1. How long have you been a resident of Rhode Island and tell us a bit about yourself please.
Besides being born in California, I’ve lived in Rhode Island most of my life. I attended Pre-k to 1st grade here until my family decided to move to Egypt to help my father’s family after my grandfather passed away. We lived in Cairo for about 2 years, before coming back to RI in 2011, after the revolution. We’ve lived here ever since.As for a bit about myself. My name is Halima Ibrahim. I am fifteen years old and bicultural. My father is Egyptian and my mother is white. Though, yes I did live in Egypt for 2 years, I can only speak a little bit of Arabic. I hope to be an author and a high school art teacher after college. My work is mostly illustrations and comics, but I enjoy making all types of art. That includes poetry, embroidery, painting, and music (Though the only music I’ve written has been a jingle on the ukulele.) I’ve also always been very interested in activism, and hope to continue on for as long as I can.
- TWP has been working to pass a bill that codifies Roe V Wade into RI state law. We are interested in the ways that Reproductive Freedom impacts your life and the type of messages you share in the world?
Well, as a young woman, who is soon going to be an adult, it affects me a lot. Soon I’ll have to deal with making really important decisions, like whether or not I decide to a kid and when. Without having Reproductive Freedom, that doesn’t become my decision anymore.Last spring, I ended up needing to have one of my ovaries removed because of a torsion, two cysts, and a teratoma. For people who don’t know, a teratoma is a type of tumor that will usually develop while a child is still in the womb. Lucky mine was benign. I also have Chronic Neurological Lyme disease, CIDP, and POTS. Because of my past medical history, I do anticipate there being some other issue with my reproductive system. So if there isn’t proper women’s health care available, I could end up in very big trouble, and so will a lot of other women who end up in similar situations.
- When you think about your community (or communities) what is something you would like them to know about Reproductive Freedom in RI? Why?
I don’t have anything specifically for my communities, but I guess for the general public. Without having proper women’s reproductive rights, we are putting millions of women’s lives at stake. Someone’s right to proper health care, should not be limited because of someone’s gender. Whether or not you support abortion should not affect another woman’s decision on the matter, for it is her body and hers alone.
- How do you bring this issue into your artwork, if at all?
I have a series of books I’ve been working on for about two years, that have started out as graphic novels. The first one is called Summer’s End it mainly deals with gun violence, how the world reacts when an act of terrorism is committed by a white person vs a person of color. The second book is called Sane in a psych ward, which takes place in the same timeline as Summer’s End, but from the perspective of a different character. It deals with the issues in the mental health system and how they treat different cases. During the summer I was put on a psychiatric unit with undiagnosed intracranial hypertension and very easily could have gone blind. Because of the unnecessary controversy with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses, a lot of people end up on the psych track without a proper diagnosis and/or treatment. Though the main character is not sick himself, he does encounter a few people who are. The third and possibly final book is called Elliot anonymous. Again, it takes place in the same timeline, but from a different character’s perspective. This one focuses on issues like police brutality and systematic racism. It pretty much goes, along the same lines as summer’s end just from a more legal perspective.Even though women’s reproductive rights don’t fit in directly into the story or as prominently as some of the other topics, one of the main characters of summer’s end, (Indigo) Malika Samar, is struggling with ovarian cancer.It is definitely an issue I’d like to touch upon more. I just haven’t found the right place for it yet.
- You got a lot of press for your amazing speech for the ‘March of our lives’ in Providence two weeks ago. What was it like to write that speech and how did it feel giving it?
The final product definitely wasn’t how I had intended the speech to be. During the time immediately after the Parkland shooting, I had been jotting down little sentences about how I felt about the issue because of how angry I had been. The first line of the poem that I had written was “fighting fire with fire will only cause more fire.” Then soon after came “ If ‘when life gives you lemons make lemonade’. Then when life gives you mass shootings, make stronger gun laws.” I originally was planning to just write it one of them on a sign for the March.Once I found out there was an opportunity to speak at the Rhode Island March, I quickly started writing the speech. Though I didn’t intend it to end up being a poem, it quickly became one. I find that poetry is the quickest and easiest way for me to correctly express my opinions/emotions. I do find myself nonstop ranting 3-5 times a day. Usually, despite the length of the rants, I fail to get my point across. So poetry gives me a way to organize my thoughts.Because of how important this topic is to me, it was fairly easy for me to get my words out in a short amount of time. It only took me about an hour and a half to write ‘wake up’. I have another poem called ‘Gold’ which took me about a week to complete.As for actually giving the speech, I’m going to be completely honest… I blacked out. All I remember is walking up to the mic, then walking back to my seat and hearing the crowd chanting “WAKE UP!” It was only when I watched the video of the full speech that I learned that I didn’t completely mess up.It’s surreal. I still don’t fully believe I actually did it. And with the number of responses I’m getting because of it, it makes it even harder to believe. Especially the responses saying my speech brought them to tears because personally, I don’t see what part of it could do that. Then again I don’t cry very easily so maybe that explains it.
- From your perspective, how do you see activism happening in the US compared to what you and your family have seen in Egypt?
I definitely don’t have a good enough understanding of the 2011 Egyptian revolution to give an accurate comparison. I was only Nine years old at the time, so I didn’t perceive it as activism. All that I could really focus on at the time was the tanks, police, gunshots, and blood that was being shown on the news. But if I were to compare it, I’d say here activism is much more peaceful. Since here it’s mostly rallies instead of riots.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you are a parent of a child who is currently in middle school, or about to be soon, I would strongly encourage you to initiate political conversations with them. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about politics or other tough issues. This is their world they’re going to have to grow up in, so tell them what it’s really like and how it works. Talk to them about gun control, Feminism, misogyny, racism, ableism, homophobia/transphobia, antisemitism, etc. Explain just how important these topics are, why, and how we can do something about them. Tell them your personal opinions but leave room for them to come up with their own.This is so important. It makes me so irritated whenever I see parents treating politics as something they have to shield their children. When in reality it’s a topic that should be mandatory in parenting since it’s how our country functions.I would also recommend a book that deals really well with the subject of Women’s Reproductive Rights. It’s called Red Clocks and it’s by Leni Zumas. It’s being compared to the Handmaids Tail, but in my personal opinion, I enjoyed it more. I feel like its way more accurate on how our country could be heading. Though I would definitely have appreciated more diversity character-wise, it was still absolutely terrifying and deeply powerful.
See her art: https://www.instagram.com/when_art_flies/