Mango smoothies

That evening, I spent what felt like a lifetime with my uncles who were no older than myself at eighteen years young. We spent the long sweaty afternoon moseying through the halls of Burco university, which they both attended. We saw the classrooms they studied veterinary medicine in. They were filled with wooden tables that browned to a sable colour and cupboards that embraced almost all the walls from ceiling to floor . The campus was like a maze, every building was lined with greenery so lush and sweet, they could fool you into thinking Burco was not an arid town. I could’ve sworn that that bushel of tulips were next to the library and not the science building. Tired, I don’t contest or feed into my confusion. We walked and walked till our ankles clicked with each step. Finally, after an hour of exploring we headed for the car and steamed to downtown.

My dress tripped me up as I stumbled out of the four by four Toyota. Amal as always, began to chuckle fervently to herself and as always, I hissed till her eyes rolled like turntables back into their rightful places, not looking at me. Edero ushered my sister and I into the restaurant that sat nestled between hotels and clothing shops in downtown Burco. Nightfall scuttled us up the stairs to the rooftop as we realised we’d not stomached a meal in well over six hours.

I watched the Sun gracefully settling into herself for a long slumber. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is here, she always sleeps at 6pm. Her light reflected on all the shop windows, pencilling them in a crayola yellow that signalled the people to begin their late night festivities. That’s when the city rumbles into a cacophony of horns beeping from the bustling bajaajs and impatient white toyotas. Young single women stand in small knots along the dusty streets and watch the local boys, making conversation with the flutter of their eyelashes. The streets aren’t named here, they’re known for passed events or landmarks or old men that sat their long enough to claim that spot their own.

The city is young in age and population. Everyone spills into downtown and eats all the delectables the city has to offer: bariis, baasto, xilib, assortments of juices and smoothies, the one flavour of ice cream and shaah spiced with the finest cardamom doused with many cupfuls of sugar. The latest hits from BK and Fiska boom from car stereo speakers and combat the gentle sounds of the Adhan that call from every masjid in our vicinity. Shops with marble floors decorated with rows of abayas and khamees’ invite the young into their dungeons of consumerism. I peered over the edge of the rooftop watching the young lambs being lured in.

Edero snaps his fingers and my attention returns back to the menu.

‘Chicken or lamb?’ He asked.
‘Chicken or lamb? Which would you prefer?’
‘Ooh and a mango smoothie!’

Glimmering pearls greeted me as we laughed at my sudden excitement for a mango smoothie.

Ali, sat to the left of me with his arms outstretched on the rickety table and shoulders leaning in. His eyes sat like two blanched almonds and were framed with thin brows so black they looked blue. I watched his face try to make sense of me like an old CRT television finding a signal. Finally, he inquired, ‘So, do you watch Law and Order?’




Like the flint that sings in the dusty breeze on rocky hill landscapes over late night fires.

The fires that hummed us to a sweet solemn quiet .


Like dark alley strolls in late November evenings

hoping the flickering lampost won’t leave you in the unsurity of this pursuit.


Like the warm gentle smile on a pregnant mother’s face

when she let’s her head somersault itself backwards into a roaring laughter as she looks up at the sky


what her baby will love like.


Like a firefly whose wings applaud in the summer lull of a radiant afternoon.


Like you woke up this morning.


You woke up this morning!


Like everything you thought living was about

was placed in a bowl with a power rangers spoon and God told you

to eat up girl.


Like the Qur’an made sense to you today

raise your bare stained palms to the sky

thank the Lord he’s given you a sign.



Like children do in the core of jungle gyms staring up at a sea of sky and not knowing how to swim.

Yet they’re still afloat.



With the sun spilling out behind the clouds, into the brown soil of pupil that floats in their eye


A sunflower.

And like the beautiful person you are.



‘Verily with hardship comes ease.’

This is a poem I’d written inspired by a story about a woman who’d found Islam again. We all go through different experiences in life…some good..some bad. However its not the experience that defines us, its not the feelings we felt or lack of it. Its the choices we make and our response to the trials and tribulations life throws at us. Allah SWT is the most merciful and its His mercy that we should remind ourselves of and not his wrath. Our Lord loves us more than our parents do. Try and imagine that. Loves us more than our parents do and its this verse in the Qur’an: chapter 94 verse 5-6 that I was reminded of when I heard her story.


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I’m trying to make a      home

Out of a nomad’s

Sullen   footsteps

And the clothes beached on Italian coasts.

We used to use brittle wood

Now we gather   bones.

Piecing our frail selves into upright fashion

In the belly of our broken nurseries.

Tugging on our corkscrew






I tied a cat’s paw around the hinges with the strands that fell.

This womb only knows how to make homes.

                                    We used to not have doors,

English must’ve gotten to us,

Shut us out so much

We’ve caged ourselves in.

Now tell me why the caged bird sings

6 sons and 2 daughters to feed

This is no symphony for the opera house,

 This is a sombre lullaby to hush their misty eyes.

Fact: Red is symbolic of war.

Fact: Burco is known for its red sand.

We’re fighting a battle with blood stained cremated bones.

When does one feel suffocated by the oxygen they breathe?

When living becomes synonymous with paralysis,

when the world becomes a tomb.

Choking on our cracked tongues,

Self becomes self destructive

the body becomes a war zone of its own.


We’re being lined up and numbered

at the watering hole.

Theres no water at the watering hole,

Just skulls filled with a nation’s tears.

-Fahima Hersi

Strange Fruit

Colonialism and mangoes


We are not exotic.

There is still the taste of granny smiths swimming in the cracks

Around our taste buds,

The flesh of mango and dragon fruit doesn’t

Seem to get rid of this.


We’ve tried to get rid of this.


But those apples have become a part of our anatomy,

We continue to choke on the seeds

And find ourselves drinking the water off of the Gulf of Aden.


Trying to water down colonialism

Can be hard

No matter how much we drink East African

Granny smiths seem to still be blocking the entry.




Part I- The outsider

She fashioned patchwork skin.

Clung onto each moment

With her stained palms,

Stitched them onto the loose skin around her arms,

Her Browns

Resembled the tea stains

That we dabbed on corners of history projects,

Spices swirled in her irises, tears marked the cedar oak of her wrists.


Ayeyo loved when the light leaked in through the crack in the curtain,

Sun kissed her naked forehead

Till her melanin became a muted mahogany

She’d sit in her recliner

Back outstretched

Clutching her prayer beads

From mourn till nigh.


She couldn’t rock in her chair

But the wind helped bob her head up

And down to old Omar Dhule

She hummed the wrong lyrics

To her favourites,

We watched

And smiled

With tears forming eulogies at the corners of our almond eyes










Part II- On nights without navy watchers


The sea hushed the warm gentle breeze to a muffle

With the sound of its tides

Hitting lagoon carved rocks

That resided on the sand

Resembling fine grained gold dust

That seeped between her fingertips like sun rays do to clouds.


There’s something about a night

Filled with blackened faces which

Turn the prettiest shade of blue when the moonlight hits,

Brandishing pearled white teeth that sing anthems of the sea bed,

Something about the closeness of melanin rich bodies

Embracing each other like freshly braided cornrows,


Hips swaying like palm trees in southern California

But it’s the 50s

And not a white face in sight

Saado Cali Warsame making folk songs sound like calypso

And we’re young and hip

Still have working hips


Grandmama’s skirt falls just below her knees,

And they shake like the bells

We let dangle around our camels necks,

Calves were free back then

No cloth to reside over them

Just the warm Berbera breeze


The man perched on the seat opposite,

Young handsome gentlemen,

With a mouth full of blooming daffodils

And a smile as wide as the Gulf of Aden behind him,

Sat idly, mesmerised by Grandmama’s wild eyes and her slow moving body

That twisted as if it were a growing vine


He got himself roped into this love story with not a horse in sight

Just a heart galloping to the beat of her breathing


She locked eyes with him

Prison cell caged her inside this moment

And forgot where she was.





Part III- “Baby, ayeeyo is not well”

Minds grow old and weary,

Cogs unscrew themselves and claim retirement too

Grey hairs begin to replace grey matter

Till memories become moments never lived

And smiles between children and mother

Resemble awkward vacant stares passed between strangers


Days hold those that he loves through his atom bomb photon fingertips

And caresses the skin of the unfortunates,

He prances into our rooms,

And Lets us behold him in his glory,

While he takes the best years from us

Has us smiling till we forget why we were ever happy,


Till we forget the four little brown skinned girls who sit in the corner shouting ayeyo,

Till we forget that the tea on the bedside is chilling from the fog filtering into the room.

Till we realise 2 seasons have passed and we’re still stood in front of this vacant window

Trying to find our names in brisk November weather,

And in the safe hands of passer byes,


Mourning the memories we lived and had forgotten.




By Fahima Hersi

Being a Somali woman in the West is not easy.

From trying to explain to the black guy you’ve been sitting next to in class for the whole year that you are definitely black and ‘no, I’m not Asian because I’m wearing a scarf on my head’ to having to explain that there is a race issue within the Muslim community. From adopting an habitual eye roll when engaged in a discussion about mainstream feminism because you know your black women related issues are not up for discussion at this table that’s overcrowded by haughty angry ‘free the nipple’ chanting white women to trying to understand what this word ‘Intersectionality’ means for you.

Being a Somali woman in the West is not easy.

The very people I identify with seem to disregard my struggles and outcast me from their communities. My unique character makeup of fitting into various communities confuses those in these societies. They do not know whether they should hate me or embrace me because their own preconceived notions and bigotries are too strong. They are so strong that the very thing uniting me to them is outweighed by the hatred. The struggle they know I feel is modulated because this comforts them when they choose to dehumanise me. Despite the daily struggle born from external prejudices coupled with us being unfathomable intersectional people, we still outchea trying to make a change for ALL OF US.

  1. On the subject of me being black enough


As someone who stands in solidarity with her Black brothers and sisters in the west, more exclusively with the United States, in this fight for equality and fight for justice, I live by this slogan. This hash tag is more than just an internet craze; it is a resurgence of a dialogue that has not been talked about in mainstream media. The blatant and public injustices committed by the white American police force have been active in the States since the birth of this very institution. The harsh treatment of Rodney King in 1991 by a policeman had been the most notable example of police brutality that had been talked on mainstream media since the Civil Rights Movement. The beating had sparked the L.A riots of ’92 that ended in 53 deaths. Between then and 2012 when the movement was born there were hundreds like Trayvon, Sandra Bland and Mike Brown. This movement ‘is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.’ It demands for there to be a change in the institution that was created to protect the people of the land but instead chooses to terrorise.

Despite me waving this slogan with me wherever I go, I often wonder if this movement is also a fight for the freedoms and acknowledgement of the injustices of people who look like me. I contemplate on whether I am the right kind of black whose life should be fought for. Before I get attacked by social justice warriors on this statement, let me explain my stance.

Abdirahman Abdi

That name itself should be enough for my thinking. Abdirahman Abdi was a 37-year-old Canadian who died at the hands of police brutality. He was mercilessly killed by officers during a violent arrest. He had been suffering from a mental illness, was nonverbal and on the autism spectrum and had been repeatedly beaten by the officers. He was found with blood stains across his shirt and in handcuffs. The officers had not tried to revive him once unconscious and he was reportedly dead 45 minutes before he had arrived at the hospital.

This should have been all over the news. This should have been a cause for a march by BlackLivesMatter protesters. This should have caused an ache in the hearts of many all over the world especially by the black people of America who have been fighting for the end of police brutality. Instead it was met by silence. My understanding of why this was the case is because Abdi was Somali.

Now I’ve heard time and again that I don’t look black, this statement thus leaving me perplexed because I have a dark brown complexion. Nonetheless this has led me to believe that when I hear this statement is that the person is referring to my features or my head covering. There seems to be this paradigm of what a black person looks like, this person having archetypal West African features. This is my reasoning as to why this is the case. I think because of the transatlantic slave trade and most slaves being taken from West African countries, most African-Americans have these same features therefore they associate black people with having these features. Likewise, black folk from the Caribbean were taken as slaves from West African counties thus exhibiting these facial features. So, when my east African self comes into the equation, despite my having black skin my blackness is questioned because I do not share these archetypal West African features.  I think our distinct facial features have created a wall between us and our black brothers and sisters. Our slim noses, curly hair, slim build and thinner lips is not seen on the stereotypical black characters we see in history books ( the very few we see) and in mainstream media therefore our blackness is always held into question by blacks and non-blacks. As well as this, our features are often called European looking which has our black identity questioned too. I must add that Africa is the most genetically diverse continent on the globe therefore we must acknowledge that black people aren’t all going to look like they come from West Africa.  As well as this, the fact that science has suggested that we have all originated from Ethiopia, Africa, it is Europeans that have east African features and not the other way round.

It seems our black identity cannot be stretched far enough for it to create a bond between us and the rest of the wider black community. I think it is our uniqueness in the fact that most Somalis are Muslim that has created our dissociation from the wider black community. Although most, if not all, North African countries are Muslim, many of the people from these countries consider themselves Arab and not black (many look it too). However, Somalis in the diaspora do identify themselves to be black. I’m referring to Somalis in the diaspora because in Africa, generally people do not specify and identify with being black. This is understandable as they are living in a society where people differentiate themselves by ethnicity and tribes and not by the colour of their skin as it would be pointless. As well as this, it should be noted that race in general is an ideology created by the white man to create a visible hierarchy in western society. It is an ideology that has bled into the foundations of other societies in the world as well e.g. the caste system in Asian countries and colourism in the black community.

It is the experiences of our mothers and fathers coming to the West as refugees and being racially attacked when coming here which has made us identify with being black. When the white man is calling us ‘Niggers’ we can try as much as we want to try to explain that we are Somalis, it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day we have dark skin.


Fast-forward a couple of months and the international community is now dealing with the human wotsit that is Donald Trump and his executive order which has been coined as a Muslim ban. This ban has temporarily banned refugees from 7 Muslim majority countries including: Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq and Iran. I will discuss this executive order in more detail in another post however there is an anti-Muslim sentiment brewing amongst the black community and it was highlighted in their response to the ban. Many people online had shared their concern or lack of it in regards to the ban on social media. The general response being that because this ban does not directly affect them they do not care about it or the lives of the refugees and migrants trying to enter the States. What makes me scratch my head is that these people are supposedly pro-black. Surely, they should then be angered by the ban of the refugees of three African countries…*coughs*…black countries.

I am not in any way insinuating that they should not be outraged by the ban of the 4 other countries; any person with any sense of humanity should be enraged by the ban. However, at the very least, this issue should have been a BlackLivesMatter issue as Black lives were being directly affected by the ban, not only Africans but the general African diaspora.

It is instances like this which make being a Somali in the West tough. To know that your black brothers may not fight for you because your faith compromises your validity as a black person is difficult to swallow.

  1. Fact: Black Muslim Lives don’t matter in the Muslim community.

My Somali friend from secondary tells me about her time living in Egypt. She tells me about the locals insisting that she must be from Sudan and not Somalia because of her fluency in Arabic. She tells me about hearing slurs being sprawled out of the mouths of locals and spat at in the face of the Black people of the country.

“They replace Abdi with Abeed” (Abeed means slave)

Back home here in the UK, we see a different kind of prejudice, we see a passive racism from our akhis and ukhtis. We see it in mosque, when brothers and sisters refuse to stand shoulder to shoulder with us, when they refuse to stand feet to feet with us and we begin to see ourselves playing this cat and mouse game in the middle of Salah trying to not leave a space between us. I saw it as a young girl with curly hair, having my neighbour of Bengali descent call my single braids ‘snakes’ and watching her cackle whilst she pulls on my locks. Ideas of self-hate began to manifest in my impressionable mind and weirdly enough it wasn’t by Dave down the road but aunty who lives next door.

I don’t have to tell you in a blog post that there is a definite race issue within the Muslim community, we, as your black brothers and sisters have been exclaiming this for years. They’ve just fallen on deaf ears.

I’ve attended protests calling for an end to the bombs falling on my brothers and sisters in Syria, in Falasteen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan etc. I’ve donated to organisations trying to better the lives of families in Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. Yet I’m still yet to see a protest when 400 somali migrants drown in the Mediteranean Sea. I’m yet to see my brothers and sisters with collection buckets trying to raise money to aid those dying in the drought in somalia. I’m yet to see my brothers and sisters being enraged with the constant drones dropping bombs in Somalia which are being orchestrated by the US army.

Is there a difference in the lives being lost in Syria and those in Somalia?

This stretches beyond Somalis; this is a problem that affects all black Muslims. The problems we face as black people in the Ummah never seem to be brought up. Our experiences of intersectional people who experience both the struggle of being a Muslim in the west and black is always pushed under the rug so much so we are being swept along with it and trod on by our family in Islam. When we try to share these experiences we are told that there is no racism in Islam, which is true, however there is racism in the Muslim community. The example of Bilal RA is always brought up yet we forget that was during a time in the golden age of Islam and the Muslim community. We are in a dark time where Muslims aren’t upholding Muslim values of kindness and compassion therefore we cannot always scurry back to this example. This example does not carry weight when classmates will call us pirates but in the same instant cry about being called terrorists. We are in the same boat as you trying to fight islamophobia yet we also have the burden of fighting racism in the Muslim community.


‘Free the nipple’ is more important than FGM