Saida Dahir always knew she wanted to combine her love of poetry and her commitment to activism, but she didn’t expect to become an online hit in the past few days.
But a Mother Jones video of a poem she wrote and recited at the March for Our Lives SLC rally on Saturday would become an internet sensation.
Editor’s note: The following video contains strong language.
“It’s so unexpected,” Dahir said. “I didn’t know that this was going to go viral. And I didn’t know that some kids from the March for Our Lives movement would message me. It was incredible.”
She said she’s heard from several students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the shooting that took 17 lives on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla. They’re among those who were taken with Dahir’s impassioned reading of her poem, which included phrases like, “How much longer do we have to deal with this s---? Blood pools as we watch innocent bodies get hit. Politicians claim it’s not guns, but they need to just quit.”
“It’s really great to see how the poem connects with people,” Dahir said.
The 17-year-old junior at the Academy for Math, Engineering and Science wrote most of the poem while she was cleaning up at home after dinner.
“I was washing the dishes, and every time an idea would come to me, I would take a break and write it down,” Dahir said. “At the end of me washing the dishes, I had most of the poem written.
“It’s about the students who go to school and worry about whether or not they’re going to make it home. Or whether the fire drill is just a drill. Or whether the lockdown drill is just a drill. Or whether there’s an active threat in their school. We deal with this every day.”
And it’s about how when a shooter is white, he’s treated differently than a person of color or a Muslim.
“It honestly doesn’t make sense — the double standard that a person of one race will commit an atrocity, and people label him ‘mentally ill,’ or ‘a quiet, broken kid,‘” Dahir said. “And another person of a different race — whether they be darker skinned or a different religion — will be labeled a terrorist.”
There’s an ongoing campaign to get Dahir on Ellen Degeneres’ talk show, but it’s not Dahir’s doing. People are retweeting the video of her poem and tagging Degeneres.
“It would be great if I could go on ‘Ellen.’ That would be so cool,” she said. “But, honestly, my goal is not to in any way become famous off of this. I just wanted people to hear my poem and to feel connected.”
(She said she’d happily edit herself — removing the curse words in the poem — if “Ellen” comes calling.)
Dahir’s Somali parents fled their country, and she was born in a Kenyan refugee camp. Dahir immigrated to the United States when she was 3.
“This is home,” she said. “I don’t remember anything of Kenya.”
But it wasn’t always easy for a black Muslim who wear a hijab. She admits that she feared she “would never really be accepted” in Utah, but she’s found “a good community of people that are like-minded — people who support you and are allies.”
And she’s commited to the fight to change gun laws in this country.
Whether it takes a couple of weeks or months or decades, this will change before our kids go to school,” Dahir said.