somali kids

I have heard the word “home” spoken around me
more often than any other word in my lifetime;
heard it spoken thick with longing,
my mother’s tongue; slick with the accent of her ancestors,
her dialect still potent, fragrant; lingering.

We are the sons and daughters  of lands
That will always be called “home,”
The children whose skin lays testament to a place
We may never have known,
Who in broken attempts at our mother tongues;
Still claim the lands that expelled us.

We are the in-betweeners -
Lost in a space between being and belonging;
The lingering roots of a tree pulled from its soil,
We are sired to ‘homes’ we have never been to,
Pained by memories we can never lay claim to;
More loyal to the ‘homes’ we have left
than the lands we have moved to;

We are here, but we are not.
We are here, but we are not.

- ‘home’, f.gabdon

poem inspired by this photo courtesy of: mussalini


Somalia, 1930s. These Somali Mogadishu kids were probably dressed up in various local garments for the enjoyment of the Italian imperialists. 

Somali Kid in the West...

Do you sometimes ask yourself why your parents brought you where you are today,and you just want to blame them for everything that’s wrong in your life? The fact that you don’t really fit in and deep down feel like you don’t belong anywhere? 

Do you see your parents constantly planning this beautiful fantasy life in Somalia,that you don’t really want to be part of? You ask yourself: Why do they love that crazy Al-Shabaab country?  

Have you ever been asked that terrifying question: What do your parents do for living? And you were ashamed and embarrassed to say that none of them had a job. 

Do you live in constant fear of being caught with your secret boyfriend/girlfriend? And you just never want to come across another Somali in the street to spread the rumor all the way to Africa? 

How many of you grew up seeing your Mum doing EVERYTHING? Like taking to you to school,picking you up,going to your meetings,helping you with your homeworks,cooking,cleaning,driving you etc etc…while your father,well,where was he?

How many of you girls base their opinion on Somali men because of my previous question?

How many of you had practically used every excuse in the book when your friends invited you for a sleepover,party or any event that will make you come home late and your parents said NO?

How many of you girls have seen your brothers getting away with things that your parents would probably kick you out the house for?

The average Somali kid/boy/girl in the West will probably nod their head to more than 1 of these questions. True or false?

immigrant parents (especially those from faith backgrounds) out of love and desire to keep their children safe and near, sometimes fill them with fear. so much fear that it can be crippling. we are taught to be weary and fearful of anything that is not ours. or close to ours. especially as women. especially as women. most of this, comes from the parents fear of their children losing their faith/culture/teachings. and i understand that so well. my parents have known hardship. and suffering. war and devastation. there is much to fear, but there are better ways, i think.

there must be.

I’m not sure the world really knows about the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas. It’s celebrated on Dec 5th and it’s basically in lieu of Santa Claus. However the Dutch dude comes by ship from Spain with his little black helper called Zwarte Piet.

Here’s a pic for those who like their visuals:

Basically, as racist as can be, right?
Well not according to the majority of Holland.

However recently, good brave folks have been publicly taking a stand, setting up protests and a movement was started called “Zwarte Piet Is Racisme”. Peaceful protesters from this organisation (among them my Danish friend who was writing her Master thesis about this weird tradition) were arrested during a parade in 2011 just for wearing a t-shirt with those words on it! They were manhandled and everything. The response to being confronted by the truth was apparently too much for the authorities. Actually at one point, the United Nations Human Rights Council took a look at this Dutch tradition and how it affects the POC in the country. It was dismissed by some Belgian politician, mostly due to the fact that the research was led by a WOC from Jamaica. Ah Europe, what a wonderful place.

My point is not to start a debate, cause there’s nothing to debate over here. It’s wrong, it’s hurtful and if you can’t admit that this is racist then you are a fucking racist!

Please try to imagine how shitty it is to be a black person between the months of October and December in this country (nevermind the rest of the time). Especially now that people have started taking a stand and demanding that this black-face feature be removed from the holiday. 

Ignorant people will come up to me - I guess thinking “ah she’s black, she’ll want to discuss this topic” and then say how ridiculous the whole thing is & what do I think. I’ve grown up here, surely I take no offense to the blatant racist caricature (FYI he has gold hoop earrings, red lips and an afro). Their argument is that Piet has become black cause of the soot of the chimney. Whatever fuckers - how come his clothes are still clean, how come Sinterklaas looks pristinely white?

Ah my point, there it is:

So today, I’m at the bakery wanting to treat myself with something sweet when this old man (around 70 yrs old I’d guess) comes in and asks if that cake has Zwarte Piet on it. The lady at the till says “oh no he’s a pirate from this children’s show”.

Then this man turns to me (as I am waiting my turn to be served) and I can feel it - I can tell he wants to do this right now! So I grab my phone & start going through it cause fuck this! So he goes:

“I’m not saying this just cause this lady is here, but this whole thing is ridiculous. It’s tradition. I knew this guy once, and he was…well he was dark skinned and then one time these other men came up to him and said ’you look like a dirty negro’ and the man just replied ‘that’s because I am one’

The old man stopped laughing when he saw my face. I have no idea what the point of this story is, other than to show that he once met a black man who apparently had some self image and self hatred issues. So the lady at the bakery goes, “Well people should be proud of their heritage. I’d love a nice tan.”

Yo I was speechless, but not stunned or surprised though. More like, I refuse to engage with these people. I will not educate you because you are grown and can do that yourself. Also damn it I just wanted a pastry.

What bothers me about this whole situation is that nothing will ever change because it’s a children’s holiday, so you are teaching the next generation to view black people as servants to white people. That they are ditzy, clumsy, lazy (all traits shown by Zwarte Piet). 

When I was about 10 yrs old, myself & another black boy (ah rural Holland & the two Somali kids) in my class were asked if we wanted to help hand out treats to the kindergartners. So we were like yes of course, cause hello we get to leave the classroom and do cool things. Except what me and my buddy hadn’t realised was that they had also picked out a blond boy in class to play Sinterklaas (dress up etc), which meant that we were also assigned a role.

YEP, they had selected the only 2 black children in the school to play Zwarte Piet because “well that’ll save us time and money on face paint.” My mom was recently here and apparently she never knew, I never told her cause I thought it was normal. I know my mother would have raised hell, hindsight is 20/20 LOL. It wasn’t until I was older, grew some sense that I realised - wait a second. What kind of fuckery is this?

So yeah, this was my PSA to avoid the extra-racist months when visiting The Netherlands. 

You’re very welcome.

Yurub kid problems

When we were young me and my siblings used to love watching family weddings with my mum just so we could choose random people and laugh at them. I remember once this one lady, seriously, she had us rolling on the floor, we were like ‘Waaaaah, omg she’s so ugly look at her face! Is it even possible for someone to look like that lololololololol!?' 

'Hooyo who’s that lady?’ *still laughing* Mum turns around after her phone conversation.


And we were all like:

'Allah, hooyo noo qalee’