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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

  • So my story starts on July 4, 1992,

  • the day my mother followed her college sweetheart

  • to New York City from Egypt.

  • As fireworks exploded behind the skyline,

  • my father looked at my mother jokingly and said,

  • \"Look, habibti,

  • Americans are celebrating your arrival.\"

  • (Laughter)

  • Unfortunately, it didn't feel much like a celebration

  • when, growing up, my mother and I would wander past Queens

  • into New York City streets,

  • and my mother with her hijab and long flowy dresses

  • would tighten her hand around my small fingers

  • as she stood up against weathered comments like,

  • \"Go back to where you came from,\"

  • \"Learn English,\"

  • \"Stupid immigrant.\"

  • These words were meant to make us feel unsafe, insecure

  • in our own neighborhoods, in our own skin.

  • But it was these same streets

  • that made me fall in love with New York.

  • Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world,

  • with immigrant parents holding stories that always start

  • with something between three and 15 dollars in a pocket,

  • a voyage across a vast sea

  • and a cash-only hustle

  • sheltering families in jam-packed, busted apartments.

  • And it was these same families

  • that worked so hard to make sure that we had safe microcommunities --

  • we, as immigrant children,

  • to feel affirmed and loved in our identities.

  • But it was mostly the women.

  • And these women are the reason why,

  • regardless of these statements that my mom faced,

  • she remained unapologetic.

  • And these women were some of the most powerful women

  • I have ever met in my entire life.

  • I mean, they had networks for everything.

  • They had rotations for who watched whose kids when,

  • for saving extra cash,

  • for throwing belly dance parties

  • and memorizing Koran and learning English.

  • And they would collect small gold tokens

  • to fundraise for the local mosque.

  • And it was these same women,

  • when I decided to wear my hijab,

  • who supported me through it.

  • And when I was bullied for being Muslim,

  • I always felt like I had an army of unapologetic North African aunties

  • who had my back.

  • And so every morning at 15,

  • I would wake up and stand in front of a mirror,

  • and wrap beautiful bright silk around my head

  • the way my mother does and my grandmother did.

  • And one day that summer 2009,

  • I stepped out into the streets of New York City

  • on my way to volunteer at a domestic violence organization

  • that a woman in my neighborhood had started.

  • And I remember at that moment I felt a yank at the back of my head.

  • Then someone pulled and grabbed me,

  • trying to remove my hijab from off of my head.

  • I turned around to a tall, broad-shouldered man,

  • pure hate in his eyes.

  • I struggled and fought back,

  • and finally was able to get away,

  • hid myself in the bathroom of that organization and cried and cried.

  • I kept thinking to myself,

  • \"Why does he hate me?

  • He doesn't even know me.\"

  • Hate crimes against Muslims in the US

  • increased by 1,600 percent post-9/11,

  • and one in every four women in the US

  • will suffer some form of gender violence.

  • And it may not seem like it,

  • but Islamophobia and anti-Muslim violence

  • is a form of gender violence,

  • given the visibility of Muslim women in our hijabs.

  • And so I was not alone,

  • and that horrified me.

  • It made me want to do something.

  • It made me want to go out there and make sure that no one I loved,

  • that no woman would have to feel this insecure in her own skin.

  • So I started to think about how the women in my own neighborhood

  • were able to build community for themselves,

  • and how they were able to use the very little resources they had

  • to actually offer something.

  • And I began to think about what I could potentially offer

  • to build safety and power for women.

  • And through this journey,

  • I learned a couple of things,

  • and this is what I want to share with you today, some of these lessons.

  • So lesson number one:

  • start with what you know.

  • At the time, I had been doing Shotokan karate

  • for as long as I could remember,

  • and so I had a black belt.

  • Yeah. And so, I thought -- surprise.

  • (Laughter)

  • I thought that maybe I should go out into my neighborhood

  • and teach self-defense to young girls.

  • And so I actually went out and knocked on doors,

  • spoke to community leaders, to parents, to young women,

  • and finally was able to secure a free community center basement

  • and convince enough young women that they should come to my class.

  • And it actually all worked out,

  • because when I pitched the idea,

  • most of the responses were, like,

  • \"All right, cute,

  • this 5'1\" hijabi girl who knows karate.

  • How nice.\"

  • But in reality, I became the Queens, New York version of Mr. Miyagi

  • at 16 years old,

  • and I started teaching 13 young women in that community center basement

  • self-defense.

  • And with every single self-defense move,

  • for eight sessions over the course of that summer,

  • we began to understand the power of our bodies,

  • and we began to share our experiences

  • about our identities.

  • And sometimes there were shocking realizations,

  • and other times there were tears,

  • but mostly it was laughs.

  • And I ended that summer with this incredible sisterhood,

  • and I began to feel much safer in my own skin.

  • And it was because of these women that we just kept teaching.

  • I never thought that I would continue, but we just kept teaching.

  • And today, nine years, 17 cities,

  • 12 countries, 760 courses

  • and thousands of women and girls later,

  • I'm still teaching.

  • And what started as a self-defense course

  • in the basement of a community center

  • is now an international grassroots organization

  • focused on building safety and power for women around the world:

  • Malikah.

  • (Applause)

  • Now, for lesson number two:

  • start with who you know.

  • Oftentimes, it could be quite exciting,

  • especially if you're an expert in something

  • and you want to have impact,

  • to swoop into a community and think you have the magic recipe.

  • But very early on I learned

  • that, as esteemed philosopher Kendrick Lamar once said,

  • it's really important to be humble and to sit down.

  • So, basically, at 15 years old,

  • the only community that I had any business doing work with

  • were the 14-year-old girls in my neighborhood,

  • and that's because I was friends with them.

  • Other than that, I didn't know what it meant to be a child

  • of Bengali immigrants in Brooklyn

  • or to be Senegalese in the Bronx.

  • But I did know young women who were connected to those communities,

  • and it was quite remarkable how they already had

  • these layers of trust and awareness and relationship with their communities.

  • So like my mother and the women in her neighborhood,

  • they had these really strong social networks,

  • and it was about providing capacity

  • and believing in other women's definition of safety.

  • Even though I was a self-defense instructor,

  • I couldn't come into a community

  • and define safety for any other woman

  • who was not part of my own community.

  • And it was because, as our network expanded,

  • I learned that self-defense is not just physical.

  • It's actually really emotional work.

  • I mean, we would do a 60-minute self-defense class,

  • and then we'd have 30 minutes reserved for just talking and healing.

  • And in those 30 minutes,

  • women would share what brought them to the class to begin with

  • but also various other experiences with violence.

  • And, as an example, one time in one of those classes,

  • one woman actually started to talk about the fact

  • that she had been in a domestic violence relationship for over 30 years,

  • and it was her first time being able to articulate that

  • because we had established that safe space for her.

  • So it's powerful work,

  • but it only happens when we believe in women's agency to define

  • what safety and what power looks like for themselves.

  • All right, for lesson number three --

  • and this was the hardest thing for me --

  • the most important thing about this work is to start with the joy.

  • When I started doing this work, I was reacting to a hate-based attack,

  • so I was feeling insecure and anxious and overwhelmed.

  • I was really afraid.

  • And it makes sense, because if you take a step back,

  • and I can imagine that a lot of women in this room can probably relate to this,

  • the feeling, an overwhelming feeling of insecurity,

  • is oftentimes with us constantly.

  • I mean, imagine this:

  • walking home late at night, hearing footsteps behind you.

  • You wonder if you should walk faster or if you should slow down.

  • You keep your keys in your hand in case you need to use them.

  • You say, \"Text me when you get home. I want to make sure you are safe.\"

  • And we mean those words.

  • We're afraid to put down our drinks.

  • We're afraid to speak too much or too little in a meeting.

  • And imagine being woman and black and trans and queer and Latinx

  • and undocumented and poor and immigrant,

  • and you could then only imagine how overwhelming this work can be,

  • especially within the context of personal safety.

  • However, when I took a step to reflect

  • on what brought me to this work to begin with,

  • I began to realize it was actually the love that I had

  • for women in my community.

  • It was the way I saw them gather,

  • their ability to build for each other,

  • that inspired me to keep doing this work

  • day in and day out.

  • So whether I was in a refugee camp in Jordan

  • or a community center in Dallas, Texas

  • or a corporate office in Silicon Valley,

  • women gathered in beautifully magical ways

  • and they built together and supported each other

  • in ways that shifted culture

  • to empower and build safety for women.

  • And that is how the change happens.

  • It was through those relationships we built together.

  • That's why we don't just teach self-defense,

  • but we also throw dance parties

  • and host potlucks

  • and write love notes to each other

  • and sing songs together.

  • And it's really about the friendship,

  • and it's been so, so fun.

  • So the last thing I want to leave you with

  • is that the key takeaway for me in teaching self-defense all of these years

  • is that I actually don't want women, as cool as the self-defense moves are,

  • to go out and use these self-defense techniques.

  • I don't want any woman to have to de-escalate any violent situation.

  • But for that to happen,

  • the violence shouldn't happen,

  • and for the violence not to happen,

  • the systems and the cultures

  • that allow for this violence to take place to begin with needs to stop.

  • And for that to happen, we need all hands on deck.

  • So I've given you my secret recipe,

  • and now it's up to you.

  • To start with what you know, to start with who you know

  • and to start with joy. But just start.

  • Thank you so much.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

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【TED】3 lessons on starting a movement from a self-defense trailblazer | Rana Abdelhamid

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    林宜悉   に公開 2019 年 05 月 06 日
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