Saida Dahir Somali Muslim Embraces Self in White Mormon Town
An 18-year-old Muslim Somali refugee living in Salt Lake City, Utah, Saida Dahir writes compelling poetry reflective of her experience living in the United States. On her debut Little Village Foundation album, ‘The Walking Stereotype,’ Saida reads personally charged verses with a commanding emotional authority.
‘The Walking Stereotype’ features a guest appearance by legendary veteran R&B bassist Jerry Jemmott, who was so impressed with Saida's poem "Justified" that he offered to record an accompanying bass line. Jemmott, who in 1971 played on Gil Scott-Heron's groundbreaking political anthem ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ said of Saida, "She's telling a story that needs to be told... I'm grateful to her for having something to say, and saying it with conviction."
‘The Walking Stereotype,’ recorded on the eve of Saida's high school graduation, finds the artist addressing topics such as cultural displacement, gun violence, and her decision to wear a hijab.
"I've been writing poetry since I was seven-years-old," Saida notes, adding, "I really think that in this time, there needs to be different voices being heard. In our current political environment, poetry is a way to do that."
Saida, has already emerged as an integral leader in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and against gun violence. In 2018, her "A Tribute To The Fallen" graced Little Village Foundation's multi-artist album, “Raise Your Voice: The Sound of Student Protest.”
Much of 'The Walking Stereotype' chronicles Saida's struggle to embrace her own cultural identity in unfamiliar surroundings. She explains, "My family fled the civil war in Somalia to Kenya. I was born in Kenya and moved to the U.S. when I was three-years-old. Living as an immigrant, the caricatures and stereotypes I've faced, I really found my voice on this album."
"Salt Lake City is a predominantly White and Mormon city, so in my elementary and middle school classes I had to assimilate," explains Siada, who will be attending U.C. Berkeley in Fall 2019 as a dual political science and legal studies major.
"There was nobody that looked like me, and it was hard to see positive role models. It was a rough journey to find myself, and my poetry really helped with everything I faced as a child. With The Walking Stereotype, I want people to know that anyone can get through the most surmountable challenges, and that past traumas and heartbreak do not define you. I want to make a difference to people all around the world."