By Ayesha Irfan
Hey Knights! 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. For this week’s post we will be sitting down with Hafsa Hassan. Hafsa is currently a Somali grade eleven student who attends Queen Elizabeth Highschool. She has established herself as a prominent activist for Black Lives Matter in the youth community of Edmonton. She devotes her free time articulating the hardships and adversities the Black Community still face through her poetry. During the summer she managed to collect thousands of signatures advocating for cases that dealt with racism, harassment and injustice. She has dedicated her social media platforms to raise awareness about the severe discrimination minorities constantly face around the world. When she’s not advocating for the youth in her community you can find her at your local Boston Pizza enjoying a plate of honey garlic chicken wings.
Racism is a prevalent issue that is instilled within our society, whether that be in the form of our justice or educational system. Constantly being isolated for the colour of your skin is unfortunately a concept many people have witnessed starting from a young age. When asked about how Hafsa initially realized that racism was a fundamental issue, without hesitating she responded.
“Throughout my life I have always known that racism was a huge issue, however during my childhood it was a struggle to connect certain scenarios to the idea of racism. I was told oftenly that my “skin resembled dirt” and that I had “huge lips.” To my surprise it wasn’t grown teenagers saying these vile statements it was multiple 7 year olds who were embodying hatred. This portrays how racism and hatred are learned behaviours whether that be through the influence of their guardians or their teachers. The first time I truly experienced racism was when I was eleven. At the time, I sat down with a group of girls who then proceeded to point out each other’s flaws. When it came to me, a girl who was not black decided to call me a “ n word girl.” This insinuated that my “flaw” was being black, looking back at the event it still shocks me as to how young I was when I first experienced racism. Unfortunately this wasn’t the last time I would encounter acts of belittling. Around the age of thirteen and sixteen it was considered “fun” or “normal” for people who weren’t black to say the n-word constantly. I can’t even remember all of the times kids would say it because they started to use it as a normal word. An event that stood out to me was when I was trying to educate someone on why they can’t say the n-word, they asked me why black people can say it. I politely told them that it’s our way of reclaiming the word that was once used to degrade us. I explained how the meaning of the word was taken from old Nigerian language and it meant glorifying your skin like a king or a queen. The person responded by saying “shouldn’t you be happy I’m calling you a queen or a king.” I realized at a very young age that racism was a significant concern in society. As a result I told myself that I would try my best as an individual to spread awareness about the mistreatment of minorities.”
Making an impact on society can be done in several ways, however Hafsa’s literary artistic approach portrays how impactful words can truly be. She encompasses her concerns for discrimination through her profound poetry.
“I got into poetry at the beginning of grade nine, I had to complete a poetry project that was based off of a book. I decided to write my poem about The Hate You Give, the story was about the black community being a victim of police brutality. After presenting my poem my teacher advised me to start writing poetry more often. She emphasized how my poem brought attention to the mistreatment of minorities while grasping the audience’s attention at the same time. This initiated my passion for poetry. Music has always been something our generation instantly connects with, I feel as if poetry holds the same type of power. It’s extremely easy for me to pour my heart and soul into a poem rather than a story. The length of a poem is what really exaggerates the overall message the poem is trying to convey. I tend to write my poems about current day issues that are still not resolved such as racism, harassment and bigotry. Art is such an impactful way to raise a concern regardless of the method.”
As a grade eleven student she has already determined the passions she wants to pursue, one of them being to continue advocating for the injustice that the black community faces. When asked about how she would balance her ambitions of becoming a pediatrician and a social justice activist she answered.
“I plan to hopefully join the medical field one day in an attempt to prevent the racism that is actively present within the field. There are many cases where women of colour have been denied help or proper health care due to the unhealthy belief that they are “stronger.” Due to having a darker skin colour scientists would experiment on black women with the belief that they are immune to pain. Unfortunately this belief still remains active throughout the medical industry, which is horrifying considering the amount of education that is needed to become a doctor. Indigenous women also face an extreme of amount of discrimination in the health workforce. Dr. Niel Wieman stated how she was labeled as “one of the smart ones” by her colleagues because she was indeginous. I still remember my jaw dropping when I first read the backhanded comment she recieved. It just proves that regardless what field you enter even the most prestigious prejudice will always remain prevalent. It scares me how doctors are in charge of a person’s well being when they might deny the proper care because of hatred or prejudice. Becoming a doctor will allow me to fully pursue my passion for social justice as I would also be representing the Somali community in the medical field.”
As future citizens I believe we all should be advocating for the mistreatment that minorities face constantly to ensure that we live in a society filled with justice and equity.
For more stories about Queen E students, staff, and alumni, keep an eye on The Knight’s Post every Wednesday. As well, make sure to follow Queen E on Instagram at @queenelizabethhs
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