through authoritative and compelling storytelling
By speaking clearly and forcefully to empower all those who are so personally invested in health
by creating an environment where people can express themselves freely and truly be heard
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In 2016, I went to Coney Island for the annual Gotham Girls roller derby double header. During the bouts, I watched these women playing this very regimented full-contact sport and performing incredible moves on their skates. I was inspired by seeing women doing something so different and decided to give it a try.
I didn’t anticipate the changes derby would have on my life. When I go to the gym now, it’s to get stronger, to take hits—not just to “look good.” It’s a challenging sport and has been a hard road. But through it all I realized that if I keep working at something, eventually I’ll get good at it—or at least won’t suck. And that realization made me ask myself: what else can I do? Where else am I holding back? Roller derby motivated me to commit to everything I love, to stretch the limits of my potential—and that’s an exciting, liberating feeling.
I grew up in the late ‘60s when activism was not uncommon. I remember being 11 years old, marching around our public school when Martin Luther King died. It was a culture I was attracted to—I don’t like to see suffering or injustice, and I like to help people, to try improving their lives. There’s also an inquisitive side to it, finding out the causes to problems.
Sometimes, obvious things can be addressed but aren’t because of barriers from culture and society. But people should feel free to speak up if something isn’t quite right in their neighborhood or community. If you have the urge to help, go with it. Think about the skills that you have and where they could be helpful to people. It’s good to volunteer where it’s needed the most. Everybody could do it, even in a little way.
Over the past 6 years, I've worked with various nonprofit organizations here and overseas. My parents are immigrants; they came from East Africa. So they know what it’s like to have nothing. Growing up, they always stressed, “if you have something, you should always give back. You’ll feel better giving than receiving.” And that’s really what it is. When I went to Lebanon, when I went to Haiti, there was no better feeling than being able to provide for someone else who had no hope of giving back to you. That’s what drives me to want to keep being part of organizations, and helping out, and doing everything and anything I can. I haven’t found anything in life that feels better than giving, even knowing I won’t get anything back.