
And seeing them as I see myself

This is what it feels like live a life of fulfillment
When I reflect on my country for teaching me patience
And shaping my ability to dignify others of varying access
I realize that humility is not thinking less of yourself
but rather thinking of yourself less

So yes
I am a proud Nigerian Muslim Woman.

About Rasheedah Na’Allah

Rasheedah Na’Allah is a senior at Dunlap High School in Peoria, Illinois. She is the youngest of her 3 siblings and enjoys the benefits of being the “baby of the house.” Her Nigerian and Muslim upbringing has led her to be resilient and outspoken in her beliefs. Rasheedah is a dedicated student who is a part of the National Honors Society and loves to be active in her community. She planned a diversity assembly at her school in front of the entire student body, formed an extensive research project on racial disparities and inequities in the education system, and has been appointed into the Peoria County Board’s Racial Justice and Equity Commission. She has also served as Dunlap’s representative to engage and network with young state leaders attending the 2020 Illinois Senator Youth Leadership Council. Rasheedah is the founder of her school’s Muslim Student Association, leads in foreign language club, and is a strong member of the color guard team. Outside of school, she enjoys volunteering and regularly posts on her cooking page through social media. She started her own book club and enjoys reading and discussing books by BIPOC authors. She hopes to pursue Business, Health, and Wellness during her college years and is extremely honored to write for the Giving Voice Initiative.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television.