Mohamoud Ahmed
I’ve seen many odd things in my 14 years of existence. But seeing a untethered goat roaming the streets and not one soul blinking? A truly bizarre sight.
 As an American-born Somali youngster, my life consisted of eating pasta with bananas   (are you even Somali if you haven’t had this?), running around in the woods, and tentatively tasting questionable berries in my hometown, Lewiston, Maine.
But when I was 9, my father bought the two of us plane tickets to Somalia and didn’t mention they were one-way tickets. As I wondered what Somalia would be like, I pictured mounds of sand swirling around like a Harry Potter movie, and goats blaa-ing everywhere.
When we arrived in the town of Ceelbuur, I saw animals I’ve never seen before kicking in the beige sands; the sight was exquisite. The shops on the main road were made of worn bricks and painted with pictures and calligraphy. Our house had a view of the starry night sky. I often found myself wondering if my sister was looking into the same sky back home, missing her partner in crime.
Life in Somalia wasn’t a smooth transition from the U.S. Most small villages and towns didn’t have a water system and relied on wells. I could no longer place my cup under a tap and expect cool, refreshing water. Getting water became even more difficult when drought season rolled around and water prices skyrocketed. I also encountered my first squat toilet in Somalia, and my beating heart was too much to handle the first few times I used it. What if it didn’t flush? What if I fell in and no one knew? Would I become the bathroom ghoul? 
I was soon enrolled into Arabic school. It was tough; I had terrible Arabic handwriting and I didn’t know a single word of Somali besides “mother” and “father.”  I wanted to tell stories of a small town with mounds of snow in the winter, and flowers that bloomed in a myriad of red, yellow and blue, but  every time I met someone new, I couldn’t say anything besides “hi” without feeling like I had cotton stuffed down my throat. I was the standout foreigner in my own motherland. 
Eventually, my father brought me to my aunt and her family in a city named Badhan. I felt like  my aunt’s 11 children, nieces and nephews were staring as if I were a classroom pet. I hadn’t interacted with any of them, and was often hiding in my father’s shadow.
But then, in the beginning of the new year, monsoon season came around. The rain droplets didn’t faze me, but my cousins lit up like children being given candy before bedtime. Rain poured. I stood in the doorway, watching my cousins frolic in the pouring rain, hesitant to join them. But then, my cousin lunged for my hand and tossed me playfully into the wheelbarrow, driving me into the rain. This gesture of familiarity made me giddy.
 Over the next few months, I realized my cousins were not as scary as I originally thought. They taught me how to speed jump rope, and in return I taught them inappropriate English words. I was one of them now, and I was content to have a set of friends to eat, laugh and play with. Although I was still looked at in an odd manner, it had simmered down, and I was treated the same as my peers.
A couple months following my 11th birthday, my mother wanted me to come home and continue middle school in the U.S. I felt torn. After two years in Somalia, I had learned this was a place I could call home, with my relatives always on the lookout for me. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Somalia had wormed its way into my heart, and the familiarity of Somalia is one I still yearn for.
 I returned to the U.S. in May 2015. While my cousin was driving me home from the airport, I kept repeating “Is this America?” I spoke like this was a dreamland, filled with lush greenery and rough pavement. I had grown accustomed to flying, warm-toned sand and the swishing of willowy trees. Learning in Somalia was a unique experience, but I longed for the comfort of my mother's embrace and the foolishness with my siblings.
Most of all, I was happy to be reunited with my younger sister. She had grown so tall, taller than me. She bombarded me with questions, and I retold all the stories of my time in Somalia. With her, I knew I was home at last.

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On Saturday, March 24, I attended the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. I was amazed to see so many people in one place, hundreds of thousands of people all marching together in order to send a message about gun control in America. 
My parents have taken me to much smaller marches before—letting me hand out candy at the Muslim Ban Protest in Copley Square, for example—so this one was amazing to participate in. 
When my father and I arrived just before 10 am, I saw trees everywhere filled with young teens waving huge signs like elephants waving their trunks. As the day went on, more and more people poured into the huge square until I couldn’t see the stage anymore. The stage had two huge screens on it and a set of super tall speakers on each. It was plastered with huge blue-and-white “March for our Lives” posters.
I met Eugene and his 6-year-old son Logan at the march. Seeing Logan waving his home-made sign gave me hope that future generations will be more active in fighting for their rights. I asked Logan what he thought of the march; he said he loved it and that he liked fighting for kids’ rights, which was basically the cutest and most inspiring thing I’d seen all day.
I asked Eugene what he thought about militarizing schools for “safety” and he said that he thought it wrong to turn the loving learning environment into a warzone. I agree, because teachers are capable of making the same bad decisions as a school shooter. 
There were so many good signs, like one red and yellow sign that said “If guns and Trump are the answer then we’re askin’ the wrong question!” which made my day, knowing someone else had the same views I had on the president and his policies. 
If March For Our Lives showed me anything, it’s that kids these days are ready to help, ready to learn, ready to lead and ready to fight for their rights. Kids will rule, sooner or later. We will be the next presidents, doctors, politicians, kings, queens, senators and soldiers. This is the next generation, so let’s make this one count!

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AFH Photo//Bill Le
Day of the dead. 
It’s’s time she dies.
It’s time for her to leave. Be gone. 
Not all of her though
Just the ugly parts 
The side of her that is angry and lost
The side of her that is consumed with hate 
It‘s time to pick herself up and leave.
Walk. Not run.
But walk, one step at a time.
So this day, she decides to celebrate the death of her other half.
The half that has been causing her pain 
It won’t be easy but she will try 
For herself, her future, and her loved ones.
She told herself that she must love them enough to leave no space for hate
She will admire them to leave no space for anger 
She will find the light in them to leave no darkness to get lost in
She needs hope.
She needs a hero.
She needs a sign that she is loved and deserving.
She needs a chance to be forgiven.
But today, today she dies
Today the bitterness fades 
Leaving the sweetness to fill her soul
May the dead rest in peace.

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AFH Photo//Bill Le
I've been talking a lot about how amazing falling in love with someone else is that I forgot to tell you about the wonders of falling in love with yourself. 
Please forgive me
But we tend to always compliment others around us without realizing our own beauty 
You were created with marvels of natural perfection 
So yes, you are beautiful* 
Despite your acne
Your crooked teeth
Your stretch marks 
Your white, pale, brown, black skin
Your skinny/thick thighs
Your frizzy hair 
Your brown eyes
Whatever it is that society has a tendency of hating 
You are beautiful 
The existence of another's beauty does not mean the absence of yours
I find a rose to be a beautiful plant and I find the stars to be as beautiful
They are nothing alike but both are still equally ravishing
And along with self-love comes the act of forgiving 
Yourself and others 
Let go of it 
The hurt 
The anger 
The pain
The doubt
Let go of the past and look ahead because you have a lifetime to go 
You should not live not knowing your worth 
So go, find yourself 
Find your new self 
Whoever that may be, believe me, you will love them 
It sounds scary yes, but you have lived through worse 
Find hope 
Keep going 
If anything I learned is that life has a way of working out in our favors
There is a light, even in absolute darkness

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Dear Seana,
I’m going to be starting at a new private school next year, and I’m scared. I know that I am probably going to be one of the only black students in my entire grade. Do you have any tips to help me fit in?
Doubtful in Dedham

Dear Doubtful,
Build your confidence: immediately. You’re going to mostly be around white students no matter what, so you should find good things about yourself that you like—maybe you’re really smart, or you’re really athletic. Find confidence from within.  
Next, if anyone bullies you, make sure to stand up for yourself. If you don’t like what someone has to say, you should tell them in a polite and respectful way. If you get angry and upset, you’ll unfortunately reinforce the stereotypes that they already think of you. Don’t let them win—address them politely and maturely, but challenge their ignorance. 
You will also probably be asked to explain a lot of things about black culture that you’re used to and your classmates don’t understand. If you don’t want to do that, you don’t have to—you don’t have to answer for every black person in the world. You’re not the only black person in the world! 
Finally, find spaces that support you. Look for afterschool programs that have good representation. If they don’t have racial diversity, look for a program with diversity of mindsets or socioeconomic background. If you really want to connect with people of your own ethnicity, look around outside of school—in your neighborhood, online, or in an afterschool program. 


Dear Seana,
I really want to be an actress one day. I have researched the best performing arts colleges to go to, and I’ve done all my school’s plays. The problem is, my parents think being an actress is stupid, and that I should be a doctor instead. How can I get them to understand my dream?
Dr. Drama Queen

Dear Dr. Drama, 
 Try politely telling your parents that the things that interest you are important. Your parents are probably scared that things won’t go as planned, or maybe they’re even worried that you’ll become too successful and they’ll lose you. Parents never want to “lose” their children (even though we all know that’s just a part of growing up!). However, know that you can’t really convince other people about stuff like this. But you have high ambition for what you really love. If you can’t find support in your family, find other people who have the same goals. And don’t let whatever your mother, your father, or your grandparents have to say get stuck on your mind. They’re just trying to live vicariously through you, and you need to have your own ideas. Follow your dream. That may be an experience that you learn from. Don’t reject something that you really like and that you’ve had interest in forever. 

Dear Seana,
Sometimes I just hate the way I look. I have very dark skin and my hair is really kinky. Sometimes people make fun of me for having such dark skin. How can I find a way to feel more comfortable with myself?
Where’s My Black Girl Magic?

Dear Magic, 
Put yourself first. Don’t compare or try to emulate someone else’s beauty before yours. Don’t focus on Eurocentric features that don’t look like you. From straight hair to curly 3 type hair, Afro-beauty is amazing! 
 You should also look up people who look like you on Instagram. Follow Instagram accounts that post pictures of dark-skinned women and save pictures on your phone of successful black women, to look at whenever you need validation. Also, try to find hairstyles that enhance your kinky hair—check out tutorials on YouTube for hair advice and tips on how to go natural.
 Finally, meditate. Listen to calm music or go outside for a little bit. Clean your mind. Travel if you have to. Look at beaches. When you leave your comfort zone, you might find that others see your beauty more than the people in your life do. 

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