Part of what makes Generation Dream such a profound experience is the power that our performers bring to the stage. Standing up and sharing one’s truth can be truly courageous and impactful. The student performers from Al Madina School of Richmond are doing just that. Through spoken word, these talented teens are preparing to bring their experiences the stage and spread a powerful message of empathy and understanding.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Al Madina for rehearsals and had a chance to get to know the students a little better. Here are some thoughts from the performers at Al Madina about the upcoming edu-concert event:
“It’s Nerve-wracking,” was the first response when I asked the teens how they felt about performing in Generation Dream. “I think we’ll have a meltdown before the show, and then we’ll be fine,” says one of the students as everyone in the room joins in giggling nervously. For any young person, performing for a live audience can be a daunting task, but the students at Al Madina are compelled to share their stories.
“I’m nervous but at the same time, I want my voice to be heard so that people could understand the actual pain that we’re going through instead of them just looking at us on the outside,” shares Summer Alabood. Summer has faced more than her fair share of violence, bullying, and discrimination in public school. “In fifth grade, I was actually beaten up… He called me a terrorist and started throwing punches.” Summer’s spoken word piece is inspired by her personal experience but is informed by a strong desire to build a richer understanding of Muslims and Islam. “We want people to recognize us not as terrorist and ISIS, but just as normal people. Not to criticize us for what terrorists have done.”
Each of the students expressed similar feelings, “We want to do it because we wanted to show people how we really feel… and to share our stories” says Khadija Williams, sitting across the table from me wearing a black cap that says ‘feels’ over her Hijab.
It’s clear that the other students are compelled by a need to set the record straight. “Islam means ‘peace’. A lot of people don’t know, but that is what Islam is all about—Peace,” says Sumeo Farah, an 8th-grade student at Al Madina.
The potential for healing that Generation Dream can offer the featured performers by providing a platform to feel safe and acknowledged was something Summer also looked forward to. “I feel like there is a weight pulling me down, so I want to be able to speak out about what’s holding me. I want to be able to feel free.”
The students are hoping to shed light on global issues as well. Miryam Mustapha sat in the back quietly listening to her peers during most of our conversation. Her performance was one I found quite illuminating and highlights the struggles Muslim girls and women are facing around the world and the practice of FGM. “Girls are mutilated because it is the culture.”
Empathy and mutual listening was another theme that seemed to continue to come up during our conversations. The youth looked forward sharing their stories, but also were eager to hear about other perspectives as well. “You not only get to say what you have to say, but you get to hear other’s feelings,” says Khadija.
“[Generation Dream] is a good way to have younger people get what they have to say out. Usually, younger people or teenagers, other people see what they have to say and think, ‘they’re just a little kid, what do they know?’ Doing this, you get your voice heard, and other people take you seriously.”
I truly enjoyed my experience visiting Al Madina and the opportunity to get to know the youth. After having my own sneak preview, I can guarantee you that Generation Dream 2018 will be a special event to remember!