Saida Dahir grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. At first, she thought she was like everyone else. But by sixth grade, she realized she was different. Her family was from Somalia — she was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled the civil war. The more she tried to fit in, the worse she felt. But in eighth grade, when she met Mr. Brandy, a journalism and English teacher, she began to realize her own power and started writing poetry. By her senior year, she was performing her poetry at protests and rallies across the country, proudly commenting on the injustices she saw all around her.
Saida Dahir is a first-year student at Berkeley, where she plans to major in media studies. A poet and social activist, Dahir performs “Paper and a Pen,” a poem written to President Trump after he proposed the Muslim ban, and talks about what inspires her to speak out against injustice. (UC Berkeley video by Stephen McNally)
Read a transcript of Fiat Vox episode #60: Somali American student uses slam poetry to speak out against injustice:
Narration: In 2006, sitting in a classroom of first-graders in Salt Lake City, Utah, Saida Dahir, now a first-year student at UC Berkeley, didn’t know she was different
Saida Dahir: I think my childhood was very sheltered. A lot of the world looked the same to me every single day. All my teachers looked the same. Everyone in my classes looked the same. I make a joke that I just thought I was one of the white students in the class because it was very homogeneous.
[Music: “Throughput” by Blue Dot Sessions]
Narration: Saida’s family was from Somalia. She was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled the civil war. They immigrated to the United States when Saida was 3, so she doesn’t remember anything of her life back then. Life in Salt Lake City was the only one she’d known.