MLK essay contest winner: Loud and proud to wear my hijab

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Editor’s note: These essays were named as winners of the annual Fairfield University Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest for Bridgeport middle school students. The winners will be honored on Monday, Feb. 22, at the school’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, to be held virtually. For more information, go to https://www.fairfield.edu/mlk/

When I first started wearing the hijab, I really didn’t understand the importance or value of it, but it made me feel powerful, protected and safe. It took a tremendous amount of courage to wear it in school, but I quickly felt confident.

So, you might understand why I was broken when someone pulled it from my head.

On Oct. 4, 2019, I was in a good mood that day and it felt as though everyone else was, as well; that’s why it was so unexpected. I was at school and it was lunchtime. I headed to the cafeteria with my classmates. I was facing my friend and we were talking and laughing when someone pulled off my hijab. I was shocked, and I felt like a fish out of water. My heart was racing as I turned around to see who it was.

Time felt frozen and I looked in their eyes for what felt like an eternity, but it was probably a few seconds. Then, I looked at my friend and I could feel tears rushing to my eyes. I pulled up my hijab and I ran to the bathroom to collect my emotions. My friend ran after me and she comforted me. I was confused as to why someone would do that.

I went to the person and asked them why they did it. They told me that they weren’t sure, but they were extremely sorry. I didn’t hold it against them, and I forgave them. After, I taught them the importance of my hijab and why it mattered to me so much. We became good friends and we taught each other about our cultures.

The beloved community idea happens when a group of people of diverse racial, ethnicity, gender and backgrounds come together and have mutual respect and care that seeks justice in their community, as well as the world. I believe I achieved this because I was able to forgive the person that wronged me in a sensible matter and I even became friends with them.

I learned a lot from this experience, but in a good way. I learned that people could change and there’s always more to someone’s story. Also, I learned that most people understand the importance of the hijab and needed to be educated about it. Despite this situation, I still wear my hijab to this day — loud and proud.

Anjumanara Chowdhury is a seventh-grader at Park City Magnet School who won second place in this year’s essay contest.