#WhoamI Storytelling Project 2017

During the 2017 Summer session in SAYA's Desi Young Women's Leadership Program at the Elmhurst Center, young women completed a poetry and photo project under the guidance of two teaching artists. They were encouraged to explore ideas of community, identity and empowerment through the lens of their personal experiences. As a result, they produced deeply intimate reflections that tie personal moments to these larger themes. 

I remember....

I remember when I was new
I remember when I was pure and innocent
I remember when I became old
I remember when I was pushed away
I remember when I was hit....with responsibility
I remember when I first saw tears from one I loved
I remember when i wrapped myself in a veil
I remember when I was discriminated
I remember when I was scared in a place fear shouldn't be allowed to enter
I remember what I don't want to remember
I remember what I have to remember

Poem & Photo Series By: Amina

Soundtrack of your Day

The sound you make when waking up
The click of the shower turning on
The chirping of the birds in the morning
The beat you make while eating breakfast
The screeching of the trains on the tracks
The sound of cars racing back
The sound of your footsteps
The tik-tok of the clock in front of the classroom
The beat you make while eating lunch
The quiet conversations of all the people around you
The sound of cars racing back
The sound of your footsteps
The turning of pages of a good book
The beat you make while eating dinner
The tapping of your pen while thinking what to write
The sound of raindrops touching the surface
The song that's stuck in your head while trying to sleep

Poem & Photo Series By: Laiba

a gentle wind blows upon the horizon
those leaves
scrawny, dying things
no branch to hold
please don't come near
why, why
my dear,
please die
love, love
you will
be love
don't cry
ashes, ashes
they too
once wept

Poem & Photo Series By: Tanika


now it's 3 am again
and you have stained my mind
like those blackberries would stain
our hands
every summer
when the weather taught me
what it's like to be careless and free
and you taught me
what it's like to really feel something.
today, it is cold, though.
today i am a little more somber.
a little more
i vie to let the past be left behind,
but sentiment has become a good friend.

Poem & Photo Series By: Sarah

I remember feeling safe
I remember trusting strangers
I remember being able to sleep at night
I remember being able to stop to look at the flowers while walking home
I remember not panicking as a car drives by me
I remember the days I didn't have to think "Are they going to kidnap me?" about every adult I see
Walking home isn't supposed to be stressful
Maybe I'm overreacting
Maybe I should stop freaking out over the smallest things
But being one word away from trafficking,
or who knows what,
Isn't helping the situation

Poem & Photo Series By: Samiha

I remember ages ago
I remember a time when life was simpler
I remember all I had to worry about was learning how to put my left foot in front of my right
I remember learning how to put my clothes on by myself
I remember learning how to ride my bike but never fully knowing
I remember scraping my knee
I remember seeing the blood
I remember thinking it was the worst thing that could happen
I remember not having to care about what other peoplethought
I remember when my actions did not define me
I remember not having every decisions decide my future

Poem & Photo Series By: Dikshya

Blissful Memories

Walking through the evening sky,
wishing that I could fly.
Blooming flowers dancing in the wind,
birds fly as they sing.
As midnight comes near...heavy rain drips down,
Leaving them to wonder if they have done something wrong.
Years go by,
I still remember that day,
As rainbows stand,
filling the sky with blissful rays.
The seven blissful colors, 
color the river in many ways.
As I walk,
The bright light reflects on me,
Gentle air blows peacefully, passing by me,
Reminding me of your peaceful presence that only I can feel.
Reminding me of those blissful moments that we spent looking at the sea,
As I walk slowly, more memories of you appear,
It's like you are near.
As the sun goes down,
I end up having a breakdown.
But your words don't let me back down.
The sweet sound of your laughter in my head.
Gives me the courage to move ahead. 

Poem & Photo Series By: Melissa

It affects our lives
Some don’t notice
Some may now notice
Others know
It has changed over time but we still follow it
other don’t follow it but change it
It makes use self conscious
We change because of it
We spend so much money on it to fit in
Some people may judge you if you don’t keep up
What has the world become

Poem & Photo Series By: Jennifer 

“I think I’m gay”, I said
“But didn’t you date a guy?”
“Maybe you’re just bi”, they said
“No”, I said, “ I’m sure about this”
“You should go fuck a guy, then go fuck a girl and you’ll know for sure”, they said
Self doubt covered me like dark clouds covering the blue sky before a monsoon
Were my feelings not real, unlike theirs?
Their voices were like needles poking my mind
Trying to get me to surrender myself to something I’m not
Uncertainty wrapped itself around me
And sewed my lips shut
“What is the point of being alive and not feeling alive?”
I asked myself
So I broke free from the arms of uncertainty
Ripped the thread from my lips
And shouted to the world,
“I’M GAY!”

Poem & Photo Series By: Loviena 


Walking past the dark corridor
Reaching the most terrifying doors
Waiting to entrap me as a whole
Entering the open doors they automatically shut!
One floor down and another down
Producing a noise DING! DING!
Suddenly there's no movement
No Noise
A complete silence and anxiety takes over me
Focus! Focus! Relax
Hallelujah! I was able to make it out of its possession
Till today I still prefer the stairs!

Poem & Photo Series By: Mariana

Everyday I question and wonder
Am I a failure or a success
The lane to success is not linear instead
There is a curve named failure
That we all go through in life
But relax, if you must, don't give up
Life will throw things at you
With twist and turns
But we must not let that stop us
Because we learn from our mistakes.

Poem & Photo Series By: Mariela

Photo Series By: Azmir