I’m very used to the fact that strangers are going to, in a second, create a narrative for me in their minds. Perhaps this idea that like I’m oppressed that I don’t belong here, that like, you know, their version of empowerment is what will free me. Hi, it’s Karah Preiss from Belletrist and Ebony LaDelle from Epic Reads, and we’re talking to Jasmin Kaur about When You Ask Me Where I’m Going a beautiful book, a collection of poetry and prose that focuses on immigration, feminism and reproductive rights. I’ve been a longtime fan of Tupac Shakur. Yes! Probably longer for me, you know, maybe, I think I’m older than you. So maybe yeah, One of the poems in this book is inspired by The Rose That Grew From Concrete. Can you tell us a little bit about why that poem inspired you and how? Yeah. I think I discovered Tupac’s book The Rose That Grew From Concrete when I was just beginning my poetry journey. So I always admired Tupac is like a rapper and MC, but I had not previously read his poetry. So I was super excited to get my hands on that and I just remember that poem really resonating with what I was seeing happening in my local community at the time The entire neighborhood is Punjabi. The entire neighborhood is ethnically South Asian, but a lot of our—most of the teachers at our local school were white. So, sometimes we would experience some of those like microaggressions from our teachers. I couldn’t help but like think about like how those boys were treated in school growing up. You already have these stigmas around like, you know, your ethnicity being associated with your you know, negative behavior, perhaps and how that would impact your self-image and how you feel about yourself and your worthiness to you know, learn and to be treated like anyone else and whether that could perhaps lead to you like because you know a self-fulfilling prophecy almost where you’re like. Well, this is how you see me like I guess I should just be what you think I am. Yeah. So when I wrote that poem I was thinking about those boys, especially like in my community who don’t get the benefit of just being a kid. Yeah who don’t get to just be seen as a complex being because you have all these stigmas already associated with you know, where you ethnically originated from and there’s a part in that in that poem that says simply call us children so that for once that is what we are allowed to be and I just thought that was so powerful because kids are taught to grow up or they’re allowed to—they are forced to sort of grow up depending on the color of their skin. Yeah. And so you really sort of like touch upon like being a brown boy and in my instance being a black boy, you know, like what that does what our community teaches us what society teaches us based on that. So I just I just thought it was like such a powerful part and it was so amazing to see sort of like how Tupac has inspired like generations because he’s like you said he was a rapper but I think everybody was sort of like just shocked when he came out with the collection of poetry. It was just like this is what I needed and didn’t even realize you know, yeah, I don’t think we can really talk about raised in this country and other countries without talking about immigration and in the book, you know, you talked about you there’s a line. That’s basically, it won’t take long for people to believe this border. really exists, even if there isn’t a wall to stare at and you know, I sort of wanted to get the sense of like what you meant by that and in writing that and what you meant to get across so that piece was definitely inspired by the rhetoric that is building in the US and even though like I am from Canada like obviously like what’s happening here affects us and it affects the social climate in Canada where you know, you see people in Canada with Make America Great Again hats because they buy into that ideology. What that symbolism means for them as well. So when I wrote this piece, I was thinking about the fact that if you can, you know implant an idea that those people over there they are automatically the other we are stigmatizing them. We are, you know calling them rapists and saying they’re bringing crime into our country. You’re building a narrative around a people a brand almost you’re marketing those people in a certain way. Whether the wall exists or not, they’re already the other and they’re already, in your mind, should exist on the other side of the wall, and I was thinking about like how you know words how images how media can affect the very, you know, real lives of human beings. Just recently in California, I believe a 65 year old Sikh man who ties the turban, you know has a long beard, was stabbed to death and we’re seeing like so many of these hate crimes that were almost becoming like desensitized to it, but I can’t help but wonder when I see things like this, like what is what is happening within like our collective consciousness of people’s minds where like someone just looking a certain way is enough to warrant them, you know being killed. So just like the scariness of what associating, you know, a single image or like a single identity with like one word of violence can do in reality for people When also just, you know when they talk about Donald Trump like enlivening his base, things don’t have to be put into law or get it like erected in order to make their mark or do damage and I think that’s what’s so sort of damning about the way in which our current president speaks about things is like once it’s out there. It doesn’t matter. If you again go ahead and build a wall. It’s it will impact the way that people think about others and I think that yeah, it’s why language really matters. I mean especially in this sort of Internet age. Yeah as well. It’s not frivolous tweets. It’s how he’s communicating with people. Yeah. There is a—I don’t know if it was something I read or something I watched when she talked about like being in Nigeria and going to like a grocery store and someone is rude to you like the cashier is rude to you and you’re like, Oh, she’s just rude. She’s having a bad day or she’s just a real person, but then she said when she came to the United States and dealing with all the things that she started to deal with you go into a grocery store and a cashier is rude to you. And you’re like are they rude to me because I’m black are they rude to me because I’m Nigerian, are they rude to me because I’m an immigrant and you just start to like process that from an early age. When you’re seeing these hate crimes, when you’re hearing this rhetoric, like what it does to you emotionally and physically so yeah you write about topics that are unfortunately so relevant in our world today. So before we go I wanted to ask why you think it’s important to talk about and then in your case to write about these issues and as a writer and a poet, what role do you see yourself in having in this sort of larger social conversation? Yeah, so growing up in you know, in the Vancouver area as a Sikh woman who ties the turban, I’m very used to like, you know, attention from strangers, you know, people like staring at you as you walk down the street. People kind of following you with their eyes, people literally turning their heads to like watch you and then only looking away when you’re out of their, you know, line of vision. But people also glaring at you and people shouting, you know racist things like go back to your country on occasion at you. So like I’m very used to the fact that people who see me strangers are going to in a second create a narrative for me in their minds perhaps this idea that like, I’m oppressed or the I don’t belong here that like, you know, their version of empowerment is what will free me just and they already have a story in their head of who I am so for me to write is to say this is who I am. Here’s my story. I’m telling it to you on my terms and not yours. If you want to find out who I am. You don’t to guess at it, it’s right here. Yeah, you can read the book and find out. Thank you so much for talking to us about these topics. It’s such a, it’s such a great book. So you haven’t yet, if you do not have it, please pick up your copy today. You will not be disappointed and go exercise your empathy and read it and where can everybody find you online? so you can add me on Instagram at @jusmun and I’m also on Twitter @jusmunkaur and make sure to like the video, comment on it. You can follow us online @epicreads and @belletrist and I’m Ebony. I’m Karah and thank you so much for watching Why Not YA?