April 18, 2014
By: Zeenat Hasan
Advocacy Committee Co-Chair
I believe in the importance of shared experiences. Growing up as an immigrant child was isolating, even in a vast and sprawling metropolitan city. My cousins and siblings were the only others who I knew shared the experiences that I did – of seeing our parents struggle against discrimination and exploitation, of being undocumented, of family strife and displacement; but also those happy moments of enterprise, family gatherings, Sunday dinners and feasts, children, laughter and joy.
My parents and their children, my three brothers and I, were sponsored by my grandparents. My uncles were able to sponsor my mother’s sisters to come and live with us in the U.S. My parents, brothers and I (only 6 years old at the time) had escaped a terrible situation in West Africa. The governance was failing and violence was rampant. I remember asking my mother if I too was going to have my head cut off. Thankfully, my uncles had immigrated to the States years before and could sponsor my grandparents who then sponsored my family. My aunts joined soon after.
My cousins, siblings and I also share a great pride in being the children and grandchildren of brave men and women. Our parents and grandparents taught us everything and passed along their wisdom hoping that our paths would also be blessed with beauty, truth and enlightenment, and free from the experiences
of war, loss and displacement. My beloved grandmother, the matriarch of our family, recently passed away. Every one of us was gathered by her bedside. I know that one day the heartbreak will fade into memories of my youth and time spent with my grandparents (the timbre of their voices still resonating in my life), and of the time when our family became whole and complete in this new country.
My family’s story of immigrating, of course, didn’t end when we landed on American soil, it continues to the present. There is a new generation of children now and a new chapter unfolding. Our tiesface are still strong, and we believe, unbreakable. We know that strong family networks have positive influences on a person’s health and happiness. Our relationships are like a web of support for anything in this world we choose to pursue. It is also the constant tie that binds us to our legacy. Without this “unity,” my life would not be possible. My story would never be.
This is why I fast.