Editor's Note: We're launching a blog series about topics central to YWCA Madison's work to eliminate racism and empower women. We're thrilled to have four talented writers who will be blogging about YWCA 101: introductions to topics on racial justice and women's empowerment. You'll also see stories about YWCA programs and participants. To start, each blogger will tell you a little bit about themselves and why they're volunteering. Here's the second in a series of four introductions. Share with your friends and invite them to follow along.
From Maryland to Madison: Meet Amina
Ever since I moved to Madison in the summer of 2014, I have been met with puzzled looks each time I announce that I am from the “DMV.” My peers in my classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison always ask, “Wait, Amina. You are from the Department of Motor Vehicles?” Time and time again, I happily clarify that, on the east coast, “the DMV” refers to the DC/Maryland/Virginia Metropolitan Area.
I am a student, artist, activist, lover of books, selfie fiend, and the original professional hijab flipper. I am the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, born in the nation’s capital, and raised in “Gorgeous” Prince George’s County, Maryland. After high school, I packed my bags and moved here to Madison, Wisconsin, where I am now a UW sophomore studying Neurobiology and English Creative Writing with the intention of marrying my interest in science with my love for art, specifically spoken word poetry. I am also a First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Scholar in the eighth cohort of the program.
My passion for the arts began long before I began arrived in Madison. There was rarely a time in my childhood when I was not reading or scribbling story ideas in a journal. In my junior year of high school, I gained a spot on the DC Youth Slam Team, a group of traveling poets who combine poetry and social activism to encourage youth to speak out about social issues. Through the team, I have traveled to several states all over the United States as well as to London and South Africa. I have performed in prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, the State Theatre in South Africa, and countless colleges and universities in and out of the States. My poetic body of work covers a wide range of topics; I write about everything from the importance of self-love to the dichotomy of being both a black American and a first generation American-born Nigerian.
Writing is, without a doubt, my first love. It is natural, then, for me to combine writing with my other interests and facets as best as I can. My identity as a Black Muslim Woman serves as a window of perspective into racial issues as I create art that examines and critiques issues of race on a personal, social, and political scale. This, within the past year, has become especially important to me. My transition from the diverse and (for the most part) socially awakened DMV to UW’s campus has been an immense culture shock for me. It has not always been easy. As we know, racism takes on many forms wherever it exists, and this campus is no exception. From microaggressions to blatant racism, I have seen, heard, and experienced it all. Though dejecting and infuriating, the racism that I have faced has lit a fire under my feet. Now, I aim to speak out and act more consistently and honestly to advocate for myself and my peers of color. I know that I must be relentless here in taking advantage of opportunities that allow me to improve the campus climate for students of color through my forte: writing and art.
Presently, I serve as the Assistant Director of the JVN Project, a non-profit organization in Madison that uses hip-hop as a tool of empowerment and education. Though our many initiatives, I am able to facilitate after-school poetry workshops for high school and middle school students. As a First Wave scholar, I have been fortunate enough to gain training on artistic integrity, performance, stage writing, and how to connect these skills and principals to both academia and activism.
As the saying goes, writing is a muscle. I would have never thought that at the tender age of 19, I would be exercising my muscle on so many different levels while making an impact on others. Calling it an honor and a blessing would be an immense understatement. For this and a plethora of other reasons, I am elated to be joining the YWCA community. I look forward to contributing my perspective, experience, knowledge, and art in the name of eliminating racism and empowering women.
I would not be where I am today without the support and critique of those around me. For any questions, comments, and critiques, I can be reached at WriterIro@gmail.com.
Amina Iro, a Prince George’s County, Maryland native, is a writer and spoken word artist in the First Wave Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a young, Muslim, Nigerian-American woman, Amina speaks on topics relating to her faith, race, culture, and womanhood always with the goal to inspire and connect with others like her.
Date Created: 10/21/2015
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From Maryland to Madison: Meet Amina
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"I Leave You Love" --Dr. Dorothy Height
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