My roots are woven in soil that I am not native to – in many ways my existence is rejected, denied, & forced.
My trunk reflects my growing pains & gains – the search for my essence, identity, & belonging. This trunk is long and wide; filled with anecdotes (emotion & experiences). My trunk is still expanding.
My leaves are a byproduct of my trunk. They have flourished in hues of yellow and green. Sometimes they become dry because of neglect and poisons, but they always come back.
The dates ~the sacred fruit~ blossom with sweetness & sunshine. They make themselves known only once in a while, but the wait makes them that much sweeter and appreciated.
& like the date palm, I aspire to be strong, sturdy, grounded.
I want this not only for myself, but also for those I love. Their survival, struggles, and learned moments in the face of imperialism, war, (neo)colonialism, repression, & eventual diaspora/displacement are inseparable from my seeds, my roots, my trunk, my branches, my dates. This history stays with me.
Like many Trans-Planted peoples, living on wandering ground, we find ways to re-live, re-invent, and re-member ourselves.
I am replenished and nurtured with reminders of the determination of those before me. Narratives keep me pushing, doing, & learning.
But then I think, I think…
What if my seeds were planted in the mother/homeland?
Like the date palm, my family was uprooted for profit & power – cursed by oil-rich earth.
The date palms are withering in their natural habitat – there is no sweetness in them now. Blood, depleted uranium, death, & greed cannot comfort the stunted date palms.
& I keep thinking…
When will the sweetness come back?
The answers are there, although not obvious: My salutes are dedicated to the sporadic date palms that strive for nothing less than the freedom to pollinate & cultivate, that recognize the diseases that need to be extinguished, that grow leaves long enough to shade the land and its people from the blinding sun beams.
I think some more…
My thoughts dig themselves out from that dark place and another thought is planted: There is hope after all.
We are much like the date palm, you and I – living in diaspora, displacement, or living in the mother/homeland – we are from the same seed.
Zeena Aljawad is a member of the Orange County chapter of AF3IRM. She is a graduate of Psychology and Women’s & Gender Studies from California State University, Fullerton. She is currently a Youth Coordinator for the Arab Youth Collective at Access California Services. Her passions lie within the arts, critical thought, challenging the status quo, and attaining justice in the context of community building/organizing.