Diversity in a community, where your own identify is well represented has many benefits. As a Black and Cape Verdean Muslim American, I have been in the 'minority' of many of the communities that I've lived in. Growing up that way trains you to think and react in a certain manner.
Some people struggle with identifying themselves with who they are naturally, depending on who they're around at the time. For example, you may change the way you speak, the way you dress, and even the way you respond to certain things to avoid standing out or being in the minority. I am guilty of it myself even though I have always been very prideful of who and what I am.
I moved to the 'Triangle Area' of North Carolina in 2013 from a small rural town in Charlotte County, Virginia. The most attractive thing that brought me to this area of North Carolina is it's diversity and specifically the muslim community. The value of having multiple places to worship, grocery stores and restaurants that are specific to our diet, and even having my children in classrooms where there are more muslims students and staff, is beyond what I can measure with my words.
Since I've been here I've witnessed my sister in faith, Nida Allam become the first muslim woman elected to public office in the state. I've seen the school system add the islamic holiday 'Eid' to the official calendar. I myself, have been a proud representation of my community as a public figure. But just as important as all of those things, I've met people from many different walks of life that can relate and identify with who I am; different.
In the cover photo of this blog is Ahmed Mustafa. I met Ahmed in passing and we connected just as brothers in faith and men of the same generation. In my time here I've watched him start his career as a real estate agent and help many people achieve the dream of owning a home. Now he is not only my friend and my brother, but he is also our realtor. I am so proud of his accomplishments and pray they continue.
Identity is something many people struggle with especially when we are young. We are all different from one another in our own ways and being different isn't always easy. Being different can be uncomfortable. It can be exhausting having to answer questions and explain why you do certain things. Moreover, it can influence you to change who you are rather than being your natural self which adds beauty to the colorful canvas that we are all apart of. However, I believe if you look outside of your own bubble, you'll find that we are actually more alike than we are different. But, just be yourself.