I recently had the honor of being asked to speak at The Tri-Cities Women’s March in Tennessee. I felt compelled to accept this opportunity to speak for many reasons that I went on to describe in my speech, transcribed below.
Hello, good afternoon to all my sisters and brothers in humanity. Thank you for joining us today! We all have different reasons for marching, so what is my reason for why I am marching today?
I am marching because everyone deserves to feel a sense of belonging, like they are loved and cherished and have a place that makes them feel safe and welcome.
How many of us have ever felt out of place or like we don’t belong in a certain place or with a certain group of people because we look different, talk different, or have different life styles?
I consider myself to be American because I was born here in the USA. I appreciate the freedom, diversity, and opportunities that I have here, but it took me almost my entire life to figure out who I am and where exactly I fit in the world. It was always a struggle for me growing up, feeling like I am somehow a mix of different cultures, not completely fitting in with any one specific culture. Not knowing who I was, it was difficult for me to be able to truly empower others. It was only when I embraced my Meiraness that I truly blossomed into the woman I have become today. It was when I decided to stop saying hurtful things to myself, just as I would never say those hurtful things to other women, such as my mother or best friends. So for that reason, I know what it feels like to be an outsider, to be seen as different, or other, and I know how it feels to wonder where you belong if you don’t accept yourself as person first.
I don’t care what your label is.
We need to work harder at creating a sense of community where people don’t feel so left out, like the kid at the middle school dance that nobody picks to dance with. We need to empower each other to dance to the beat of our own drums, and embrace our uniqueness while also being celebrated for the beautiful diversity we each bring to the community. Love yourself so you may truly love others.
I also have different identities based on culture, faith, and interests. We all carry labels, but we are so much more than our labels. I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a nurse practitioner, a professor, a community activist, a coffee drinker, a hiker, a Muslim, and a lover of humanity. Whatever you want to label me as, first and foremost, I am a HUMAN BEING. My love overcomes all labels and definitions. I am here to tell you today:
I don’t care what your label is. I see your humanity — and it is so very exquisite and beautiful.
Whenever you feel like you don’t belong or you only fit in with whatever labels you identify with, I am here to tell you. You belong, with me, with the people around you, with those who see the beauty of your heart.
As a nurse, I have taken care of women from all different walks of life: different socioeconomic statuses, different religions, different cultures, and different orientations. I have cared for homeless women, prostitutes, high society women, women who have had miscarriages or lost a child shortly after delivery, and those who have been traumatized. I have cared for refugee women who have lost their husbands, fathers, brothers, and/or sons to war. I have cared for gay women, straight women, and those who identify as transgender. In sickness, health, birth, death, love, and loss, I have cared for women and am a firm believer that women should always support and uplift each other, especially in times of hardship and tragedy. We are sisters and sources of strength and inspiration for each other.
My promise, as a nurse, as a human, is that I will always care for any human being, without judgment or hate, without fear — only with love and compassion. I promise to always include you and make you feel welcome, whomever you are, whatever your life story. My life motto, in the words of the glorious Mother Teresa, is:
“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
My challenge to you is this: how can you spread love and positivity and make people feel welcome? How can we make room for each other at the table instead of building walls? Love, compassion, and kindness are a universal language that we all should practice speaking to each other.
Turn around and look at the people around you. How many people here seem like they have a story to tell? How many are survivors? How many have fought battles nobody knows about? Please, if you don’t remember anything that I say when you leave, remember this:
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
We may have different foods we like, we have may different cultural traditions and different styles of dance, and we may have different ways of expressing our faith, but in the end, we all love to eat and party and want to live a joyous life. I encourage you to cook and break bread together. Dance together. Celebrate together at each others’ engagements, weddings, baby showers, and other life events. Learn about each other, grow together, love one another, and celebrate humanity.
Be a mirror for other people. The beauty you see in others is a reflection of your own inner light.
Much love to you all.