“Since when did you become Muslim?”

When I was in middle school, I decided to wear the hijab. I remember the first time I wore it. I wore this white hijab with tiny diamonds on it. I hated wearing white but I really wanted to look nice. My hijab was wrapped around my dark face. It was my first day as an eighth grader. Till this day, I do not remember what made me wear the hijab. My parents did not force me at all. I was a 13 year old girl who wanted to begin wearing the hijab. However, the funny thing was… I wasn’t consistent. Meaning, I would wear it one day then the next day, I would take it off and show off my hair. I would say that I did struggle with it because I don’t remember the reason why I wore it. No one forced me. And many of the Muslim girls I knew didn’t wear it at the time. So why did I wear it?

What I do remember is talking on the phone with a friend of mine. We were done middle school and it was almost time for high school. I told this friend that I didn’t want to wear the hijab in high school. This friend somewhat encouraged me. Key word: somewhat. It was my decision after all. So, the first day of my freshman year, I had my hair out. Did not wear the hijab until two years later.

Fast forward to the summer before my senior year started. My father asked me why I didn’t wear the hijab like my cousins did. My mother defended me by saying I used to wear it and that I shouldn’t be forced. I still remember that day because my mother had never forced me to wear the hijab. Not once. Nor did she tell me to take it off when I finally decided to wear it again.

Two weeks before my senior year started, I took baby steps. I told myself that I wanted to wear the hijab again, but this time, I was going to be fully committed. It was like a calling, you know. I felt as though it was my time. I promised myself. So I wore turbans at first. On the first day of my senior year, I wore my hijab. I’m not going lie to you, I do not remember the color I wore but I remember the reactions from my peers. I remember one reaction in particular.

A peer of mine approached me with confusion. It was as though I had slapped her in the face with my hijab. She stared and asked me a question that everyone else I encountered asked me: “Since when did you become Muslim?”

Why do people ask Muslims this question, specifically Muslim women who do not wear the hijab? At first, when she asked me this, I did not know how to respond. For some reason, her question agitated me. Since when did I become Muslim? I was born a Muslim, raised as a Muslim, and now I live my life as a Muslim. Yet, I never questioned it. Wearing the hijab made people I went to school with question my religion. Apparently the peer of mine and everyone else thought I converted to Islam. Now, what did I say to the peer of mine that asked me that question?

I was born Muslim.

I am proud to say that I have been wearing the hijab for four years. Not to be cheesy and corny but I fell in love with my hijab. It’s more than just a scarf covering my hair. To all the Muslim women who wear the hijab, it means something different. Every Muslim women who wear the hijab have their own story. No matter how many people, specifically Muslim men have bashed us Hijabis for the way we wear our hijabs, we are still stronger than ever. We each have our own journey to take. Wearing the hijab is not as easy as you think. It is a commitment. It is between the woman and Allah. Yet, people make it seem as though, it is between the woman and the world.

I cannot speak for all Muslim women, I can only speak for myself.

Written by: Diaka Thiam

-Thank you for reading 🙂


“Not even water?!”

The smell of coffee tingled Marwa’s nostrils as she breathed in deeply. She shook her head and sighed. It was the first day of Ramadan. First day she couldn’t drink her usual cup of hot hazelnut coffee with french vanilla cream. First day of the blessed month. Glancing at her gold watch, she knew she was a few minutes late to work. At least she was already in the building, her main goal was to get to her desk before her boss arrived. She did not see his car in the parking lot.

It was difficult for her to go back to sleep after waking up for Suhoor. The alarm didn’t go off as it should have at 3:00am. Instead, her mother knocked heavily on her room door which she warned her about earlier that day. She specifically told her mother: “Ma, do not wake me up. I have an alarm. If you do have to wake me up, please do not bang on my door.” Yet, at 3:34am, her mother must have forgotten what she initially said.

“Good morning Maria!” Jim yelled as soon as Marwa stepped out of the elevator. She rolled her eyes. Relax and smile, do not be angry, she thought to herself.

“Good morning Joe.” She replied, proceeding to go to her desk. Jim smiled awkwardly with his small lips pressed tightly together. He opened his mouth waiting for the words to escape his mouth, but nothing. He pressed his lips together again and followed Marwa to her desk.

“Why do you keep calling me Joe?” Jim said calmly. By this point, Marwa had already sat on her desk, ready to begin her new assignment.

Her eyes peered over to his. “You keep calling me Maria, when my name is Marwa. I have told you this numerous of times.”

He chuckled loudly. However, Marwa did not find any of this funny. He was a new writer at this office, and the odd thing was that he knew everyone’s name but hers. She assumed that he knew it was Marwa, but he just decided to call her Maria for jokes. She was not here for jokes.

“I apologize, I really thought it was Maria. Do you have a nickname?”

That was it. Marwa closed her eyes, and began to count in her head: 1, 2, 3, 4…

“Okay then, I’ll leave you be.”

When she reached 30, she opened her eyes and Jim was gone. He was at his desk glancing at his computer screen as if nothing happened. Do you have a nickname? Did he seriously just ask me that? Rubbish. 

It was now lunch time. Marwa wanted to use her time to go pray. Before getting up, one of her coworkers, Liz, approached her desk.

“Hey! Do you wanna grab lunch? Grubs is having lunch specials and I thought you might be interested.” Liz grinned. She was the nice one in this office.

“Uh- I can’t today Liz. I am fasting.”

Liz squinted her eyes at Marwa. “You’re fasti-” Her eyes immediately widened as if she just discovered something new. “It’s Ramadan already?”

Nodding her head, Marwa said, “Yeah, but thank you for the invite. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. But I have a question- you can’t eat at all?”

Marwa gently shook her head, “No. I fast from sunrise to sunset.”

“Wow, can you at least drink water?” Liz asked, now intrigued. Her eyes were still wide with interest.

“No… during this holy month, Muslims cannot eat or drink anything until the sun sets. But it is more than just not eating, it is also abstaining yourself from negative thoughts and behaviors. It is a month of understanding and having empathy for those who are less fortunate.” Marwa replied.

“Wait-“Liz paused.

Marwa knew what was about to come next.

“Not even water?!”


Written by: Diaka Thiam

Note: I wrote this because I had a similar experience but I decided to use fictional characters. Thank you for reading 🙂

An Analysis: Power and Being Black in America

The stories around me that are being told are the stories of being Black in America. Thinking about the different modalities, especially visual, the portrayals of the mistreatment of Black people in the media is a story that I am told on a daily basis. Whether it is on news programs, or on television programs, I am told the same narrative. These stories do indeed tell us how the world works; meaning, that there is power and privilege in our world. There are people with advantages and others with disadvantages. Privilege is given to those with a certain status, and power. As a Black woman in this society, I am not given that power nor that privilege. I can consider myself to be amongst those who are disadvantaged. Therefore, my behavior and demeanor must be “controlled.” I have to behave in a certain way in order to be treated well in this world. The same narrative that I am told on a daily basis, whether it is on television or social media, has an impact on me and all of us as well, because it changes our perception on people and things.

Furthermore, when considering who has power in this narrative, we must look at the modalities in which this narrative is being told. Who is pushing this narrative and why? If we look at the news programs, the same story that is being told is that a Black man has been shot by the police. Usually, with this story, the Black man was unarmed and the police officer that shot him is on probation or suspended. I have become desensitized to this narrative because it is the same. Depending on the news program, they may decide to portray any criminal history the victim had. Other news programs will portray what is known as the Black on Black crime narrative. This narrative perpetuates the stereotypes associated with Black people. Though I do not know specifically who makes the rules, I know that the people that are in power have a motive. The motive can be to portray Black people negatively. These narratives teach society how to treat Black people, especially as criminals for Black men.

Thinking about the stories around me, my identity plays a significant role. As a Black Muslim woman, I am told that I need to work twice as hard in order to make it in this world. I have to prove myself because people’s perception of me is different from how I would like for them to perceive me. With the way people perceive me, I struggle with my identity. The world around me want me to be someone that I am not. In consideration of the media, there aren’t that many stories portrayed on Black Muslim women. Yet, there are stories on Black women and Muslim women. It’s as though I need to choose between my race and my religion. There isn’t much power given to me; I am not given the power to choose where to fit in. Whether I choose my ethnicity or religion, I am still at a disadvantage.

Other stories I am told are the continuous mistreatment of Black people. Recently, I was on social media and I saw the story about two Black men who got arrested in Starbucks. They were arrested after waiting for their friend. The two men were arrested for trespassing. The story went viral on social media and there were many people furious about it. Based on this story, Black men, specifically, are not treated fairly. Black people must behave in a certain way in order to be treated well. Black people must watch for what they say, and how they say it. Black people must meet certain expectations, so that they are not viewed differently. A constant story that I usually hear a lot is a Black student being told to go home from school because of his/her hair. If the student has dreads or braids, it is considered inappropriate and against the school’s policy. Not only do Black people need to monitor their behavior but also the way they dress and look. This all goes back to power and the understanding of who is at a disadvantage. In this case, it’s not about what is being punished, but who is being punished and why they are being punished. Those who are at a disadvantage are being punished for who they are.

There are so many more stories of the mistreatment of Black people and being Black in America, but they are all similar. No matter how far along we are, it will continue to be the same because of power. Those who have power are able to control and do things that will benefit them. These stories are being told on platforms with a large audience. Because of this, it matters that we know what perspective these stories are being told from. But, it must be noted that these stories shape the way people view others. And, the fact that these media platforms have a large audience, they can be influenced.

The power is with those who are telling these stories of being Black in America. However, if Black people were the ones telling their own story, it would be quite different. Maybe they would be treated differently. If they had power to tell their own story, people’s perception about them would change. And, the negative narrative of Black people would cease to exist, right? The stories that are told to us do indeed shape us to become who we are. It is difficult to make sense of the world when there are too many stories to be told. But, most importantly, it is difficult to make sense of the world when you lack power.




“You must marry an African man!”

Yeah. You read the title right. Guess who said that? My mom.

So a few months back, my mom was talking to my aunt at her hair salon. They were talking about marriage, and my aunt asked my mom when I will get married. Yes, she’s one of those aunties at parties that always asks when you will get married. It’s really none of their business. Why are they so concerned? I really don’t know, but back to the story. My mom said not yet, and that she wanted me to finish my education first. I was in shock but also grateful for that response. My aunt then asked if my mom would let me marry someone who is not African. My mother’s response: “She can marry who she wants, as long as he is African.”

I stopped braiding my customer’s hair and looked at my mom. She was not paying attention to me, instead, she kept braiding. I thought about what she said long and hard. I can marry who I want but they must be African. But when religion comes in, I’m actually limited. What my mother meant to say: “She can marry who she wants, as long as he is African AND Muslim.”

So, I really cannot marry who I want. Although I still think about this conversation, I question my freedom to marry whom I want (he has to be Muslim). My parents have tied me and put me in this tiny box in which I cannot be released until someone marries me. The one good thing is that my parents are not expecting me to get married anytime soon. Yet, they hold the key to this box that I am in. As an African woman, I really am limited. As an African woman, I have a “curfew.” I must come home at a certain time. I must tell my parents where I am at all times. I cannot have male friends. I must be the care taker.

As an African woman, I am limited. This key that they hold will be given to my future husband.

How do I break free from this box without marriage being involved? I honestly do not know. However, do I have to marry an African man because my mother said so? (I would say yes so I do not get disowned). But, the point is, I should be of liberty to make my own decisions. I shouldn’t be limited, not just in who I marry, but in everything. I am not my own person. I am my parents person. I am in the box they have created just for me. Now, my goal is to break free.

My mother’s new response should be: “She can choose whomever she wants to marry (as long as he is Muslim).”


My friend was telling me a story of how his roommate disliked black people. For some reason, majority of the conversations I am in, somewhere along the lines, the topic of anti-blackness emerges. Whether I’m having a conversation with my friend about what type of person they would bring home, how parents feel about black people, our experiences being black, and what not. Sitting down and analyzing this has made me realize that anti-blackness is not only real in other communities but also in my own community: the African community. Why are black people hated on? What is it about the color of our skin that creates this hatred? Black people have been seen as inferior since slavery. We are still seen as inferior even today. Yet, what troubles me most is why other people of color dislike black people as well. It’s not just about the system and the social construction of race that has created this hatred.

What is it about black people that makes my Asian friend afraid of bringing a black person home? What is it about black people that makes my Hispanic friend’s mom dislike us? What is it about black people that makes Africans against African Americans and vice versa? What is it about black people that makes my African friend say that her family would rather she bring home a white man than a black man?

Let’s carefully think about this: what is it about black people that has created this hatred? I’m not saying that this hatred is new nor am I saying that the system is not to blame. No. I’m saying that some of it really has to do with the negative stereotypes that are associated with us black people and the way the media portrays us. Take the stereotype of black males being dangerous. Many people in our society believe that this is true. This stereotype is accentuated even further from our local news to the big screens. And it is affecting us internally and externally. By internally, I mean colorism, but that’s another discussion.

Anti-blackness is real. There are people denying it, but it is real. Because of this, the way people treat us black people is disgusting. I’m tired of having the same conversations with people about anti-blackness. I’m tired of my friends telling me how much their parents dislike black people. I’m tired of this “feud” between Africans and African Americans. For so long, we’ve been treated and viewed negatively. I’m tired of hearing all of the negative things about us. For once, I want to hear good things about black people.

Of course, there is more to discuss and I will definitely come back to this. But, I would like to do research on Anti-blackness. This might be my thesis topic.

I’m ending this by quoting Nina Simone: “To me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world. Black people. And I mean that in every sense…” 



self hate blame

Mama, I’m sorry.

I am not the perfect daughter you have always dreamed of.

Instead I am your nightmare.

Praying to God for me

While I squeeze your heart, till it begins to bleed black

You approach me with kindness

Your words melting into my ears,

But mama,

I am broken.

I can never be fixed.

Eleven years of pain was enough

The things you did for me

Ungrateful child, I am


I beg you,

Keep on,

Praying for me.

For God is on your side,

And will be on mine…

For sure.

talking about mental health in an African home.

This is a topic that we do not discuss in my house. At all. I have always wanted to talk to my parents about my mental health. Yet, every time my feet are ready to move, they are glued to the floor. And every time I am ready to speak, my mouth becomes dry and I am unable to find the words. How do you tell your parents that you are suffering from depression? I’m not saying that I am depressed, but I know plenty of Africans my age who have trouble opening up to their parents. Mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc, are not discussed in an African Household.

We are limited. We are held back. You might say, “Why don’t you make your parents understand?” But I cannot. My parents would associate depression with craziness. But these are my assumptions. How can I forget? I also come from a religious household. Therefore, if I were to open up to my parents, they would tell me to pray about it. You would be surprised if I were to tell you what my major is. Actually, guess. Yes. You’re right. Psychology.

Every time I tell people I am a psychology major, this is theirWe-Need-To-Change-The-Culture-Of-This-Topic-And-Make-It-OK-To-Speak-About-Mental-Health-And-Suicide.-»-Luke-Richardson initial reaction: “Oh wow, we need more people like you because there are too many crazy people in this world.” People fail to acknowledge that mental disorders are serious. It sickens me when people associate mental illnesses with being crazy. No. We must stop this stigma of mental illnesses. My point is that it’s not just African parents, but also other people who fail to educate themselves. However, in order for me to have a discussion with my parents,  I need to educate them on what mental disorders are.

But where do we (Africans who are in my generation) begin? How do we have an honest, open discussion about our mental health? Maybe, our parents are also suffering, but choose to not acknowledge it. Suffering in silence is not the answer. We can begin this conversation by going to our parents, sitting down with them, and tell them what is going on. The conversation could simply begin when they ask you if you are okay. If you like to write, you can also write letters to your parents. Our first step is to try to make them understand. If they refuse to acknowledge your mental health, then find someone else who can understand.

Some of us are not close to our parents, which can also be a problem. Although I am not close to my parents, I want to stop suffering in silence. The next time my dad asks me if I am okay, hopefully, my feet will no longer be glued to the floor, my mouth isn’t so dry, and I’ll be able to find the words.



yes honey, representation matters.

I’ve come to realize that I love watching biographical films. They are fascinating and much more interesting than any other genre in my opinion. I remember watching the biographical film of Nina Simone, which is called Nina. The film was okay, it could have been better, but I’m not here to talk about the deliverance of the film. Let’s discuss the actress who was playing Nina Simone: Zoe Saldana.

Saldana is clearly light skinned. Yet, Nina Simone was a dark skinned woman. Ask yourself this, why would a director choose a light skinned woman to play a dark skinned woman? Or how is that even possible? Or better yet, why didn’t the director look for an actress who is dark skinned? This is what frustrated me when I watched the film. They (the people who created the film) made Saldana dark. How you may ask? I do not know but it did not look good at all.

Representation matters of course. It matters especially when it comes to films and television shows. We all know two important things. One, we know that Hollywood tends to casts lighter skinned women for certain roles for Black women. Two, we know that when it comes to filming a movie where the character is dark skinned, Hollywood chooses a light skinned woman. Now, wait a second. I’m not slandering light skinned women. Oh no, honey. As a Black woman myself, I will always support my fellow Black sisters.

However, as a dark skinned Black woman, I am not represented well in films and television shows. Yes, there’s Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, and Uzo Aduba. But let’s take a second and think about our favorite television shows. If there’s a Black woman in that television show, is she light skinned, brown skinned, or dark skinned? Now, if you do have a favorite television in which there is a dark skinned Black woman, how is she being portrayed? Negatively? Angry? Loud? What about a light skinned Black woman? How is she being portrayed? Positively? Calm? Think about this.

There are films and television shows in which there are little to no Black actresses AND actors. Yes. I’m very serious. Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? Oh, may I ask, is that show diverse? Have you noticed any Black characters? Oh wow, you’ve noticed only two Black characters? You see where I’m going with this? I have never watched the show, but I’ve seen trailers and that’s enough for me to presume that it’s not diverse.

I am all for my black brothers and sisters who are on the big screen. Especially since, we are not casted that often. But from my point above, Hollywood needs to do better. REPRESENTATION MATTERS.


mother diaries.

There are times when I am given a look of disappointment from my mother

as if I was the wrong fetus that was in her womb for nine months.

I sit and I wait. I do everything possible to please a woman who sees me as- a regret?

I am behind a wall that infringes me from touching and feeling an unwanted love

from who I call mother, and who calls me- useless.

I will now become useless and her- she will become mother,

to me in anyway possible because my anemic heart and my blinded eyes are willing to forgive.

I’ve never felt the touch of a woman who supposedly gave me life. On mother’s day I cry,

I cry because her anger rips at my lungs, taking all the oxygen in the air, leaving me gasping, wide eyed, and numb.

Her not wanting to love me is the knife that pierces through my dark skin,

leaving me bleeding- bleeding black blood.

Who am I to complain as her tongue elongates into a poisonous snake slowly biting into my neck-

her mouth hissing words that become bullets firing into me-

her eyes, oh her eyes, glare, taunt, killing me softly.

Man was the first to touch me, and I told her.

She sat and she waited. Man walked into the home, ready for more-

the tears slowly escaped-

mother’s lips zipped tightly unable to protect me.

Mother unable to stare, walks away.

I become useless to her, and to me she becomes mother

because I spent nine months in her womb with the unwanted love that I craved for.

She becomes mother because no matter what happens,

she is the controller of my heart.

She becomes mother because I owe her for that regret-

I owe her the fetus that she had always craved for.


i am tired.

i’ve worked too hard and too long, everyday explaining your privilege to you. i never know the best way to tell you. i can never open my mouth, and say “you’re racist.” because we know your answer to that. you’re unappreciative. telling a group of black people that they are too loud, when we never uttered a word. your eyes fail to notice the others who are of your skin complexion. but your eyes never fail to be quick and glare at those whose skin color is darker than yours. you love learning about new cultures, but when will you learn mine. show me what you’ve learned. eating chipotle and indian cuisine does not mean you’ve learned a new culture. culturally appropriating by wearing an african dress does not mean you’ve learned a new culture. saying como estas or nagadef does not mean you appreciate a different culture. your privilege is painted permanently on your white skin. you do not associate yourself with us, “black people.” you try to forget that you’re white. but how can you? you say that i should forget about my skin tone, but how can i? i am black. how can i forget who i am when i am faced with bigotry for my skin color? tell me.