REEM SULEIMAN, 17
Daughter to refugee parents, Reem Suleiman lives in Santa Clara, California. She is interested in the relationship between displacement and (frequently missed) opportunities for advancement; which is to say, the relationship between relocation and the tenuous joining of identities that such relocation necessitates. For refugee children, opportunity for advancement is exceedingly uncommon—when violence, trauma, and family separation are norms, it is difficult to seek or to find opportunities for personal learning and advancement. Suleiman is committed to efforts to support and advance refugee populations and works with GiveLight, a local nonprofit organization, to provide aid and resources to Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Suleiman explores these subjects in her writing and relies on poetry to visit and revisit narratives that are often restricted to the camps and displaced communities to which these narratives belong.
As a writer for her school newspaper, Suleiman tends towards opinion pieces and has ventured into varied topics such as educator salaries, the value of visual and performance art curricula, and controversial deportation policies in our country and others. In crafting these pieces, Suleiman enjoys writing as a tool to inform others and as a platform to exchange and debate views. She is drawn to poems that exploit the beauty of words and their sounds to depict a harsh reality. In telling her own stories and sharing her experiences, Suleiman reckons with the various elements of her identity, faith, and pushing back against misrepresentations of her person, values, and her status as a Muslim woman born to a displaced refugee family.
Suleiman’s future plans will doubtlessly continue to include activism in supporting displaced populations.
A Dove’s Cry
by Reem Suleiman
I am from crescents,
From doves perched on olive branches,
I am from the sweet winds that carry bitter news,
From the silence that nervously awaits the shrill cries,
Forever ignored and told to move on.
I’m from a soil my toes long to touch,
From an air I’m forbidden to breathe,
And when faced with the question Where I’m From,
I can do little but preface my reply
With acceptance of innocent ignorance,
And so I’m from tales of better times,
from a haze of conjured images and news headlines,
I’m from jailed memories,
And dreams of liberation
I’m from years of wondering what home looks like,
From decades of resentment,
And yet, I’m also from a message so forgiving and poetic,
A message painted in black streaks
Now imbued with unforgiving zeal,
And so I’m from what has yet to be stained,
From the checkered scarf that hangs around my grandfather’s neck,
From the red stitches that pattern my aunt’s dress.
I’m from the few names traced in sand,
And unlike the many etched in stone,
I hail from the time of transition
From which I awoke in a new land,
With no recollection of the one with broken promises.