April 25, 2018 | Leave a Comment

Podcast Transcription

(beginning not heard in recording)

Maymouna: I never thought I would be able to tell this story to anyone.

Noura: What made you decide to tell your story?

Maymouna: I felt I had to. I needed to share this with the world even if no one wanted to listen.

Noura: I am glad we could provide that space for you.

Maymouna: I was born in 1994 to two loving parents in Philadelphia. My parents were early converts to Islam back in the 1970s. They thought that the values that Islam taught were vital and necessary, and they wanted me to grow up with those values, especially given the fraught time in which they grow up. I loved my childhood. I liked going to Sunday school and playing with the other Muslim kids. The African American Muslim community is especially vibrant in Philadelphia so I am always so grateful to them. I have such fond memories of that time.

However, when I began high school, my family moved to Tennessee where the Muslim community had many more immigrants. My sheltered little bubble was popped. The local mosque felt so closed off. They sometimes only had services in Arabic, and my parents and I knew so little Arabic. It really was not a welcoming environment at all.

And now my school was mostly white.  My clothes, my hair, even the way I talked was so different. Although I did not wear hijab, sometimes I did like to wrap my hair.  In my other school in Philadelphia, wearing a headscarf was not uncommon, especially for nonMuslim Black girls. It is a protective style for our type of hair.

But no one at my new school seemed to be Muslim or Black or understand this. I think the kids believed a lot of what their parents told them. The Internet was also still catching on which I think now is a pretty vital way of learning to understand other people and helps people be a little more open. Unfortunately for me, this did not happen.

But anyway high school was just terrible for me! I would walk into school, keep my head down, and just try to get through. I loved to journal. I think that is what got me through those lonely lunches.

Eventually I graduated and got into a pretty decent school. I started at a small school in California. I rediscovered my faith when I came to the activities fair and saw the Muslim Students’ Association table. They seemed so excited to see me because I was Muslim. It reminded me of Philly.

But whenever I go home, I remember what it was like. I go through my old journals and feel the wave of loneliness all over again. All I can say is Alhamdulillah.

***

What makes the autobiography of former enslaved people powerful is that they now have access to express themselves and reclaim their voice. Enslaved people were often denied   the chance to become literate so they could not share their story with a wide audience. I view the podcast as akin to autobiographies. It is possible to produce and distribute a podcast in your bedroom closet, and it seems to be a medium that is more willing to take risks. It is also very intimate. Hearing the sound of someone’s voice through headphones or earbuds makes the listener feel closer to that speaker.

I wrote this piece to channel the power of the autobiography. While physical books are a dying medium, I chose to do a podcast because it feels like a fresh, still new medium that is more open and not steeped in the hierarchy of the publishing or film world. At first, I grappled with whether or not podcasts were art. One way art can be defined is a way to tell a story, and that is how I understand the goal of podcasts. The producers and hosts curate everything from the sound to the interview.

In this excerpt of an imaginary podcast, a college student Maymouna describes her experience growing up Muslim and moving to a place where she did not feel part of the Muslim community. It is short, similar to the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, and there is not really a clear moral at the end. It is really up to the listener to discern a meaning for themselves. This is more emulating the style of European podcasts and documentaries whereas American podcasts lay out everything for the listeners, even down to how they should be feeling.


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