Covered Girl Chronicles Takes The Classroom
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Starting off the year right. During the month of January, I had the amazing opportunity of visiting my alma mater, The Agnes Irwin School. My visit not only consisted of me doing the typical alumna teacher roundup where I poke my head into a few of my favorite classes and reminisce on what life was like when I was in middle school and high school, but it also included me giving my annual presentation on what my journey has been like as a young Muslim woman and how I have learned to navigate both faith and fashion.
To provide context and a bit of backstory, I went to an all-girls private, college-preparatory school (woah, what a mouthful) from sixth grade until my senior year. This school was not only very small–my graduating class being a total of 65 girls, including myself–but it was also a predominantly white institution, colloquially known as a PWI. This is helpful to know because it sets the foundation to what will define and guide not only my experience at this institution but also my presentation to the sixth grade. It is also partially the reason why I started giving this presentation in the first place. Not only was I one of very few Black girls in my grade, I was also for a very long time, the only hijabi (a Muslim woman who covers her head with a cloth commonly known as a hijab). This is important because as I mentioned to the sixth grade during my visit, being the only or one of the only impacted how I began navigating my faith and identity as a Muslim. Being in a space where there were very few people who looked liked me caused me to be very vocal and overt about Islam and my identity as a Muslim, and because of this, many of my classmates, when we talked about Islam during a History class, would always ask me questions about how I practiced, and I would answer them proudly and willingly.
As a young middle schooler, who was afraid of being judged for overtly being Muslim, I was not only surprised but also excited that my classmates and teachers were interested in learning more about Islam, something that was deeply engrained into my way of being. I think my openness with my identity and how I was willing to share it with others was admired by many of my teachers because during either my eighth grade or ninth grade years, I was approached by my Middle School homeroom teacher and asked to give a presentation to her sixth grade History class about Islam.
This presentation has grown and evolved over the years as I have grown and evolved. It first started with me giving the general information on Islam like the pillars of Islam and Iman, who the messengers were, the holy books, holidays, and forms of dress and adornment–general information that if one were to compete in “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” Islam edition, one would have the basic information to make it to the second and possibly third round. However, as the years went by, I wanted to change my approach and make the experience exciting and educational for both me and the girls, which is why I started talking about my personal experiences and how I navigated and still navigate faith. I made the presentation a lot more intimate and personal. This has been my approach since.
This year my presentation touched on my journey as a young Muslim woman from my childhood to now. I talked about growing up in an interfaith family and environment, navigating being Muslim in a secular environment–especially because from the age of five to ten, I attended an Islamic School called Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy. I also talked about navigating faith at university, and how I have learned to express my Islamic identity through fashion. It was really a great experience for me to see how I have grown over the years but also for the girls to see how what they learn in the classroom is put into practice through someone who does adhere to religious guidelines and ways of living.
Each year since I was first asked to present to the sixth grade, I have enjoyed and greatly appreciated how enthusiastic and engaged the girls are when I present. It really lets me know that I have established a legacy and will continue to make a legacy in the spaces that I enter and leave. It also shows that the work I do in bridging cultural divides is impactful and meaningful. I am very grateful for my experience and hope to continue to do work like this in the future.