When I came to the Gazette three years ago, no one really looked like me. I jetted in and out of the office, speaking to my editor about my latest film review, then ran off to my next Kinesiology lecture. It wasn't until I saw a fellow Muslim woman that I thought this place could house me for the next two years. Surprisingly, it did all that and more.
Looking back at where I was at that point in my life — a student on the edge of switching her program, dealing with the overwhelming thoughts of internalized racism and breaking out of conventional fashion trends — I can't help but chuckle. We come a long way during our university careers, but I have to admit: my two years at this paper shaped my life dramatically and I have nothing left to say but thank you.
Thank you to the establishment that challenged me every day. The place that pulled me out of bed, excited to tell people's stories who do not share the same platform but need it desperately, especially during times of hate. The place that published my opinions, no matter how unpopular, because I needed to let others know they're not alone. The place that allowed me to create space for others like me, and hopefully will allow more of us to do the same.
Obviously, none of this came easy. Unlearning and learning had to be done, both personally and throughout the office, but this is the greatest thing I take away from the Gazette. Of course my writing improved and I kickstarted my closeted passion for producing, but the conversations were priceless.
People do not always agree with you and there are multiple sides to an issue. Having the space to hash this out with colleagues, likeminded and otherwise, solidified as well as changed my views. We, as a generation, need to break out of our echo chambers and have humility; understand each other as humans. Instead of calling out another's privilege, call in and empathize. See what it's like to be in another person's shoes, feel for them and work together to create more spaces.
When people like me come to the Gazette, we leave fearing that this place will forget our existence like muscle memory. How long will it take before things return to the way they used to be? Where another black Muslim woman doesn't see herself in a space. We need to learn from each other to prevent this from happening, and those outside the paper can prevent this too.
Activism lives in many forms and sometimes, all you have to do is be present. Be present so another person can see that it's possible, that they too can write at the Gazette fearlessly and unapologetically. Seeing someone like you in a space can change the trajectory of your life and I thank the past editor every day for doing that for me and countless others.
As I leave this paper, I hope that I made this impact on the women of colour who entered the office. I pray that my representation influenced my fellow editors to embrace their identities and proclaim it every chance they got. I wish that every story published made another community feel important and noticed. And I look forward to reading future articles that spark more conversations that call each other in rather than shutting down the conversation out of fear and negligence.
I am only one person who worked at the Gazette during its 110-year run. Even though I know my legacy is futile, I hope the same activism I brought to the editorial board is carried on in future years.
Represent yourselves, your communities and your values, and along the way don't forget to raise while you rise.