Summer 2014 graduate, Sophie Malki, shared an original piece inspired by workshops lead by guest speaker Valerie Jeannis and our very own BALI anthem. Malki presented this piece at the BALI summer graduation on August 2, 2014.
I am beautiful
By Sophie Malki
I am beautiful.
I shine with the radiance of the Sun.
I am a diamond with rough edges, but a smooth soul and a kind heart.
And I am human.
I am a young woman.
WE are human.
WE are the young women of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
We continue the legacy of the suffragettes who fought for the right to vote during a time when for so long women were only valued to cook, clean, and serve their husbands.
We carry the strength of the young Nigerian women taken from their beds by terrorists of Boko Haram. Ignorance casting shadows on bright souls. Putting price tags on human life. They tried to turn the flame of the girls’ existences to smoke because they were afraid of educated women. But still, the girls would not let others define their worth and more than 60 were able to escape. Even so, they live in constant fear and cannot even return to school. My heart breaks 200 more times for my sisters who are still bound to unknown horrors on a daily basis.
We share the resilience of Malala Yousafzai, a sixteen year old young activist who took a bullet to show that women in Pakistan should have the right to go to school. The young woman who will not stop until every girl in the world has access to a safe education.
In our eyes, we keep the spark alive of the little girls who climbed the tallest trees, ran with the wind on their backs, and knew that they were just as capable as all of their peers, regardless of gender.
No girl was aware of any reason why she should slow down. Not afraid of public scrutiny—of being judged by every crease of her skin, the fiery optimism in her eyes, the dirt in her nails, the shade of pink in her cheeks that intensified with every new discovery.
But still I am unsure of myself.
WE are unsure of ourselves—our worth, our dreams, our places in the world.
Why can’t we be like the girls we once were?
Why are we afraid to give the wrong answer in class?
Why do we hesitate before asking questions and confronting others?
Are we afraid of our own voices?
Were they afraid of their own voices?
I used to look in the bathroom mirror and feel tears of frustration build up behind my eyes because I couldn’t make the fat on my body magically disappear.
My brain would scrutinize every inch of my skin as I wondered if this was the way others saw me too.
And often that voice will creep into my subconscious and distort the body that demands to be looked at.
But now I tell that voice that the curve of my hips and the fat on my thighs allows me to bring life into this world.
That the curls in my hair are endless spirals that grow from the beauty inside of me and refuse to stand still.
That our eyes tell women’s stories from the beginning of human history.
That we will be the leaders of today because we need our daughters to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Men oppress us because they are afraid. And they should be. They should be afraid of a woman’s strength and the power we have to change the world.
We are powerful.
We are beautiful.
We are women.
In an email to our President and Founder, Liz Abzug, Malki also wrote:
“Thank you so much for all of the powerful learning experiences of the past two weeks. BALI has helped me to better respect myself and my body, and to further understand how to be a “good” leader. Everyone in the BALI program was so supportive, which really empowered me. I loved hearing from so many different women and about their life journeys. Listening to Kimberly Harris and Claire Reed speak taught me that you are never too young or old to make a difference, which inspires me to show my peers that their voices do matter. I also learned that I enjoy debating, even though it can sometimes be stressful. Because of the strong sisterhood you have helped to create, I know I will keep in touch with all my BALI 2014 “sistahs” and that we will support each other in our future endeavors.”