When 16-year-old Fatimata Cham was in middle school, her teacher instructed her class to write a poem. Although she wasn’t an experienced writer yet, the assignment was the start of her journey toward using her voice for good.
Fatimata’s poem covered mental health. Seeing other people’s reactions to her work made her realize that she needed to write more. “I realized issues related to mental health and education go unaddressed in communities like mine because of the demographic of people that live there and the lack of resources given to my community,” Fatimata recalled.
Growing up in a Black Muslim community, Fatimata felt like everyone knew her and understood her struggles. Her experience changed in high school when she attended boarding school and found herself in spaces where she wasn’t part of the majority.
"I knew that I had to speak up for my community and help to create space for them.”
Through this experience, she realized the stark disparities around opportunity in the United States and wanted to advocate for her community. She was inspired to start working in equity and inclusion at her school and continued to use poetry to share her ideas and uplift others. “As a Black Muslim hijabi growing up in America, I faced many issues of racism, Islamaphobia, and gender inequity, and growing up in a predominately Black community, I knew that I had to speak up for my community and help to create space for them,” she said.
As an activist, organizer, and poet, Fatimata organizes for Muslim people globally through muslimsmatter. She uses her poetry to highlight people's stories and bring issues to a broader audience. “I’m driven by all the other Black and Muslim hijabi womxn that I have the privilege to share space with,” Fatimata said. “I am passionate about combating issues related to gender inequality, educational inequality, gun violence, and Islamophobia. I am currently working on building muslimsmatter and interviewing Muslims globally to help further their respective.”
As an exceptional Gen Z’er making an impact, she was honored for her work in the Social Impact space through The ConversationaLIST. “I use my voice for good by centering the voices not often centered,” she said.
"You will not always be in rooms where people share the experiences as you or look like you, and that's okay because even being in that space gives room for others who share your experiences to do the same.”
Fatimata wants to remind other young people that finding your voice is a journey, and at specific points, it might get uncomfortable. “You will not always be in rooms where people share the experiences as you or look like you, and that's okay because even being in that space gives room for others who share your experiences to do the same,” she said.
Looking ahead, Fatimata wants to continue to work with muslimsmatter and publish another poetry book. She also hopes to pursue a career in law or advocacy and start a campaign for public office. “I hope people remember me by how I made them feel, what I did for them and not by my accolades,” she said. “I hope my legacy is rooted in community building and fostering change.”
Fatimata thinks that young people are often excluded from meaningful conversations. She’s grateful to The Conversationalist for creating a space where people from all backgrounds can come together and converse in a safe space. She believes that in a unified world, people of every identity can be authentically themselves. “Unification means that there isn't legislation or world leaders that suppress others,” she said. “It means we acknowledge our privilege and how we contribute to spaces in order to bring one another together.”
“Breaking echo chambers is all about being willing to unlearn and learn things about yourself and the people around you.”
She thinks that Gen Z can help build a unified world by holding space for oppressed voices, sharing resources, and being willing to “grow and unlearn” around previously held beliefs. “Something I have started to break my echo chamber is seeking out others and be open to discussion and simply listening,” she explained. “Breaking echo chambers is all about being willing to unlearn and learn things about yourself and the people around you.”