IMAGES and WORDS by: LUCIE PLASSE
WHERE ARE YOU FROM? I'm from Baghdad, in Iraq. I was born there and lived there until I was 8 years old, and then we moved to Syria -- back when Syria was safe. Then, we came over to the US as refugees in 2008. We've been here ever since and now we live in Houston, Texas.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT HOME? Most of the time, I would spend my years in high school in my room, doing my own thing and my parents were always downstairs, doing their own thing, you know. We would eat together at dinner and all that but I think I didn’t realize just how awesome it was to just go downstairs and be able to ask them about life and history or anything really. So, I think what I miss most is that direct access to my parents and my little sister. The thing is, you don’t realize it until you don’t have it anymore. Having that direct access to anything. Because there are only so many things you can talk about here; when you’re on the phone, it’s all about “How are your classes?”, “How are your grades?”, “Are you okay” you know? That tends to get old.
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE ONE ITEM IN YOUR ROOM THAT BEST REPRESENTS YOU, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I have in my room this little luggage tag. We moved to a new place about 8 months ago and when we moved, we used a bunch of old luggage that we had brought over with us. Attached to one of the them, I found this tag - one of the tags we used to fly from Syria to New York. On the tag, it says “IOM” which stands for “International Organization for Migration” and about a month or two before I found that tag, I was interviewed by “IOM”- not knowing that is was them who brought me here. Now I’m doing other things with them so it’s kind of like a nice little full circle.
FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS? It’s kind of two places at once so I’m kind of cheating but it’s this place in the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life that is connected to the Shapiro Creative Writing Center. My friend just gave me 24 hours access to it so that’s great. Inside, there is this wall with a bunch of writers and drawings of them. It’s basically two houses connected to each other.
WHAT CAN WE FIND YOU DOING AT 1AM ON A WEDNESDAY? Probably in my room, trying to justify to myself that I could do my readings the next morning. It never happens but I’m probably also eating something and thinking “damn, I should have started my work earlier.” Wednesdays are really busy but once the day is over, I’m pretty much good.
ON A FRIDAY? I usually go to the Movie Series and then after that, I kind of play it by ear and see what is going on. I’m not a big party guy and I’m not the biggest fan of the Fountain scene. I just made the Slam Poetry Team so that’s probably what I’m going to be doing on Friday nights from now on, in terms of just writing and hanging out with that group. But yeah, I’m probably hanging out with a couple of friends of mine and we’re probably arguing about something that is wrong with the world.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU? I think my journey thus far, thinking back about how privileged I’ve been and how lucky I am to be here. Also how, when I’m speaking, I’m not only representing myself but multiple people at once that don’t have the opportunity to be here. So I think, one of my biggest inspirations are my parents and whenever I need inspiration, whether when writing poetry or taking pictures or whatever, it’s always been about “how do I express myself in a way that empowers me and everyone that I am representing?”. And also: “How do I turn the guilt that I have into responsibility to help myself and individuals that are from Iraq or from the Middle East that I hope to make proud?”. That and you know, being proud of who I am - whether it is being Iraqi or being American - and taking full advantage of all of it.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE TWO CELEBRITIES TO BE YOUR PARENTS, WHO WOULD YOU PICK? Robin Williams Meryl Streep. Because humor is very important to me and she’s everything. I would just have fun watching them be together. Plus, Robin is just a huge fool. May he rest in peace.
WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN STUDYING? I maybe want to be an Anthropology and Psychology Double Major. I don’t know, I’m still trying to take more hands-on theater and art stuff next semester. But this is the sentence my professor said that made me think hard on Anthropology: “Anthropology is the study of meaning.” I just thoughT: “I like meaning – let’s talk about meaning.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THREE FAVORITE FILMS? “The Shawshank Redemption” by Frank Darabont, which is an incredible piece of art. Then, I saw this one at the Wesleyan Film Series, it’s called “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Biyi Bendele. It’s from Nigeria but it’s in English for the most part. And then, “Life of Pi” by Ang Lee.
BEST ADVICE TO GIVE TO SOMEONE? Appreciate the negative just as much as you do the positive, and I think you’ll be in good shape.
WHAT'S THE MOST FUN THING YOU'VE DONE AT WESLEYAN SO FAR? Poetry Slams. They’ve been incredible. I’ve done two so far, the first one was at the Grand Slam and it was so much fun. Just seeing everyone perform was great.
IF YOU HAD TO TAKE US ON AN ESCAPE, WHERE WOULD WE GO AND WHAT WOULD WE DO? We would go to Bali, Indonesia. We would go to the Taman Baca library, which is this library/park that was created a little while ago. So, in 1965 in Indonesia, there was this huge genocide, and two summers ago, I travelled there with a peace program. The husband of the director of the program and his family were affected by this, so in honor of those victims under the communist regime, he started Taman Baca, or at least his family did. The library portion of it has all the banned books during the communist regime, so for that program we had a class there and a concert. It was beautiful. That’s definitely one of my favorite places ever.
WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO? FAVORITE ARTIST AT THE MOMENT? I really like hip hop and rap. I like other stuff too. I mean I go from Adele to 2Pac and pretty much everything in between. For the majority of the time, I really enjoy hip hop and rap. My favorite artist at the moment would be Lianne La Havas. She’s really awesome and does a lot of alternative stuff.
IF YOU COULD SELECT ONE PERSON FROM HISTORY AND HAVE THEM TRUTHFULLY ANSWER ONE QUESTION, WHO WOULD YOU PICK AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK? This wouldn’t be a question; it would be a statement. I would want to tell Napoleon a “your momma” joke. Nothing against his mom, I’m sure she was incredible, but it would just be to see what he says. Or I could ask that to Alexander The Great.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF TO SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T KNOW YOU AT ALL?- I’m just a guy trying to figure things out, and sometimes, along the way, I try to be funny.