Never Really Over

I’ve avoided writing the dreaded “Moxie has come to an end” blog for as long as possible, but overdue would be an understatement. Last Saturday, when I woke up and saw everyone packed and our rooms nearly empty, it felt so unreal. The eight weeks spent in NYC had been so incredible and it was sad to see that the amazing people, brilliant conversations and beautiful city were going to be behind me.

In all honesty, I did not know how or to what extent this experience was going to impact me or shape me as a young woman, a student, and an activist. My friend had mentioned that I was going to see things differently and that  how I experience college, see the world and approach situations was going to change, and she was very right.  Within the one week I’ve been back home, I’ve noticed that I did see things a bit differently; I was very keen of my surroundings and the situations I was in.  I was hyperaware  of the interactions I had and how I saw my friends and my sisters handle everyday situations.

But this is a very, very small part of what I have learned.

I learned that as much of a bliss ignorance is, it does not compare to the value and power of knowledge, and that we can learn not only from our professors and teachers with abbreviations before their names, but also from community members and leaders who know too well, the struggles as well as the solutions.

I learned that like most things, social justice and activism are processes rather than destinations (I know, cheesy). Some may not find their power through their voices, but maybe through their words or their art that speak louder than any voice.

I learned that if you want to solve an issue pertaining to a specific community, you need to speak to the members of the community. Especially if the issues at hand are involving young folks, we should encourage these young activists instead of discrediting them. We need to ensure that they are at the center of the conversations we’re having.

But most of all, I learned that every great thing takes time, so patience was going to be something I needed to remind myself of very often.  When it all feels like it’s for nothing, or that there’s no progress being made, it was important to remind myself that the ‘small’ steps we find tedious are the ones that become the building blocks of great movements.

So, as much as I see that Moxie is over, it never really is. I’m so incredibly thankful for these eight weeks because I have learned so much from every reading, every seminar discussion and weekly reflection. And as scary as adult life seems, and as unsure as I am about what exactly to expect from my three more years of college, I know I’m going through these things with confidence,  and perseverance. From the early days and the late nights, from the long commutes and 90 degree days, I could not be more thankful for this experience.

A Very Real Pipeline

At this point in the program, we have discussed social justice and reform of countless systems in our society from the criminal justice system, to the welfare system. But one of the things I never really considered to be in need of reform before this program is education.

Now, when people talk about education reform, it usually ranges from things concerning curriculum rigor to how the United States’ public education system  stacks up to the rest of the world. But there are facets of education reform that many are blind to that affect many parts of our society today. Working with Girls For Gender Equity, I have been able to work with students in the New York City Pubic school system and have conversations about their schools that you will not find in the news papers and policy books. These conversations and interviews were part of a data analysis that compiled their answers around different themes like issues of overpolicing, harsh discipline, and lack of diversity in curriculum. It was so incredible to see the problems these students face every day in their schools. One response to a question about metal detectors in schools I found fascinating was from a middle school student. This student talked about how metal detectors were a mandatory part of every student’s morning, which meant hours of waiting in line to be searched before entering the school. Not only did this make the school climate “feel like a prison,” if a student was late because they were going through metal detectors, they were sent to in-school suspension, where they missed material taught in the classroom.

It does not take a genius to see how debilitating this is to students.

According to national statistics as well as the data I’ve analyzed at GGE, these issues are disproportionally affecting minority communities- especially girls of color, LGBTQ and gender non conforming folks. This research from Colombia Law School outlines how incredibly targeted black girls are when it comes to school discipline. (

These aspects of harsh discipline, and zero tolerance that target girls of color are the very pieces that build the School to Prison Pipeline. When meeting with people who work with schools on policy,  I find it incredibly discrediting when people refer to this system as simply a theory and not something we see unfold every day in our schools. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that, the targeting of women of color is often overlooked. Monique Morris’s book Pushout discusses the criminalization of Black girls in school systems. School upshot refers to a system or parts of a system that target a minority group to drop out of school, leading them to unfortunate circumstances. Thing like the harsh enforcement of dress codes more for girls of color than their white peers, and punishments for things like ‘insubordination’ are fueled by stereotypes and implicit bias from teachers. The stereotypes of Black girls being loud, rude and hyper sexualized are thing that contribute to this system.  In addition to the systematic struggles these students have to deal with outside of school, they have to work twice as hard to redefine themselves and deviate themselves from the perceived negative stereotypes of their identity among their teachers and other school staff.  When suspended, these students often get behind on their work,  receive no support to catch up on their school work and are often inclined to drop out because of the frustration. The criminalization of these students follows them beyond school, creating the school to prison pipeline.

So what can be done? Implicit bias training, school policy reform around discipline and restorative justice are a few of the things NYCPS are starting to implement in their schools. These changes are able to reduce the amount of students who are expelled and suspended, and implement systems that restore community, build relationships and avoid having to make students miss school. And even though these changes take time, they are changes that can affect larger parts of society.



Maybe Tired, Never Defeated

Four weeks down and four more weeks to go… What have I learned and what have I yet to learn?

It’s amazing that the eight Moxies in the program are interning at different places that reflect diverse approaches to social justice. We not only get to learn from each other but we get to foster a spirit of activism within our group. But, last week was one of those weeks where everything is hurling at you all at once and you don’t exactly know what to put where.

Social activism was not something I was very good at. I loved learning about issues that we face and ways to solve these issues, but that was as far as I went for the most part. So after spending a month with a group of strong minded, intelligent and dedicated women, I could not help but get inspired to do what I can to be socially active in the issues that I want to solve. At first it felt easy enough, one step at a time. We discussed about feminism and what it meant to us and how we are feminists. It wasn’t a hard question, rather a pleasant reminder of why we’re all here. Then we talked about nonprofits and their works, slightly critiquing some of their agendas and approaches of social justice. It was a new way of thinking: to question the norms that have been established. But we knew these surface conversations were not why we were here.

We were here to talk about women’s loss of possession to their own bodies and what they chose to do with it. We were here to talk about the millions of black bodies who have been beaten, brutalized and are imprisoned for the possession of 1/8th of a gram of marihuana. We were here to ask why our society feels comfortable with a system that prioritizes punishing those who are already oppressed in order to “Make America Great Again” and question why the resistance of oppression is deemed a crime. We were here to understand why those seeking justice in their communities are ignored. We were here to realize how women are perceived in our own society and be baffled at how deeply rooted these perceptions are: so much so that they are the reasons why women suffer at the hands of their own family members, spouses, communities and strangers.

And at first, it feels like we are here to fix the world: to change it. But then we start to realize how incredibly difficult it is to change the world. It’s a disheartening point when you realize that dedication to social activism is a road that is slow. It needs patience, dedication, hope, positivity and absolute persistence for the cause we are all here to fix. And instead of changing the world, we should change ourselves, because those who see our change and respond to it are the ones who will influence others, and so on. It is so important to keep in mind the balance of changing individuals and changing communities.

At times, I wish I was unaware. I wish I didn’t analyze things to the core and find flaws that reflect the problems that I see everyday, because I have never sought the so called bliss of ignorance until this week. But then you meet people dedicated to the very same cause of social justice, who are brilliant and beautiful and patient. You meet people who will listen to you rant for hours and reassure your sanity and it feels like when the music in your headphones syncs up to the rhythm of your steps as you walk. So as burdensome as activism may feel, the small steps we are taking today are here to be strides others will take in the future.





Dear Woman

Your body is the start and end of most things in your life.

But over time, your body has become a subject of conversation

It has become a topic of arguments and wars.

You wake up everyday in this vessel that carries you

And you carry it

To face this world that carries your body

And your body, that bares the weight of this world

Is the center of the politics and people that tell you

If your skin is too dark for you to be deemed

Beautiful, or competent or, worthy,

If the curls on your head are too tight and

If your hair is too “intense” or “bold” for the “normal” people

And deny it to be fit for the crown you deserve,

Condemn your wrists for handcuffs and

Your body for prison cells,

And decide

If your image is a product that can be tweaked and appropriated and sold

For those who can do so simply because they can.

You wake up to face the people who dictate

Whether you,

A woman,

Can make your own choices for your body,

And question the strength of your soul and body because

They are unaware of how many stories are written and carried on your back.

You wake to face the system,

The system that fails to educate those who violate your body

Because these violators are “great student athletes”

And your violation was simply “20 minutes of action”,

The very system that then fails to punish those who invade your temple

Because what the violation “technically” was, or was not.

The system that preaches that, your complacency and fragility

Is what defines you as a woman.

The system that justifies your gender expression or who you choose to love

 To be grounds for suspicion

Of you being… A threat.

But when are you not a threat?

You’re a threat when you’re educated and aware,

A threat when you’re appreciated or praised,

A threat when you’re trying to change the system that keeps you drowning,

A threat when you’re even just at your home, which is why you’re killed countless times

With “no knock raids”  and searches…

As if they were going to knock and tell you that your fate was going to be another unjust death

That will be overlooked like the thousands before you.

So you wake up

And remind yourself that if you fight for whatever cause,







So as soon as you wake up,

You are reminded of the woman you are.


A woman,

A woman who is beyond the reach of any combination of words to be painted,

A woman whose beauty could not be limited to numbers and measurements

A woman whose story carries a thousand more, of all she has touched

A woman with courage, resilience, strength and fire in her soul

A woman full of color and life for the world to witness

A woman whose love could heal age old scars

A woman of wisdom and advice

A woman of leadership

A woman of balance

A woman.


A woman

Who has had to

Shirk herself beyond belief;

Because her body was her weakness.

Her body no longer felt like hers because it was not.

Her body was everyone’s and she no longer had claim to it.

A woman whose temple was legislated, policed, brutalized, beaten,

Objectified, simplified,

Labeled, sold, re-sold, painted, smoothed, defined,

Appropriated, criminalized, judged, observed

Thrown and never caught.

This is the woman you are….

Or believed to be.

But as Coates said it,

“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

Better yet, you must find a way to live above it.

Forget the standards and expectations and fight.

Fight for the words that were taken from you,

Fight for the love from which you were forbidden, fight for the rights that were torn away

For the life that was taken from you, for the family that was robbed of you, and

For the power to your own body.

Fight with the knowledge that even if you don’t see your promise land,

Those who do, will do so because of you.

So wake up and face this world,

And let it face you.

How do I look?

Rupi Kaur is an Indian writer and artist based in Toronto, Canada whom I have been following on Instagram ever since I arrived at Duke. Her artwork and poems depict love, fear, womanhood, pain, nature and so much more in ways that are so new and fascinating to me.

But, one Rupi Kaur poem has stuck with me for as long as I remember.

rupi kaur

i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful

before i’ve called them intelligent or brave

i am sorry i made it sound as though

something as simple as what you’re born with

is all you have to be proud of

when you have broken mountains with your wit

from now on i will say things like

you are resilient, or you are extraordinary

not because i don’t think you’re beautiful

but because i need you to know

you are more than that

― Rupi Kaur

Tell me that wasn’t the most beautiful thing you’ve read!

Now that I’ve let my nerd out a little, let me introduce myself.

Hi world! My Name is Edom. I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and came to the United States about seven years ago. I was lucky to grow up in two different cultures because it allowed me to look at things from different perspectives. Growing up in this “gray area” of cultural identity often offered me answers to a lot of questions I had about norms and social expectations during my time in the United States.  But, one thing I never understood: why is it common belief that the best thing a woman has to offer this world is physical beauty?

I mean why is it that women’s qualities and best attributes have to be reduced to physical beauty capped by narrow Eurocentric standards?

Now, you may be wondering, “What does this have anything to do with The Moxie Project?”. This topic answers the question of “why feminism” and what feminism means to me.

From a very young age, in most cultures, girls are raised to believe their strongest asset to be their beauty. Not their brilliance, courage, kindness, bravery, or the million other things they are able to accomplish. We are told that “looking pretty’ will get us farther in life than confidence or resilience ever will. This ideology is so instilled within our society that girls internalize these ideals. Our looks and bodies are constantly policed and politicized, while our words and ideas are often patronized. From dress codes that dictate what girls wear so “the boys don’t get distracted,” to offices that deem natural hair “unprofessional”, our society is focused on all the wrong areas concerning girls.

I’m so excited to be apart of the Moxie Project and work with GGE: because for me, feminism is giving girls the support to reach their fullest potentials and eliminating the roadblocks that stop them from doing so, whether that is negative social norms or systematic oppression. I want to draw emphasis to the importance of education, activism and confidence of girls who have the ability to be much more than just pretty and acceptable. I want to work to make girls realize that they are leaders and pioneers; as I  have been lucky to meet some amazing woman who are phenomenal role models during my year at Duke.

As Brigham Young put it, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” And, the way I see it, you empower a woman; you empower the world. Or simple put…