These words are for my people who graduate with college degrees
but know that their work is not over yet and never will be.
We’re the people who remember our responsibility
as the ones who fight for justice, for freedom, for mercy.
As students we spent our time
searching for opportunities
to fulfill the obligation we have to learn,
the obligation we recall every moment we stretched out our hands
hoping, trying, keyboard keys clacking, minds wracking, and we prayed…
“Increase me in knowledge,”1
knowledge of benefit to us and to our communities
in our lives, our joys and our cries,
our constant search for unity.
Unity, but not conformity.
Today, we are graduates,
and we have each struggled in our own individual ways
as we searched for our voices, our spaces, our purpose
through the blinding haze
of homogeneity, of rampant institutional injustice in society
and small and large acts of violence
that begin and end with suppressing silence,
even when we tried to shout out in protest.
Yes we have struggled.
We have many wars already fought.
We wrestled within ourselves and wrestled others without.
And we made it this far, tired but
We’re not finished.
Tomorrow we wake up and start working
searching, learning, fighting, righting
the mistakes we see around us
keeping in mind the giants who came before us
and passed us the torch,
The message that lights our way forward toward
our final destination,
our ultimate goal.
And we remember while others have moved mountains before,
we are the ones we have been waiting for.
So we have let go, our hands and our minds, of the textbooks,
the rules, whether cultural or grammatical,
the institutions, the targeted silencing and grooming,
our inquisition redirected to problems and solutions
outside our classrooms
that we are leaving behind us today.
Tomorrow, as activists and writers we rise
to speak truth to power
Even, even as our voices shake,
even as we struggle to fake being bold
even and as we choke
on the fear we swallow back.
We, as innovators and dreamers
we stand together in strength and our efforts combined,
we remember our liberation is always intertwined.
We aim to be what we claim to be:
“A mercy to humanity.”2
And as speakers, artists, and teachers
we remain in play
knowing our success up till now came from the Merciful, the Just
knowing we owe gratitude for blessings as frequent as the specks of dust
that are scattered by the winds,
those little things we fail to see at times but are always there.
And when blessing becomes too hard to see,
As exhaustion overtakes us
when the people we trusted becomes the ones who thrust us
into the crowds of naysayers who tell us
We flee to the safety, the space, the security
we only find among each other,
among the changemakers and leaders,
and we open our arms to each other with the promise we hold tight:
“What is to come is better for you than what has gone by.”3
and we remember:
“With every hardship comes ease. Indeed, with every hardship comes ease.”4
So we carry on together,
As fighters, entrepreneurs, and creators.
We are the strivers
aiming to enjoin in good, to forbid evil, to establish justice.5
We know our duty extends beyond schooling.
We look to the future.
We look to a day when we will hear and see
nothing but greetings of peace,
Salamun alaykum bima sabartum, “Peace be upon you for all you have persevered with,”6
Been patient with,
as you raised your fists to the sky in humility,
In the name of God’s justice and mercy.
- Quran, Taha: 114. ↩
- Quran, Anbiyaa (The Prophets): 107. ↩
- Quran, Duha (The Morning Hours): 4. ↩
- Quran, As-Sharh (The Relief):5-6. ↩
- This concept is often repeated in the Quran as a duty on believers. One such example can be found in Al-Imran (Family of Imran): 104. ↩
- Quran, Ra’ad (The Thunder): 24. ↩