By Jessie Forand/ECHO Muslim Girls Making Change visit ECHO to perform their slam poetry. Photos: Jessie Forand/ECHO On a sunny spr...

Meet: Muslim Girls Making Change

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By Jessie Forand/ECHO

Muslim Girls Making Change visit ECHO to perform their slam poetry. Photos: Jessie Forand/ECHO


On a sunny spring afternoon, four young women stood in ECHO's Champ Lane, near a mural where some of them were depicted, to perform an inspiring, moving, and important piece of slam poetry. 

Kiran Waqar, Hawa Adam, Lena Ginawi, and Balkisa Abdikadir are better known around town as Muslim Girls Making Change, working with the Young Writers Project to tell their stories with the world around them. 

And they are about to take their story national. 

The young women will attend the Brave New Voices Festival & Slam Competition July 12-17 in Washington, DC, after a local send-off at Maglianero Cafe this Friday. 

What you may not know is that 3/4 of this incredible group are members of ECHO's E-Team, a teen leadership program for area high school students. 

Listen to "Wake Up America," performed in ECHO's Champ Lane: 



Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves/your group? What school(s) do you attend? What grade(s) and age(s) are you right now?
Kiran Waqar, Muslim Girls Making Change (MGMC): Muslim Girls Making Change, or MGMC, for short is a group we started a while ago to fight stereotypes. Originally we would volunteer our time at organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, Building Bright Futures, etc. Over time this evolved into the group we are today. We now use our voices to fight injustices or things personal to us. Lena and myself go to South Burlington High School while Hawa and Balkisa go to Burlington High School. We are all currently in 10th grade.
What inspired you to start to writing/performing poetry?MGMC: I began to write and perform poetry so that my voice could be heard. Our first poem, "Wake Up America," is really what got us started. In this poem we address the hidden crimes against Muslims. We really wanted to bring light to these stories swept under the rug and since no one else was doing it, we decided to. We really hoped that this piece would allow others to see Muslims as humans rather than strange and foreign. (Go home they said, go home where/The hospital where I was born/ The city where I was raised/ We aren’t just Muslims/We’re American Muslim/Equal in every way).
Muslim Girls Making Change, in Champ Lane. Photos: Jessie Forand/ECHO

What challenges have you faced while working on this project?
MGMC: One of our biggest challenges is the fact that we are such great friends! As you could see during our time with you we get very off topic and it can be difficult for us to ground ourselves and really get started. Another issue we deal with is being brave enough to perform poems that may not be popular. This is an ongoing issue and one we are still dealing with when we perform.

How did you get involved with the Young Writers Project?
MGMC: Hawa had actually seen videos of Brave New Voices and wanted to get involved. She contacted myself, Lena and Balkisa and we began to write. It almost seemed to be fate, but soon after (maybe a couple of days) we found out that Young Writers Project had an audition for BNV! We tried out and ah we got in!!

In what ways has poetry/expressing yourselves helped you grow as young adults? Have you learned anything about yourselves through this art form?
MGMC: Writing and expressing myself through poetry has really had a profound effect on me. Not only have I been able to better myself as a writer and in speaking/performing, but I have been able to reflect more and develop a deeper sense of empathy. Through slam poetry I have been able to really think about certain issues and how deep and far reaching they are when you really look at them. I have been able to feel much more deeply about issues and realize parts of me I hadn’t before. For example, in "American Dream," Hawa and I briefly mention how we assimilated in middle school and were ashamed of our culture. Until I wrote the poem, I hadn’t even thought about that. When we wrote it, I hardly knew what it meant until I was forced to examine the meaning behind our words. In this way poetry has allowed me to learn about myself and to think about others in my shoes, or who may have been put in worse situations.

What would you say to other people your age looking for a creative outlet? 
MGMC: I would tell other people my age that there is always a way to express yourself, whether it is through science or spoken word. To those who look to writing, there is no wrong way to write. There is only your way of writing and you can only get better. I would also suggest that if writing is your calling that you look into Young Writers Project, they are there to help you. 

For those of you in E-Team, what does this program mean to you? Why do you do it?
MGMC: Lena, Hawa, and myself are part of E-Team. I do E-Team because it is a way to get to meet people from all over Vermont and other parts of the world, to improve my science knowledge, and to a have a varying skill set. Through E-Team I have met people from all over allowing me to hear new stories, experiences, and viewpoints without leaving Vermont. This to me, is amazing. Through E-Team I have been able to improve my science knowledge which has been very helpful in biology class this year. E-Team taught me many other skills such as how to interact with guests, how to make an interactive and fun lesson on the spot and how to be flexible.

What are your goals for MGMC/poetry/this community?
MGMC: My first goal as of this moment, is to raise enough funds for our trip to DC ($4,500). Through our poetry, I hope that we can make positive effects in others’ lives. I hope that our poems resonate with people and increase their empathy and possibly create even bigger shifts!

Can you explain what doing to the Brave New Voices Festival means to you? That’s a huge deal!
MGMC: We are all very excited for Brave New Voices this summer! We are unbelievably thankful for this platform and we want to use it to make a change (thus the name Muslim Girls Making Change).

Anything else you would like to say? 
MGMC: 
Thank you to Momin for being the best brother ever.



Learn more about Muslim Girls Making Change (and donate to their fundraising effort) at http://youngwritersproject.org/bnv2016


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