Hikma Kadir- College student, Fashion Designer and Oromo Refugee

Mohamed Malim

Hi, my name is Hikma, I’m originally from Oromiyaa. Oromo people make up about a third of the entire population of Ethiopia. Over the past, several decades' politicians from other smaller ethnic groups have had authoritarian rule over the country thus causing Oromo people to be marginalized. To escape that harsh political climate my parents escaped to a refugee camp in Kenya to make their way to America. We moved to the United States when I was pretty young. I started elementary school at Pillsbury. I remember this one time we were learning about the life cycle of Chicken and we got to watch little baby chicks hatch from their eggs. I remember being so fascinated I felt like I had to have one. So, I took one and put it in my backpack. I didn't get very far; my teacher heard the baby chick from my backpack and made me give it back.


Now I’m twenty-two. I’m currently a senior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in political economics with an international focus. I also have an administrative position at Luther. When I first started going to the U of M, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. But luckily through Indeed; an online job search platform, I was able to get an interview with Luther. I think my resume is what really helped me get the job because I applied for a customer service position, but during the interview, they said I was overqualified and that there was an open administrative position that they thought I would be perfect for. Getting the position really helped cement in my mind the type of life I envisioned for myself. I always saw myself as a businesswoman and now I feel as though I am. While I was in middle school, I remember assignments where we would have to draw out what we saw ourselves doing in the future. For me, it would always be a stick figure of myself behind a desk in my own office, and now I have that, and I feel successful because of it. Not necessarily because of my job at Luther but because I set a goal for myself and I was able to achieve it. To me, that’s what success is. Setting goals for yourself and then going out and getting it. My mother taught me to never expect people to give it to you, you have to go out and get it yourself.

Another goal of mine was to be able to start my own company and I did just that with my older sister, who I’m extremely grateful for. We always wished that there were better options when it comes to fashion for women like us, and I guess we always expected someone else to do that for us. But we decided that we wanted to be that person. So now my sister and I provide clothes for people who want to use fashion as a way to express themselves. I always thought that fashion and Islam where mutually exclusive but through this business venture, I’m learning that the two are actually mutually inclusive.

I feel as though because I’m a black Muslim woman who is also a refugee I’m marginalized in all aspects of my life because of my Identity. Being both visibly Muslim and a woman I have to deal with people assuming that I’m a threat or that I’m uneducated. It's very frustrating because it's not fair to me to always go out of my way to try and prove that I’m not. It shouldn’t be up to me to change the stereotypes that other people have about me. It should be up to them! I don’t want to live a life where I’m constantly defending myself before I’ve done anything wrong.

I also understand that I have to be open to answering people’s questions because it's better that they get their answers from me than a source like FOX news. For example, when I first started working in the corporate world, a co-worker asked if I’m forced to wear my hijab. After explaining to her that I’m not and that it’s a personal decision, I felt as though a barrier has been lifted and she felt more comfortable to ask me more questions. Being a Black Muslim Woman I’m faced with so many things that I can’t control, there’s so many things that people see and assume about me before they get to know me. Yes, I’m Black but there’s more to me, yes, I’m Muslim but there’s more to me! But they’re not going to get to know that about me unless they give me a chance, and a lot of the time I’m not given that chance. I’ve noticed that because of my skin color, it makes it a little harder for people to narrow down what I am, it allows a certain advantage for me. It’s so sad but even when it comes to something as simple as filling out job applications, I’m hesitant to check Black when asked about my race because I feel it might affect my chances of being hired. 

American culture emphasizes that you are this cookie-cutter version of yourself and if you don't fit the boxes that they want to put you in, then you’re ostracized. We have so much more to ourselves and it’s important that we don’t lose that. So, my advice to other refugees is don’t ever lose your values. Don’t ever let go of who you are. Know who you are and where you come from! 

Historically marginalized communities have been the backbone of this country and its devastating to know that even though that's true, we are the ones who lack basic resources like proper health care and education.

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