Welcome to Humans of Queen E, a space where teachers, students, and alumni can share their stories and experiences in a judgement-free, welcoming environment. Iman Janmohamed, an alumni from Queen Elizabeth High School and a current student in the Faculty of Arts at the University of British Columbia, is the first to share her story. As a South Asian Canadian, Iman has always been, in her own words, a “social justice warrior”, but this summer she decided to take her passions a step further and co-found a collective called Sari About It. This collective is a platform created to connect with South Asian youth, and is run by a group of talented youth themselves. When asked about the inspiration behind Sari About It, Iman barely had to think before replying.
“Sari About It was born during quarantine, and was the result of my realization that there is a lack of specific representation for South Asian culture in advocacy groups. I was involved in different advocacy organizations through social media, such as Dear Asian Youth, and though their work reaches many aspects of Asian culture, the broad spectrum meant that South Asian youth weren’t getting enough targeted representation, mainly due to the differences in each subculture. At first, my idea was to start a podcast to discuss stereotypes and specific issues, but when I called my friend and now co-founder, Anyesha Mohamed, the idea soon spiralled. Before I knew it, we had dreamt up a whole collective that was social media based and included written prose, art, and a podcast to represent South Asian youth. It’s a “jack of all trades” organization, and we wanted it to be very creative from the start because that allows us to also advocate for creative careers, which have a stigma attached to them that extends outside of Asian culture. Sari About It is really meant to reach youth and show them that they have the power to represent people just like them, through platforms that they use every day. Like our Instagram page says, it was created by South Asian youth, for South Asian youth.”
According to Iman, the written pieces, podcasts, and art released by Sari About It are based on raw, real feelings from the founders.
“The content we and our team create for Sari About It is influenced by the need for representation of our specific cultural experiences. As a South Asian Canadian, I have many ideas that I want to bring attention to, so that’s what the written pieces and podcasts are based on. We want to raise these issues to a bigger platform with a broader audience, and show people that they aren’t alone in their experiences, because that’s what I would have wanted to know when these things happened to me. But the topics we discuss on our platform, such as imposter syndrome, don’t just apply to South Asian culture, but are applicable to many different cultures. In these instances, I want to describe these experiences through a South Asian lens to advocate for our unique perspective.”
Creating a cultural collective such as Sari About It, which has the potential to reach a large audience, can foster a lot of ambition. As you may suspect, Iman has big dreams for her platform, but she’s also realistic and down-to-earth about them.
“When it comes to our goals, I’m not creating content for Sari About It with the hope of becoming a social media empire. To me, it’s important to create a sense of community, especially in areas where it’s hard to find and connect with people like you. This includes reaching out to rural communities and traditional or conservative areas. Our main purpose is to show youth that they have a place that they belong, even if there isn’t much diversity in their immediate surroundings. I want to normalize the issues faced by South Asian youth today to help change them for future generations.”
Finally, when asked about her personal experiences as a South Asian Canadian, Iman fondly recalled her time on the Queen Elizabeth volleyball team, and shared this story.
“When I came to Queen E in grade 10, it was reluctantly and only because it was my last resort as a high school. I tried out for the volleyball team because I thought that if I was stuck here, I could at least play the sport I love. From the moment I walked into tryouts, I immediately felt welcomed. As a player coming from the club volleyball community, the amount of diversity in that gym was groundbreaking. This was the first time I had ever seen another brown person playing volleyball, and not only that, but on the grade 10 team, there were eight people of color, which was vastly different than any club lineup I had ever seen. The volleyball team became one of my reasons for staying at Queen E for grades 11 and 12, and it changed my perspective on being an athlete due to the diversity that can be found in sports at our school. To this day, it’s the best volleyball team I’ve ever played on, because both the wins and losses felt like wins to me. There was something so welcoming and warm about the team, a quality that made it feel like home. Becoming the captain, and having the trust of my teammates and coaches alike, was so important to me. It was an opportunity that wouldn’t have been given to me in a club setting because of the volleyball stereotype of white, lean, and tall. But at Queen E, on such a diverse team, those privileges were decided purely by skill and dedication. Putting on that purple jersey and the captain’s tape that never sticks was so special to me, even though the jersey fit oddly and one dive would knock off the tape. I am so proud to be an alumni of Queen Elizabeth, and I am especially proud to have been a part of the volleyball program.”
For more stories from Iman about her experiences as a South Asian in Canada, check out her piece titled “-Ish”: https://sariaboutit.wordpress.com/2020/08/03/iman-janmohamed-ish/
To learn more about South Asian culture and issues, go follow Sari About It on Instagram at @sariaboutit, or check out their website: https://sariaboutit.wordpress.com/