I am a dance artist, educator, and bodyworker. I am also editor and Community Organizing Director for Art For Ourselves. I dance because it makes me feel free, alive. Dancing connects me to my ancestors, to the earth, to the unborn. I make art as a means for personal, social and political transformation. I teach for liberation. I teach skills and facilitate experiences that allow children and adults to listen to and support themselves and eachother. I do bodywork to help others and myself live with less pain, more awareness, and more ease. All that I do is in contribution toward the dismantling of oppressive structures and the building of a more just world.
My identity is in flux. I struggle to name/claim my identities. I am Somali/American. I am a brown woman. I am an artist. I am a teacher. I feel queer but am happily in a cis-het relationship. I identify as a student, a learner. Always seeking new information to the point of never feeling sure of my knowledge. I have little money. I am recreating my relationship to Islam. I have begun introducing myself as Amal, my middle name. It has helped me feel more sure about who I am.
I am currently working on a new performance work in collaboration with singer Carlita Gay to premiere in June. We are making a long distance voice and dance performance using mutual improvisation scores with the goal of creating space for our own freedom. The performance is a reflection of our conversations and friendship; which are spaces for our freedom. I am also working on planning a move from Chicago to Minneapolis and planning my wedding this August.
AFO: What’s your favorite thing to do before bed?
MA: Stretch and breath slowly. Ross (my fiance) often reads from a novel to me in bed.
AFO: What is something you love about yourself?
MA: I love that I am so much more than I perceive of myself. I am more bold, more experienced, more thoughtful, a better dancer, a better teacher, a deeper thinker, and a better person than I think. (I am working on thinking better of myself)
AFO: What does self love look like to you?
MA: Reminding myself that I am good, that I am okay, that I deserve life and wellness. And asking people who love me to remind me of those things when I need more convincing. Alone time is essential for me. Taking dance classes. Keeping my house very clean. Pampering myself with face/hair masks. Making sure I complete all my tasks in time/meet my obligations/try really hard to do well (I really struggle with feeling that I’ve made a mistake, or done something poorly. It is self love for me to make sure I try my best so I can be compassionate if I do make a mistake. Also, reminding myself it is okay to make mistakes) Making healthy food for myself and also making delicious treats, like tonight I am going to make a milkshake.
AFO: Where might we find you on a Saturday night?
MA: On my couch with my love and my cat watching sitcoms.
AFO: What are some things that make your blood boil?
MA: When people say “we are all one race” or that they don’t “see race”. I am always outraged by US imperialism. Each day that rage seems to grow. I ache everyday for other black folks in this country and the dangers faced. Being the only person of color in a room often makes me feel that my blood is literally boiling. Donald Trump. Lately, cultural appropriation is really gettin me going.
AFO: What are some qualities you admire in other people?
MA: Confidence. Commitment to others. Dedication to learning and dedication to mastering a skill or craft.
AFO: Tell us about one of your friends!
MA: Jakilah Mason. She is a librarian in New Orleans. She cares for the African American book collection at her library and organizes community events. She is smart as fuck and I look up to her.
AFO: What’s your favorite accessory?
MA: My grey backpack. Its square shaped and makes me feel cool.