Lateefa Farah. 21. Student.

What is identity to you?

If you asked me what Identity was to me three years ago, I would not have an idea. But now being 21 and living in the fast paced city of London. Identity seems to be everything that a person is. From the clothes they wear (specifically brands), the music they listen to, and sometimes even the people they know. I’ve started to learn that identity comes with the people you know, so if I know Steve from Apple, I have a sense of identity because someone who is recognised amongst others knows me. So I think for me, my understanding of identity isn’t one’s unique features, or their likes and dislikes – it is based on the amount of people who you know you.

Something I seem to be battling with here in the UK. I’ve come along way from the this lifestyle of not needing to be around a certain group of individuals to have an identity.

What is your opinion on the use of labels?

Labels are pretty much a checklist. When you apply to a job, when you introduce yourself to a new person, and even when you’re applying to universities. What is your ethnicity? What is your religious following? What’s your sex? It’s this strategic way for all of us to fall into a certain box, and unfortunately a box filled with inequality and a lot of preconception of what a certain person will be.

In the age of 2016 though, it seems like our generation, the Millennials, keep testing against that, which is excellent to see.

Have you ever been labelled as anything you disagree with?

Growing up in a predominantly white and Arab cultured school, a lot of people had a stigma of how ‘black’ I should be. More or less commenting on the way I spoke, the way I dressed, and the way I looked. The amount of times I’ve had “wow, you speak so well for a black person” – I honestly would be a millionaire at this point in time, it’s as if it’s the greatest complement anyone could give.  It’s negative connotation with being black that you are uneducated, can’t speak properly, or even present yourself in a decent way – sad to say something that gets ingrained into your brain at such a young age.

Where would you say you are originally from?

You see that’s a tricky question because by papers I’m Canadian, by heritage I am Somali, and mentally I’m international – if that is possible. My parents moved to Qatar when I was three and I’ve lived there ever since I was 18, and now stationed in London. I would say I’ve been surrounded by so many cultures and backgrounds that I sometimes find it hard where to pin point where I’m originally from. If I go back to Canada, Torontonians will know right off the bat I wasn’t raised there. I can’t be Qatari for legal reasons, as even someone who lives there can’t be Qatari. Lastly, going back to Somalia, I won’t feel at home because I’d be classified as an outsider. Although deep down inside I know my roots, I know my heritage, but it’s hard taking a pin and saying where I’m really from.

skyline aboutus

What does the term Black British mean to you?

Honestly, for myself it’s the same as being Black American or Black Canadian. It’s another label, this idea that you have to put an ethnicity next to it.  As for myself I don’t label as the term, because I’m not British, maybe partially because the Queen technically controls Canada. Although depending on where you live and who you’re around sometimes these terms are already labelled on you because that is what you fit to certain person. You can’t just be black Canadian, there has to be some sort of long explanation of how you’ve become Canadian or British and be black at the same time.

Do you think sexuality/sexual orientation defines a person?

Growing older and hopefully wiser, I don’t believe it does. But then again, it is different to certain people and situations. A lot of people use their sexuality and sexual orientation in forms of their own comfort groups due to others not accepting their specific identity. So in a way it’s something almost forced upon a person to define as – because you are going against societies “norms”. It’s like high school all over again, but in the real world and harsher world.

Are you religious at all? Does this govern how you see your life?

Being Muslim, I hope to be religious, but I don’t think I am. I try to pray five times a day, but I know I don’t. I try to stay away from the “haram” things, but catch myself doing them on a daily basis. But I think my religion has shaped me as a person. I didn’t truly look into my religion until I was 18 – I did have my mother on my back on occasions when I was younger. But at 18, I looked into it at my own time and found a “white light” – more or less in a hard time of my life. So I could say I’m partially religious in a sense of faith and prosperity and values I pursue throughout my journey in life.

Was there a pivotal moment in your life that initiated this transition?

I think the moment that initiated this transition was going into university; I was struggling in my last years of high school – not being able to achieve a 3.0 in order to get accepted to universities in Toronto. Hence why I’m in London, as they offer foundation courses. I was at my ultimate low, seeing my friends all get into universities and here I was going through another year of high school.  I felt demotivated, I felt unconfident and most of all stupid (because you know a letter grade tells us we’re smart). So one day, I decided to pray, and pray and pray. It became a habit, and it became a mental and physical cleanser of all these negative thoughts that I had. People often say “Yeah well you did that yourself Lateefa, you chose to do well in foundation and get accepted,”. Yes I did. But I see as having a religious faith, and God as a second you. A person you talk to and not anyone else. A silence space that motivates you – in a really really weird way.

Lastly, what do you think about the class system?

To be blunt about it, the white man for the white man does the class system. Higher society, and all of that bull was to make sure no one else could reach the above levels of a white man. Unfortunately, something we still see today…globally.

Any last words?

Last words might be long: but it’s honestly to feel comfortable in your own damn skin, shape, size, colour, face, ears, mouths, legs, and body. I’ve failed to realise this so many times, the tiresome of not being who you are and trying to fit into this ‘identity’ that society and everyone else wants you to be – doesn’t take you anywhere but following a bunch of brainless sheep. So, follow your dreams, follow your hear, and most of all use your brain to the fullest capacity because you can do anything. Lastly, I fail to see this in humanity but gratitude and grace. The world we live in is so negative we become negative has individuals to adapt, the lack of kindness I see amongst us humans is actually astonishing.  It really is human to be super kind, loving, and caring – nothing weird about that.

Images courtesy of Visit Qatar.