I Do Not Weep at the World

My militant mother and immigrant father taught me I am a citizen of the world above any other affiliation. My concept of love and my sense of unity has never known the arbitrary bounds of man-made borders, and I was never raised to depend on our political or legal institutions neither here nor abroad to derive a sense of freedom or self-worth.


The happenings of November 8th, 2016 change nothing about my identity and to those whose voices cry out in fear and pain today, this is what I know to be true: our freedom comes from within. Politics are not what make us free. Belief in our inalienable civil rights, our love for ourselves, and our love for all others in the face of hate and injustice is our source of freedom.


My father who grew up poor in a war-torn nation always says to me, “People can take things from you. But they cannot take away what is in your mind.” My mind found comfort in the voice of Zora Neale Hurston today — Black Feminist writer from the Harlem Renaissance who lived in an era of overt sexism and racism — an era that feels all too familiar in 2016. She wrote:


  • “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It is beyond me.”

As mentioned in a previous post, Hurston also said:

  • “I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to that sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world — I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”


To all my Female, Black, Brown, LGBTQ, and Immigrant brothers and sisters, and to all our countless allies: no one can kill your heart, your spirit, or your mind. It is my hope that this message brings you comfort. At the same time I recognize I am saying this while enjoying inordinate amounts of privilege: I look to the future without fear of my basic needs of food, shelter, and security not being met; my family members are not at risk of deportation under a new leader; my access to health care and birth control are not in danger. The pain, suffering, and fear our community is feeling is beyond valid and real. It is my (perhaps arrogant) desire that a message of internal freedom can bring a bit of peace. Meanwhile, I’m getting up. No depression or immobilization for me. I must wield my privilege in service of building a more inclusive and safer planet for all.


Oyster knife up.

Photo by Ashley Soong

Today is the Tomorrow I Was Waiting for Yesterday

I come from a family where education is THE most important thing. My father is an immigrant from South Sudan who achieved the American Dream thanks to his education. My mother is an African American with a rich history of generations of hard work and upward mobility because of education. Which leaves my sister, brother and me with the incredible gift of two parents that have loved, supported, and allowed us to reach for the stars academically. So, no surprise I am weeks away from entering business school.


I’m Type-A, eager to please my parents, and always follow the rules. As such, grades and achievement have been my focus for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten, I was the kid that shushed the other kids when they were being too loud. And being named “Teacher’s Pet” was my crown of glory. (To all my grade school classmates, I apologize.) Later on in high school, I developed an interest in studying business and kept my sights on a marketing career. This was parent-approved, and thus b school is in my future.


It was not until later in life that I learned my mom had been approached on multiple occasions when I was growing up about making me a model. She turned down or ignored these suggestions, believing that modeling emphasized the wrong values, and that my self esteem as a young lady could not withstand it. She was probably right.

Perhaps most importantly, pursuing more artistic careers like modeling, painting, or acting was not encouraged by my father. Sure, he paid for dance lessons, violin lessons, singing lessons; anything to make my siblings and I well-rounded people who understand and appreciate the arts. But his number 1 priority has always been to raise us as self-sufficient adults with solid careers.


In so many ways, my dad is right. He did not come to America for his kids to risk becoming starving artists. But there has always been this restless artist inside of me, hungry for something more than 50 years spent accumulating personal wealth as a corporate employee in a cube farm. I have an appreciation for beauty in the world, and in others. I possess a deep desire to return to my father’s homeland and make my life worth something for the millions of people in war-torn societies there. I’m creative. Music is my lifeblood. And the direction my life has been headed cut these parts out of me. I have been stifled by the rules of the capitalist game I play so well: lifetime success as defined by the size of my financial rewards from a “good job.”


Dabbling in modeling has awoken the artist in me and a desire to do something great. Like I’ve been living life inside a box, seeing everything in black and white, afraid to color outside the lines with that fuchsia colored crayon I love so much. Afraid to have dreams bigger than the cubical I spent the past 2 years working in. Education will still be the most important thing in my life, but the way I choose to wield it has officially changed. I’m dreaming now, and taking action every day to make those dreams come true:

  • I will do something creative with my life, and feed my artistic soul.
  • I will go back to Africa and positively impact my father’s homeland.
  • I will live with no regrets.

So here goes.