The closer I got to going on the stage, the more I could feel the fast thud of my heart. I had experience performing in front of a large audience, but this time was totally different. It was not just singing a song or giving a presentation of my research. This time I was going to share something personal, something that I felt very uncomfortable sharing, something that would throw me back to those moments of sadness—moments when I have faced prejudice.
I peeked through the backstage door to see how many people were there. I was surprised to see that the auditorium was almost full. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. But I knew the answer.
It took me several days to decide whether I should participate in the Hate Speech Monologues. I was hesitant not because I didn’t know what to talk about—indeed, I had a story to tell—but rather, whether I wanted to share it or not. When I told my friends back home that I was thinking of participating in the event, they were surprised. Knowing me as a very positive person, they asked whether it was for me. In other words, they questioned whether I had been affected by prejudice. But just because we don’t share things, or we avoid talking about them, it doesn’t mean that they do not exist. That was the moment I decided to share my story.
That night I wrote a poem. I’ll be very honest, I don’t normally write poems, let alone in a foreign language, but this time I was so inspired that it seemed like the lines rhymed themselves. I wrote the truth: the truth of being an Asian-looking, Russian-speaking Muslim girl from Kazakhstan.
Next day at rehearsal, I had the chance to hear others' stories. To be honest, I was touched. It made me reflect on things that I had never thought of before. It made me put myself in the shoes of other people, and I felt such a strong sense of pride for them for being bold enough to share their stories and bring that awareness to others. A smile lit up my face because I felt happy! Happy for making a decision to perform and happy for being a part of something special and important. I know it might sound like it's not a big deal but I truly believe that events like the Hate Speech Monologues are a step, even though a very tiny one, but still a step, to make our world a better place.
by Zhuldyz Zhunussova (IR ’17, Kazakhstan)