Wednesday, February 25, 2009

supReem FEATURE!! THIS FRIDAY!!! the 27th!

Asalamu alaikum//// PEACE!!!! \\//
So.... this friday is my step into the world... both career wise and artistically...
I'm taking my comprehensive exams at 9am... and basically if I pass them... I can graduate... and trust me... It's a HARD exam... students who've been studying harder and longer than me... well were forced to retake it later... :( but hopefully inshaAllah (by the will of God) I'll pass.. :) and then I can write my Masters essay and (well if that goes well) I can REALLY graduate...
I'd really like it if you (yes anyone who reads this!!!) could come to my feature at the echo verse poetry series.
It's at 1515 Broadway, Detroit MI... same place where we had the MY Expressions... This friday night (the 27th) at 9pm.
It's a $10 cover...
It is an amazing poetry open mic series... that has my 100% support.. They do all KINDS of poetry at the echo verse poetry series. I'm gonna say though... sometimes, it's better to leave the little ones at home though. It's all about self-expression!
Also, I have been blessed to be this friday's featured poet... so... be there!

If you can come! bring a friend!!! and even better... BRING SOME POETRY!! for the open mic...
I can't remember if there's a slam this week as well... but if there is... participate! get some experience!!! you just need a 3 minute long piece and some will power and you can do it!!!

I really would love to see you all there, inshaAllah (God willing).
asalamu alaikum \\// PEACE
-reem or... this friday supReem

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

depressed??... be happy...

Asalamu alaikum.... meaning... may peace be upon you...

Initially, I was going to write about some reflections I had yesterday at a workshop, but now... after saying asalamu alaikum, I think I might go in another direction... actually.. you know what?? I'll do both... and hope it doesn't get too wordy...

Anyway, lately I've been feeling wicked depressed... For as long as I can remember, I've had emotions and thoughts of a self-deprecating nature. I mean, thoughts of... it doesn't matter how many people might tell you that they love you... the reality is... you don't love yourself... and therefore... what everyone else says just seems inconsequential... without weight... basically a form of projecting your own doubts about yourself onto people, and not really taking what they say with any seriousness or validity...
Now, those of you who know me (or think they do)... might think damn!!! I thought Reem was this bubbly, confident, full of herself, happy person... Allahu 'alam.

Anyway, so during the day yesterday I was wicked sad... that I was sitting in the middle of the UGL and started crying while reading my email... not like sniffles... but silent tears... that you know came out like rivers... and some girl looked at me... all pity like.... and it made me feel all the more depressed... like i'm not even in control... My sister had suggested that I tell her (yes we were on gchat) I was committing cyber suicide... leave it to my sister to crack me up in the midst of teariness.. :D (I LOVE YOU RUBY!!!)

Anyway, so i go to this workshop, and basically the speaker/discussant/leader in our group basically tells us that our religion is a source of happiness (in my head I was thinking more along the lines of contentment but happiness works too)... And if we don't feel happy, there's an issue we need to address, we need to go back to the sources of Islam and re-establish that connection... Because recognizing God as the source of all (yes... all...) then you recognize that He is a constant in your life, where people might come and go, things might come and go, emotions might come and go... but God... well He's always there... and you can scream, fight, love, hate... but God will still be there.

For me... although I've heard that sooo many times before... yesterday, it was like a re-dawning... I realized that my connection with God has been weak... possibly even severed... and alot of my moodiness might stem from that. Maybe, I won't be able to love myself... until I really love God. Maybe, love is an emotion that is superficial/imaginary unless it's made real with God. (not to sound super like weird and all)... but I was thinking about it. I mean... as a person who believes in God... my emotions are made truly REAL when associated with God.

So, back to the concept of Asalamu alaikum... have you ever realized... that Asalamu alaikum... the most common Islamic greeting... means Peace be upon you... I've always thought of it as in... peace like versus war in a social/political sense. (I remember someone saying it was a greeting to make clear that there was no conflict between people, with an extended hand).. But after yesterday... with the issue of contentment/happiness... maybe it's a prayer for inner peace... I mean... If someone was like... Reem... May Peace be upon you... I'd think they're praying for my sanity. Praying for a sense of happiness and contentment... They're praying for me to re-establish my connection with God. They're praying for me to love myself. They're praying for me to love everyone else (and no I don't necessarily mean it in the hippie way.. but sure why not).. They're praying for me to accept everyone regardless of any baggage they may carry... They're praying for something... meaning... they cannot give it to me... I cannot give it to me... Only God can give it to me... Therefore... they're praying for me to make peace with God. They're praying for me... to essentially truly accept God and His Will and Wisdom... To truly realize that God is once again... there... waiting for you to recognize Him in your life.

I don't know... before starting this post... before typing in asalamu alaikum in the beginning... I had intended to complain about how I hated myself so much... but now... by the end of this post... I'm thinking... maybe that feeling can change.. maybe I can truly love myself oneday (maybe today... inshaAllah... maybe 30 years from now... God knows best)... and now I'm thinking... whenever I say asalamu alaikum to someone or if someone says it to me... I'm gonna think of it, in these terms... because it's a prayer to God for Peace... and everyone wants some sense of contentment/happiness/inner peace.

I guess... I hope that our mission in life isn't something superficial and quantitative... I hope people truly acquire a sense of inner peace.

Asalamu aliakum... May Peace be upon you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Black-sited (short story)

So... this is a short story I wrote... for a short story competition... i don't think i've heard from them yet... but i submitted to it about 3 months ago.. and well... i'm not sure when you're supposed to hear back... but anyway... here it is



By Reem Abou-samra

I was kicking a screaming, wrenching out of their grasp, gasping for breath between shrieks that felt like banshees shattering my ears. Why were they taking me?! Where are they taking me? I didn’t want to go with these men. “Let me go!” I yelled, till my throat was raw, my arms flapping about in all directions, like a baby bird learning to take flight. They held my arms securely, more securely than I could ever hold myself together. They wouldn’t answer me. The most one of these men would say was “You have the right to remain silent” and I would go berserk. Remain silent, for being taken away? On what charges?! Who do they think they are?! And then it hit me, like all those rumors I heard about Muslims in our community, it hit me, like a brick in the face, it hit me. I was being detained! My body suddenly went limp out of shock, and they tightened their grasps on me. Words, let alone thoughts, couldn’t form past my lips. I didn’t know what to do? Should I comply with them, should I fight back? Why were they taking me anyway? I was part of the collateral damage, my head is pounding, my legs feel broken, and why are they taking me? I am a victim.

“I am a victim!!!” I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Why are you guys taking me?!” I screamed at them. One of the guards looked at me sideways, a look that burned me inside out, accusing, threatening, full of animosity, “you’re a terrorist, that’s why we’re taking you.” He said in whispered tones, his voice passionate yet low. My jaw dropped, me, a terrorist? I was on my way to pick up my daughter, when all of a sudden a gun shot sounded, followed by many others. The whole street of people seemed to drop to the ground instantaneously. I was silently praying in my head that my daughter was out on the street, playing hopscotch with her classmates. When all of a sudden the shots died out, and as we all got up off the ground slowly, I was practically tackled by four men, probably double my size in both height and weight.

“I didn’t do anything! And my daughter needs me!” I said between attempts to pull away from them. The same guard looked at me again, and said “Your daughter won’t even notice you’re gone, you filthy piece of crap.” I couldn’t take it, what were they doing, I almost lost my life, my daughter was in jeopardy, I didn’t know what to do. Their hold on me was too tight; I could feel my arms losing feeling, because of lack of blood circulation. I tried to wrench free again, and the next thing I knew, the guard took the side of his gun and hit me on the head, and I slipped away.


I feel groggy, and I can’t tell anything apart. I’m not even sure if I am awake yet, since with my eyes open, everything looks darker than it was when my eyes were closed. I try to extend my legs, to stretch them from the fetal position I was lying in for the past, God knows how long. But they don’t get further than maybe half a foot, six measly inches, feeling like ancient Chinese foot binding had evolved into leg binding, and was being practiced on Arab males. I massage them, pushing, pressuring, drawing circles on my calves, knees, thighs, but the cramping doesn’t stop. Restless leg syndrome, I’ve had it since I was a kid, and it’s ten time worse now since I can’t do anything to stop it. I need to just ride it out.

My eyes finally register the darkness that surrounds me, and my ears and nose kick into hyper-sensitive, and I can smell something dead, and hear something run by me, rats maybe. I hear dripping water somewhere beyond this tomb like chamber. All of a sudden swift foot steps come down a hall just beyond these cement walls, doors are yanked open, something seems to fall, maybe drop to the ground with a clang, and doors slam shut. I hear the steps coming closer and closer, and I brace myself, hoping that this is a bad dream, and someone is on the brink of waking me up. The footsteps stop for half a second before a small sliding door is heaved open, bright light defuses in. I’m blinded temporarily, not being able to see the face of my savior, before my ears twitch, tingle, shatter, as a loud clang hits the ground right between my bended, cramping legs. I’m still blinded, my head is pounding. Is it from lack of caffeine or is it the dark? How long have I been here. I can’t even remember anymore. Has it been a day, weeks, months, years? I’m not even sure.

A smell wafts up and tickles my senses, food. Is it breakfast, lunch, dinner? I can’t be sure, since there is no consistency to our meal times. I don’t want to eat. I’m scared of eating. The smell dies away by the overpowering stench of crap. My own or someone else’s, I’m not even sure. All I know is that I can either suffer hunger, or I can suffer dehydration, because it’s laced with laxatives. My stomach grumbles, tightens and I feel nauseated, maybe from diarrhea or from hunger, whatever it is, it feels like an earthquake that is impossible to still. Hunger wins out, I reach for the plate and take a bite. It’s tastes nasty, like someone shat in my mouth. I my stomach resists this invasion, and I heave it out. Bile fills my mouth and throat. I give up, praying that someone will come for me, remember me, because I forgot them all.

I’m being dragged, my arms pulled over my head, as my head lolls to the side in surrender. I can feel the numbness in my legs, my head is pounding, like a hammer to the gong. It quakes through my body. I can smell, not feel, my blood drip away from my toes because my feet are being dragged behind me, cut up by jagged shards of rock, metal, glass, I’m not sure which, just something sharp. My capture dumps me on the ground. I still can’t tell, is it dark or bright, I don’t know, I feel blinded, am I blind? No. I’m blind folded.

Someone with a thunderous voice screams in my face, ripping apart any working faculty of my ear drums, and I can smell the sourness of his breath, practically taste it and my stomach clenches.
“WHY DID YOU DO IT?” and I respond with silence, until I start gasping, choking, coughing, I’m drowning. My arms attempt to paddle me to safety, but they’re restrained behind me. My legs can barely even move an inch, let alone help me swim to safety. I can’t breathe. Then, I gasp for breath. I realize that only my head was drowning. My body is dry of everything except my own sweat, which reminds me that I am still alive, until I start drowning again. This goes on, with all his questions “Who else was involved? Who do you work for? What is the next hit?” I can’t make sense of any of his questions, let alone answer them. I don’t understand why I am here, but I feel guilty, at fault, blameworthy, responsible for something I don’t even know about. This daily routine of inconsistency makes me feel like a scolded child, being sent to sit in the corner for time out.

Soon, Sour Breath gives up trying to pry answers out of me, like a dentist pulling out the wrong tooth. And I’m dragged again back to my sanctuary, my prison, my four walls that I’ve gotten to know so well, which indentation at what corner, every stone pressed against my back, the smell of piss, vomit, crap, dead animal carcasses, live ones, and rotting food. I’m being squished back into my cement box, my six foot frame, curled back into fetal position, being redeemed, being reborn, being returned to my cement womb. Something furry, crawls over my shoulder, and turns my chest and hair into it’s very own high ropes course. It slides down my body, scratching with it’s knife like claws, nibbling with razor sharp teeth at different parts, tasting me, and I, naked and bleeding, am a 3 course meal, buffet style. I drift out again, into a world of dreams, mostly nightmares, but all I wish for is that I could have a dead sleep.

I wake with a start. I’m being dragged again. No wait, I’m hanging by my arms, looped around my wrists are metal cuffs. Bright lights are turned on, and I scream at the image in front of me. There is a man, hanging like a star fish, out of the sea. Lands and legs spread, and I look down and realize that it is an image of me. A mirror. I smell him, before seeing him, Sour Breath is here. Again, his voice fills the air, threatening me with numbers of volts that I do not even recognize, are they high? Low? He says that if I comply with his questions then it won’t have to be this way. And I feel scolded again. He asks what I did, and I ask myself, what did I do? I can’t remember anything other than this life.

“Abdul-Salam, ANSWER ME NOW” he hollers and I can feel my ears twitch. Abdul-Salam, is that me? I can’t remember, he’s forcing me to, but it makes me forget all the more. All of a sudden, I feel on fire, my whole body tightens, my arms and legs clench at the shock that traveled through my body. The shock stopped, but my body continues to twitch for moments afterwards. And like the drowning, he continues battering me with questions that I don’t have answers to. I stare at him through the mirror, my eyes misted over, but I know he can see me glaring at him, but he doesn’t care. He smirks, and his horrible breath drifts over to me, more overpowering than my own stench, and another shock runs through me. I feel like I have been burnt inside out, my hair all standing at their ends, erect, waiting for another shock, over sensitized.

Tears are washing the grime off my cheeks, but I don’t want Sour Breath to see me break, but I am already a broken horse, I am ready to wear the harness, ready to succumb to his every last wish. And once he read that submission in my eyes, his smirk turned into a cocky smile. Deciding that I should taste more domination, he rips off his belt and starts whipping at every possibly angle on my body. I am burnt, beaten, bruised, broken, but not yet dead. I bite down on my tongue, wishing for it to stop, but it doesn’t, and I slip unconscious.

My eyes snap open, and I realize that I am not in my cell. I am strapped to a chair, hands extended in front of me, palms faced up. Someone is bending down over my feet; I stare at them, wondering what is going on, until I feel a little piece of me being ripped away. My nails are being pulled from my toes, each one bloodier than the next. The surgeon drops each nail into the palm of my hand. And I want to start gagging, the sight hurts me more than the actually removal, since my feet have been numb since I could last remember. I don’t reveal this information, because I don’t want them to truly hurt me where I can feel it, or I won’t be able to handle it any more. I’m exhausted. I want to sleep, but they keeping waking me up, each time more unexpectedly than the last. I let him work, silently praying, knowing that they’ll eventually grow back. I count, one, two, three, four, and five. He stopped. I realized that he only intended this for one foot, maybe he’ll get to the next, or maybe this was to remind me of the pain I’d feel comparing the nailed foot with the nail-less one. I sighed in surrender, all over again.

I’m shoved back into my cell, and I’m desperately trying to remember my life before this hell hole. But I can’t remember. I can’t think past these four two by two walls. It’s like they are thought proof, no mind can work while inside. Or maybe, they did it so your mind runs in circles, so that you brink on insanity. And I wonder, am I brinking? Or am I there already, dived in, drowning in it? My thoughts run around and around like a perpetual merry-go-round, dizzying, nauseating, exhausting. My biggest question is, who am I? Because even though I desperately don’t want to be who they have been accusing me of being, what if they are right? Should I just say I am, and that way I will know who I am?

I hear footsteps coming towards me again, aimed only for me, and my muscles tighten, my body clenches, and my thoughts withdraw. I’m suspended over my body floating, pretending that I am someone else, and watching this poor person get the punishment they deserved. I watch as a guard grabs my chains and practically drags me, and I float over them, attempting to guess what is going to happen next. My body is thrown into a chair, and Sour Breath is staring out the window, the first one I’ve seen, and it’s like I see the window of freedom, the window of opportunity, the window of hope, in this office I seem to be in. He turns towards me, his eyes accusing me like all my worst fears were confirmed, and that hope that had just risen like a phoenix from the ashes experienced an instantaneous heart attack as it was just about to take flight. His eyes confirmed my suspicions, maybe I was a horrible person before this, and it scared me. Sour Breath maintain eye contact, enough to shoot uncomfortable shivers down my spine, I waited for him to tell me what has been done? What will be done? And barely over a whisper, skeptical, like he doesn’t believe what he’s telling me, he says:

“Apparently Abdul-Salam, you were a victim at the shooting. Evidence shows that you weren’t even supposed to be there but it was a set up. What you told us in the beginning three weeks ago has been confirmed as true, you were only a passerby, on your way to pick up your daughter from daycare. The real culprit saw you as a potential cover as he escaped. You’re free to go. Your stuff is at the main entrance, just continue down the hall. And if anything similar ever comes up, even if it’s rumors, give me a call.”

Sour Breath handed me a card, it said Eric Wyandotte, Head Investigator. I didn’t know how to react, and I still couldn’t remember my life before being here, I couldn’t even remember what I told them three weeks ago. All I knew was that I must have done something wrong to be punished with this brutality. I was forever changed, and I knew I would never remember who I was before coming here. I followed the way down the hall, picked up random items, a wallet, jeans and a t-shirt, sneakers, underwear, a cell phone, keys, glasses and a messenger bag. I opened my wallet and stared at my ID, Abdul-Salam Khalid, Boston MA, born in 1984, six feet. But the picture that stared back at me was unrecognizable; I had no idea who this clean cut and tailored person was. Because all I knew about myself was: I am Broken.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sojourner Truth... Ain't I A Woman

So, one of my favorite intellectual speeches.... one of my favorite women of all time.. who with her words was able to question the norms of racism and sexism, is that of Sojourner Truth... where she delivered her speech known as 'Ain't I a Woman' at the Women's rights convention, in Akron Ohio, in 1851.

Now, let me just say that what is going on with the women nowaday????? I mean, seriously... who's taking the lead? I'm sick of hearing women, whether or not they're muslim, defer everything to the Man.... like he's the sole authority of the world.... I will clarify first and foremost, I am not a 'man hater' but the reality is that misogyny has in the past and till this day been perpetuated... by the Man... and how was the man successful?!?!?! by making the very people who are oppressed (women, and this tactic is used on other groups).... who confirm the authority of the Man, without having them feel ashamed of it. (check out Dubois speech on 'being ashame of oneself... if you're interested on more of this issue, however it is in reference to blacks)... but basically, women are the ones who perpetuate this form of oppression, sometimes intentionally, but in most cases unintentionally.
anyway... I'll probably comment so more on this in the future... i'll leave you with this... don't be ashamed of your being a woman... yes, modesty is part of faith, but Islam is completely EGALITARIAN in it's foundations! therefore, what are you ashamed of?? male supremacy isn't a constant fact of life... rather, the only ultimate truth of life is (yes i'm muslim so i'm taking the islamic quote) when God said 'I did not create humankind except in that they would worship me' and well you know in Islam, worship is based on intentionality.... and well... there can be many forms of worship... (other than the obligatory ones) that manifest in excelling in whatever field that you believe you can contribute greatest to.
i'll stop here... but for now, check out her (sojourner truth) speech... :D

Ain't I a woman

"Well, children, where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter, I think between the Negroes of the South and the women of the North - all talking about rights - the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this talking about?"
Sojourner pointed to one of the ministers. "That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody helps me any best place. And ain't I a woman?"
Sojourner raised herself to her full height. "Look at me! Look at my arm." She bared her right arm and flexed her powerful muscles. "I have plowed, I have planted and I have gathered into barns. And no man could head me. And ain't I a woman?"
"I could work as much, and eat as much as man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne children and seen most of them sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain't I a woman?"
The women in the audience began to cheer wildly.
She pointed to another minister. "He talks about this thing in the head. What's that they call it?"
"Intellect," whispered a woman nearby.
"That's it, honey. What's intellect got to do with women's rights or black folks' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?"
"That little man in black there! He says women can't have as much rights as men. ‘Cause Christ wasn't a woman. She stood with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. "Where did your Christ come from?"
"Where did your Christ come from?", she thundered again. "From God and a Woman! Man had nothing to do with him!"
The entire church now roared with deafening applause.
"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right-side up again. And now that they are asking to do it the men better let them."
---- Sojourner Truth (Ain't I a Woman)