Thank you for following our journey in education this school year. We would like to use this space to show you the result of our interview work with Voice of Witness. Many thanks to mimi lok and Cliff Mayotte for coming to Charlottesville and sharing their work with us. What follows are the responses that students gave to prompts: 1) Describe a time in your life that someone saw you differently than you saw yourself or 2) Describe the story behind one of your great passions.
When I was young and as the seasons grew cold in Upstate New York my mother took me shopping. Whole chickens, fruit, and bread filled our shopping cart and I can clearly remember following her through the grocery store. The food wasn’t for us. Each year we would purchase, cook and distribute baskets of food to a number of elderly neighbors in Arbor Hill, our home and low income district in Albany. The baskets were simple and I remember feeling a bit shy standing on the porches of these well deserving men and women. What I appreciate now most about this simple gesture was that my mother acted on her own, completely. I tend to associate these actions with churches or community groups. My mother simply used a given saturday to make a difference. I learned that if we take the time and remember to be generous, we can each create social change. It’s cold out now and my son Adrian is getting old enough to help me in the kitchen. It may very well be my turn. By living the example set by my mother, I hope to teach Adrian how easy it is to do what’s right.
When I was in kindergarten, I tried to describe myself in a self portrait as brown. My teacher stopped me and corrected me by telling me I was Black. As a 4 year old, I thought she was literally telling me that I was the color of a black crayon, so I got angry. I insisted that I was brown, and was shocked when everyone else in the class started laughing. I knew my colors, so I couldn’t understand what everyone was talking about. Little did I know that this tension between the way I viewed myself and the way others viewed me was going to follow me around my whole life.
Racially and ethnically, my family embodied the old “melting pot” metaphor, so there was never a label that appeared to cover everything. The diverse results, particularly in the phenotypes of my siblings, often result in questions about our race. People look at us and question whether we are an actual family or adopted because they can’t reconcile our different appearances with any one familiar racial category label. Honestly, people generally can’t look at any one of us and place us in one category either. I have been yelled at for not identifying as black; apparently, describing myself as mixed implied to other people that I was ashamed or out of touch with my blackness and didn’t want to be seen as “just” black. I don’t want to make up a new word to describe myself, or pick just one aspect of my identity because I am proud of all my disparate parts. It’s frustrating, because I know that I am more than those parts but it often seems to be the most important thing about me to everyone else.
I drive a 2004 Hyundai Tiburon. I have always loved my car and cars in general. I spend a lot of my free time working on my car, either improving the audio system or the look of the car. I don’t really know what sparked my interest in cars, other than just seeing cool cars and wanting to own or drive one. I was one of those kids that got my learners the first possible day that I could, and 9 months later, after my 45 hours and in-car, I had my full license. Even though I am pretty good at working on cars and really enjoy it, I don’t see it as ever being much more than a hobby.
When I was four, my mom signed me up with the local girl’s lacrosse league, and I have played ever since. My parents grew up playing lacrosse and my mom even played goalie in college. My brother also started playing when he was around the same age as I was. As my brother and I grew up, we both played on any team we could. We even played for other schools because our middle school had no team. My mom has been my coach since middle school. She’s an amazing role model for my teammates and me. Her passion for the sport is incredible; I love lacrosse because she loves it. I want to be a role model to others the way she has been to me by pushing me to be the best I can be.
I love animals, I have always done. I remember when I was about three years old and lived in Saudi Arabia. I remember how I every Saturday went to this store to buy plastic animals instead of buying candy as everyone else did. I guess that is when it started, my passion for animals. Ever since I have been truly amazed by animal life. I love watching documentaries and movies and learn more about the animal kingdom.
I have been on safaris in Africa twice. One time in Malawi and one time in South Africa. It is the best thing I have ever done. To be able to see these wild animals in their natural habitat is… Just incredible! Truly amazing! I always find it hard to describe why. It is just something about wild animal life that is so fascinating to me. I love it.
When I was younger, I didn’t have many people there to support me, or my decisions. I was never the popular kid in school, and I didn’t really have that many friends. when I was around 8 years old, my mom bought me a Great Dane. My Great Dane and I were always left behind or forgotten about. I never had someone to listen in on my opinion or my feelings, so when I was little it seemed like I could always talk, and he would always listen. He was the only stable thing in my life at the time. My Great Dane is the one thing that I know won’t stop loving me. Dakota (my Great Dane) gives me the comfort of not being left behind. Now when I look back at this it all seems really ridiculous, but when I was a child he was my only friend.
When I was ten years old, my family and I embarked on a journey to explore the unfamiliar, foreign aspects of Latin American culture during the summer of 2007. Together we traveled to eight different countries aboard the MV Explorer, through Semester at Sea, a study abroad program in affiliation with the University of Virginia, which my father was teaching a course on global economy for. The eight week long voyage soon proved to be the beginning of my passion for travel, as I realized the exhilaration of discovering unfamiliar places.
To me, there’s probably nothing as important as music. It’s helped me get through anything and everything. All the rough times, the good times, and the unexpected ones too. It’s just something I can always rely on. I probably spend more time listening to music and reading about music than I do socializing.music has always been a friend of mine I suppose, because unlike many others, it tends to stick with me throughout. Music defines me, and what I listen to makes me. If you want to know me all you have to do is listen to the music I do. You’ll soon have a clear understanding of who I am.
My friend texted me one day, and said, “We’re home! Come over!” I was excited because I knew what she had brought home from Richmond. She had gone to visit her sister, who’s cat had had kittens. She brought home a kittenfor me who’s name was Beanie, and since I saw her in the car, it was love at first site. Beanie was so tiny and cute, and very curious but shy. I brought her home and we cuddled all night. I even skipped school the next day to take care of her. I have felt like she is my daughter! She is very sassy and we like to fight all the time, but at the end of the day, it’s my bed that she sleeps in!
Something I came to learn to love a lot is traveling. For me, being from a country like Afghanistan sparked my interest and had a great influence on me falling in love with traveling. Ever since I came to the U.S. in 2001 and experienced the major differences in cultures, I knew that I wanted to travel all around the world learning about new cultures, experiencing new things, and sight seeing. So far I’ve traveled to Europe (mostly Switzerland), Canada, and some parts of the U.S. I think traveling has slowly become my passion. One day, I plan on traveling across the whole world, visiting as many countries as I can. Even though I am terribly afraid of planes and flying, I don’t think that it will stop me from achieving my dreams. I like learning about the different cultures that exist in the world, and how different and similar they are to each other. I also want to experience new foods and traditions that belong to each culture. In college I want to major in International Relations and Psychology, and hopefully have a job as a psychologist that travels to different countries. A place I especially want to visit is Greece. I want to go to Santorini, Greece and get to experience the beautiful city.