The world has changed so much in the past twelve months. It feels as if we are moving at warp speed toward a very uncertain, probably not very bright, future. If we feel this way as adults, what must it feel like for someone still growing?
We wanted to take a kind of survey, an understanding of the state of the girl in America in 2017. What does it mean to be at the start of your life, your career, to be young and ambitious and female, right now? We live in a world where it seems anything is possible and also where it feels as though there are powerful forces working very hard to make sure that statement isn't true for everyone. But when interviewing the girls below, Taghreed Alkinani and Asmara, we found something entirely different and new. Both these girls are accomplishing remarkable things.
Asmara goes to high school in Atlanta, and Kaitlyn first found out about her through a rap she wrote and performed for her class about Trayvon Martin. She wrote about the pain and the questioning that many of us felt during that moment. At the time Kaitlyn found out about Asmara, she worked for Flocabulary, an education company that partnered with Asmara's school. At Flocabulary, everyone was impressed by Asmara's eloquence and self-possession. Asmara's rap was a remarkable piece of writing, a brave performance. She, in part, inspired us to think that this State of the Girl project was even possible.
Supriya interviewed Taghreed, who was born in Baghdad in 1996 and has witnessed war her whole life. Her family's business provided, among other things, Arabic translation services for English-speaking clients, including members of the U.S. military. In 2006, her father's shop was shot up and he was kidnapped for one day. The family, fearing for their lives, abandoned their house and moved into hiding. Eventually, they traveled to Jordan where they lived as refugees. Taghreed's parents sacrificed comfort and used what little savings they had left to send her and her siblings to school.
The International Rescue Committee gave Taghreed a scholarship to Tesseract School in 2010 and later nominated her for a scholarship in Arizona to attend a highly ranked private school. There, Taghreed excelled, and eventually she transferred to Arizona State University. She is currently studying biochemistry and is working at an optometrist's office, with plans to go to the Midwestern School of Optometry.
Both these girls are moving forward with a sense of purpose, sure that a better future to work in is possible. Pablo Neruda once wrote, "You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming." Talking with these young women, we're excited for the world to come.
Kaitlyn Greenidge: What's your favorite thing that you've written or created this year?
Asmara: The rap I wrote for our school's project with Flocabulary. I wanted to tell the story of Trayvon Martin. I feel like this is my favorite piece I've wrote so far.
KG: How did you find the inspiration to write this piece?
A: I remember my mom telling me and my brother to come downstairs when the trial happened. I remember that. He inspired me, so I wanted to write a rap about him.
KG: What do you do when you get stuck writing something?
A: When I write, I usually just write anything, whatever comes to mind. If it doesn't make sense, I just keep writing, keep writing, until after it's all finished, and I correct my mistakes.
KG: What helped you to finish your Trayvon rap?