by SEAneighborhoods (in partnership with Reagan Jackson)
Fatra Hussein is a freshman at Franklin High School. For the past two years, she has been involved with Young Women Empowered (Y-WE), a Seattle-based nonprofit that cultivates the power of diverse young women to be creative leaders and courageous changemakers through transformative programs. In her time at Y-WE, Fatra has been involved in organizing and shaping the annual Muslim Girl Day of Wellness.
We recently checked in with Fatra to ask her to reflect on her work with Young Women Empowered, her thoughts on Reimagining Black History Month, and her dreams for Black future in Seattle.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I first joined Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) when I was 12. I found out that they had a writing program and I really wanted to do a poetry workshop. So, I joined it and it was probably one of the best weeks of my life because it was so beautiful. I remember walking in, and I was so shy and scared to talk to people. But it was amazing. I loved it. And I researched more about Y-WE and what they do and what programs they have for the year. And I joined their Youth Leadership Council (YLC). In my first year of YLC, I did the Muslim Girl Day of Wellness.
Tell us about your work on the Muslim Girl Day of Wellness event.
Honestly, I did not think I was good at planning events or anything like that. I didn’t think it was my thing but once I actually got into it, I was like, “Yeah this is definitely something I enjoy doing.” I don’t know, it brings me joy telling people what’s going on, having conversations, holding space with people that look like me. As Muslim girls and Muslim women, I feel like a lot of times we don’t get that space and to hold that space is a very big honor for me. I genuinely love the fact that I get to be the one that holds the space and gives that opportunity to people in my community.
At the event, we brought in guests to speak about their experiences. We also had a little time to talk about passages in the Quran. We had lunch from a local Muslim family business. We did activity stations, but most of it was just bonding and healing. We did yoga. We prayed together. I feel like that was a big deal for me because, in Islam, praying together is a big thing. It’s a time when everyone is in their moment and in their space with God. And I feel like holding that together was really beautiful and I enjoyed it. We had a lot of conversations about things we face as Muslim women day to day and our struggles and how we cope with them.
How has your ancestry and lived history shaped you?
If we’re talking about ancestors, I’m thinking my mom and my sister. Those are the two biggest pieces of my life. They taught me to always be graceful and kind no matter the circumstances, and I think that’s kind of what I do when I’m hosting and planning these events.
How would you like to see Black History Month reimagined?
I think I really want to see Black and Brown people in a space where it’s specifically for us and by us. I think of when I went to John Muir Elementary School. Mr. Jackson was the school mentor. He was this Black man, and he did this thing where he would bring Black men and Black women in to host these events throughout the month. Everyone would go to those events after school and all the Black kids would see these people and be like, “Oh my God you’re a doctor, you’re a nurse, you’re a cheerleader, you’re a football player, that is so cool. We really look up to you.” I felt that was so healing. After seeing these traumatic events through social media and everything else, I just feel like having those spaces is important, especially for Black women. I feel like Black women have to make those spaces for themselves and it’s never people just giving them those spaces. I just wish that we didn’t have to fight for everything.
What are your dreams for Black future in Seattle?
I feel like I want everyone to fit in. I’m in high school…I go to Franklin and it’s very segregated. I feel like a lot of the time Black girls and Black boys have to have this line where this is how you act with White people, and this is how you act with your people. I just wish everyone could be themselves all the time because I know everyone’s beautiful no matter what. I wish we had a way to fix that…specifically for Black boys. I wish they had the space to be vulnerable and to be themselves because a lot of times there aren’t spaces for them like that. It’s like you have to be masculine all the time. You have to be cool. If you don’t fit in with the boys, then what are you? You’re weird. You’re not normal. So yeah, I just wish they had that space. Especially for my younger brother. I really don’t want him to fall into that trap.
Name a local individual or organization that you want to lift-up and celebrate and tell us why.
For organization, I would say Young Women Empowered and for a person, I would say Reagan Jackson. A lot of people know Reagan, but I feel the work she does is so overlooked. I just think that it should really be lifted-up and people really need to hear about it. It needs to be on the news because she deserves it all. And Young Women Empowered deserves it all.