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By Julia Berkman In front of the velvet curtains in the Performing Arts Center MainStage Theatre, three hijabis from Chicago, Atlanta and New York shared monologue after monologue about the many muslim women experiences. “Do you know what it's like to represent a billion human beings every time you step out of your house? It’s exhausting,” one said. For Sahar Ullah, Kamilah A. Pickett and Rafiah Jones, creators of the Hijabi monologues, it’s their everyday life. The three tour nationally, from college campuses to community centers. With contributions from the other two artists, Ullah has written almost all of the monologues. Her inspiration and her stories are varied, much like the performers who recite them, Ullah said. Organizer of Hijabis Monologue and Western professor Brian J. Bowe said events like these are pivotal moments in understanding true diversity. The recent vandalism of the Jewish books section in Wilson Library have also provided a space for dialogue, Bowe said. “These are events that we always have to respond to underscore the importance of religious issues in our inclusion and equity efforts here on campus,” Bowe said. As the lights went down, the crowd of around 85 people went silent. Ullah, Pickett and Jones took the stage. “I... am tired,” Ullah said. The three hijabis are tired of hearing their phone click before their phone call starts. Of being sat in the back of a restaurant. Of being a good example of an entire religion. Pickett and Jones told a story about all the “ain’t-shit” men they date. Men who are fake activists, looking for a brown hijabi woman to validate their “I’m not racist” attitude. Jones spoke about the daily challenge of dealing with people’s ignorance. As a woman who is both black and muslim, Jones has experienced all sorts of microaggressions. The questioning stares, the “liberal integrationists” who try to relate to her and those who try to free her from her religion because they think it’s oppressive. However, Jones also met some genuinely kind people who made her day better, she said. Ullah told a story as a young muslim woman who became pregnant in high school. “If everyone gets to tell my story, I should be able to tell it, right? My story,” Ullah said, taking on the mannerisms of a younger woman as she referred to the rumors spread about her character. Later on, audience member and Western junior Colin Neff said some of the stories surprised him. “There were some times I thought the stories were going to go one way and they went a totally different direction,” Neff said. “I feel like it defied expectations in a lot ways.” Ullah’s story about teen pregnancy ended in the type of twist Neff referred to. “If Amir ever comes back and tells me he wants to marry me, I’m going to tell him, ‘I don't need your sorry ass. All you self-righteous boys, you’re so full of shit,’” Ullah said, before the stage went dark. The stories the women told were not all funny, and not all tragic. Most of the monologues had moments of brevity, except for a piece about headline trauma. There was an unusually long moment of silence before their next piece began. The audience seemed to become restless as the darkness and silence in the theater stretched on for at least a minute. Then, light. Ullah, Pickett and Jones sat on stage, a single spotlight on each of them, reading from a diary. They talked about their own personal feelings when they found out about the Chapel Hill shooting at the University of North Carolina in 2015, where three young muslim people were shot over a parking dispute. Ullah said she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She wandered the streets of New York City, imagining the way those three young muslims died. She said she pictured their deaths as if they were her own. Crying, kneeling, maybe lying face down on the floor. Pickett couldn’t stop thinking about police brutality and the intersection with the deaths of these three young people. It reminded her of the first time her brother in Alabama was stopped by the police. He was 14 years old at the time. “My brother has almost always fit a description,” Pickett said. After her brother was stopped and detained by police officers for almost two hours because of that very reason, Pickett said she came home and found her brother with his “innocence stolen.” “I hugged my brother because he was still young enough to let me,” she said. Jones talked about her father, who had died just a few years before the Chapel Hill shooting of 2015. After that, Jones began to take the death of one of her people personally, in Chapel Hill or in other parts of the world. “When a human being is killed, it’s like all of humanity has been killed,” she said. During the comments part of the event, senior Maria José Palacios Figueroa told Jones she related to that universal pain she felt. “Our pain is caused by different things, but it feels the same. Your pain is familiar to me,” Palacios Figueroa said.


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