Friday, 15 July 2016

I would pack freedom...poems after Brexit by Miriam Halahmy

Before, during and after the Referendum I had a series of school visits in and around Refugee Week 2016. The theme this year is WELCOME and I set my talks around this theme.

I am drafting this blog in the week after the Referendum and the subsequent turmoil in our country. Everyone seems to be out on the streets or up in arms on social media. No-one seems happy. Our political parties have hunkered down into their separate corners and after some painful dentistry, I am feeling quite low.

What do the children think?
This seems to be about the most important question of the day after everything that has happened.
Sita Brahmachari has written a wonderful piece on the Guardian Children's Website about addressing children's questions and fears post-Brexit.
Going into school with my book HIDDEN and my Welcome message at a time when immigration seems to be the only word on everyone's lips, I really didn't know what sort of reception I would get. The schools I visited were very varied from Tottenham and Hackney to leafy Barnet.
I spoke to Muslim kids, Christian kids, Jewish kids and secular. I spoke to top sets and those with extra learning needs. I spoke to students from Y7 -Y10. I read out from Hidden and Yasmin's Journey (not yet published) - both books champion asylum seekers and ask the reader to put themselves in the shoes of those who have to leave their homes forever. I read out poems by asylum seekers.

How did the students react?
Not one student yawned, or looked out the window, or refused to engage, or made any kind of derogatory comment about asylum seekers/immigration/Refugee Week. They were moved by the stories, entered into spirited and positive discussion and wrote amazing poems about what it would mean to them to leave their homes,their families and their country forever.

As I make my recovery from a painful mouth and an aching heart, it is the children who give me hope for the future of these beautiful islands - the islands that my parents gave up their youth to fight for in WW2 and which my family came to in the mid-nineteenth century to seek safety after the pogroms against the Jews in Poland and Russia.

Here are their words to show you how much hope lies out there in our schools :-

I would pack freedom
I wouldn't pack weapons
I would pack love
I wouldn't pack hate
I would pack food
I wouldn't pack fear
I would pack memories
But I wouldn't pack

I don't want to leave.  
            Jordana, 13 years.

I might be from abroad,
but when we are together
I feel like I’m safe.
We may get abused but hey
tell me ‘It’s okay’
when we are actually safe.
Because I’m hurting
but your softest whisper
keeps me sane from all the whispers that keep me up.
So I’ll keep on walking
despite the pain in my foot
because you promised me that together we would get to that sacred land,
But you lied and I believed you.
                                                       By Haniya Mohamed-Mustaffa

Home Away From Home
It seems like a long time
Seems like a long time ago
She was in her prime
Life was going so slow

She wasn’t told that her life would change
Didn’t get to hear the choices made
All she ever knew now out of range

She remembers how scared she was
Unfamiliar faces, no comfort
Only time would tell if she would come to love
Her new home

Memories of before already fade
Right here, right now she smiles, she’s safe

This is her home away from home
This is her home away from home.

                                                           By Kenny Shomuyiwa

In the dawn of this trembling not so brave new world I wish all the children in the world and everyone, including all the animals and all living things on our planet, 


JO said...

If only the likes of Gove and Johnson would read work like this. Though, on reflection, they would still not be interested. Which makes it all the more important that the rest of us carry on - for as long as it takes - making sure the words of children are heard amid all the mayhem.

Joan Lennon said...

Such moving words and thoughts - thank you for this.

Sue Purkiss said...

Wonderful poems. Thank you, Miriam - and I hope you're feeling better!