Brenna Smark, Reporter
Amal Kassir is a 21-year-old Syrian-American woman born and raised in Denver. Her mother’s from Iowa and her father, from whom she inherited her Muslim religion, is from Syria. Kassir’s parents come from two different world views, but that never challenged her in knowing who she is.
“I was always my parents’ child and we never really capitalized on a culture,” Kassir said. “It was beautiful because without question we were experiencing these two worlds smoothly flow together. We were just mixing rivers.”
As much as her two different ancestries flow together, Kassir takes pride in the idea that she’s created her own culture for herself.
“My biggest doorway to understanding thought is the bigotry, and the racism made it so that there were these differences,” Kassir said. “As a poet, of course it was my job to try and take all of it and put it in one place, and in doing that I think I made my own culture. I am my own culture.”
Kassir has performed in many different countries and at multiple worldwide events, but slam poetry wasn’t how she expected to get her voice out there.
“Honestly, I didn’t know this was poetry. I didn’t know anything about spoken word or slam or any of it,” Kassir said. “I was so outraged that something so simple as numbers could’ve been manipulated so intentionally for something as serious as an anti-war demonstration, and the first thing I ever wrote just spilt from my pen. I really didn’t know what it was.”
Kassir had her first slam poetry reading at Smoky Hill High School and it set the basis for what she wanted to do with her voice.
“This thing I’d been doing, there was an actual name for it and I had no idea,” Kassir said. “I started out not trying to be a poet and I think that’s what my greatest advantage has been; to explore it because I didn’t know what I was walking into. Now I’m cultivating this garden behind me, and it’s beautiful.”
Kassir never expected to be as successful as she’s become, and she said she has her father to thank for her YouTube viral videos and worldwide poetry readings.
“I wish I could say it was my talent, but straight up it took one YouTube video and my dad emailing 800 people my YouTube link. My dad made my video viral,” Kassir says. “As cool as I wanna be, that’s always gonna be the fact, no one would know who I was if my dad didn’t think I was wise enough. He always believed in my message.”
Poetry’s became a passion for Kassir and that passion took her places. She’s traveled to eight different countries and performed in more than 40 cities around the world, but she’s never been alone.
“Suddenly there was just this big story that my little 5 foot body couldn’t even hold,” Kassir said. “People are listening to it and they’re watching you struggle with this Syrian in your arms, like a bleeding baby in your arms. I swear the more people watched, the more they tried to take a little bit more of this weight that I’m carrying. It’s healing for me, I’m using my audience just as much as they’re using me.”
Kassir is currently putting her passion into a book she’s writing. She said this book has changed significantly from what she’d anticipated it would be.
“It started out with me just wanting to share some bits of my Syria and what happened,” Kassir said. “As I’m writing this I find I’m like a con artist trying to put my own demons to rest. My house was burned down last year and three days after that my aunt’s house was bombed, and I was making it so that war will be the thing I present this tragedy from. This book is how I am making meaning out of a scary, scary world.”
This book’s also how Kassir’s making her stand to those in charge of the war coming down on her and her home.
“This book has a hopeful end, but it also has a grave warning to the tyrant and the dictator. I talk about God, ISIS and the scarf. My book starts in the Heavens and comes down to Earth,” Kassir said. “There will be men who make hell on this earth, but for one side it’s just gold purifying. No matter what, they will plant a seed, and no matter what hell they make on this earth, it will grow.”
Kassir has written many poems covering a variety of subjects she finds herself passionate about, but she doesn’t just put her voice into any given subject. She’s particular and has an agenda for what she speaks about.
“I’m very particular on where I draw my voice. My politics is human rights, my religion is human rights, my God is gravity as far as anyone else is concerned,” Kassir said. “People commonly ask me what this thing on my head is, and I’m totally cool with that, but you see what I’m wearing has nothing to do with the humanitarian crisis that is happening, but for some reason they think it does.”
The idea that people continue to bring her religion and customs into the problems occurring around human rights fuels Kassir’s passion.
“My passion comes from being sick and tired of it. I’m gonna say a lot of uncomfortable things in this short poem so that literally we are all disarmed. I try to lay it out so that we’re all on the same ground now.”
While poetry is something that she’s turned to in order to get her voice out there, Kassir said that poetry isn’t truly the passion behind all the work that she’s done.
“My poetry is more like a segway to my true passion. My passion is justice, not being angry about it. The anger, the outrage is all just a means to an end,” Kassir said. “ My poetry is by no means what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to give a message greater than myself.”
Kassir said all she strives for is for everyone to level with each other and see from the same angle of equality. That’s what continues to push her forward on her path to equality and justice for human rights.
“Religion and these things are destructive. I am a woman of faith, not a woman of religion. Religion is something that you do, so how is it that we’re arguing about religion when everyone is supposed to be doing their own thing?” Kassir said. “My goal is to make sure I can pull all those people down with me. Gravity is the God that we all know has us.”
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