18-year-old Andréa Bak uses poetry to address prejudice in Brazil.
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21 March 2019 | Volume 1, Issue 18
  A note from our editor:
One of the best parts of my job is reading the ideas that you pitch through Assembly’s submission form — so keep them coming! We love hearing about life in your community, what issues are on your mind and all that you’re accomplishing.

20-year-old Yazidi refugee Nibras Khudaida recently reached out through the submission form and I’m excited to share her piece with you. Nibras writes about fleeing ISIS and becoming the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

Also in this issue, Sabina from Australia tells us why this newsletter is important to her. 18-year-old slam poet Andréa Bak performs a piece about discrimination against Afro-Brazilians. And Japanese animator Aya Suzuki (who has worked on some of your favourite movies like “Isle of Dogs,” “The Wind Rises” and “Sherlock Gnomes”) discusses her career and how to succeed in the animation industry.

Happy reading!

Student essay
Forced from her home by ISIS, this Yazidi refugee risked her life to go to school
Nibras Khudaida
  By Nibras Khudaida

I grew up in the 500-person village of Srechka in northern Iraq, where education was not valued and teachers were unwilling to teach their students because of language and religious differences. I had to depend on the books the Kurdistan government provided — the books were written in Kurdish, but most of the teachers at my school were only able to speak Arabic. It was up to me to study and learn.

One day, that entire world ended for me. I had just finished school and was celebrating being named “student of the year” for achieving the highest GPA. As I was walking home, I saw crowds of people fleeing and screaming and children crying. We had known that ISIS was coming, but now they were only two miles from our village.

My friends started running to find their families, fearing that they would be left behind. Drones were flying overhead. Peshmerga fighters [Kurdish forces] were moving in, pushed back by the ISIS advance. After the Iraqi army had folded in the southern city of Mosul, tens of thousands of people fled and were now pouring into our village, desperately heading for the mountains to the north. I don’t remember how I got to my house. My family only had time to grab our passports and IDs. Twelve people piled into our small car, many climbed on the roof. A lot of other people just ran.

My family of eight moved to Erbil, where they spoke yet another dialogue of Kurdish called Sorani. The city was full of people who treated me unjustly and judged me based upon my religious beliefs because I am Yazidi, which is a minority religion there. I tried to enroll in school, but they would not accept me without a signed transcript. My father and I had to return to my old village — where ISIS was now only two miles away — so that the principal could sign my transcript. At the top of the mountain, I could see their flags and members of ISIS. It was the most terrifying moment in my life. But it did not stop me from furthering my education. They could never and will not ever do that.

That day, my father and I put our lives at risk for me to continue my education. I knew that by going to school, I would have a brighter future. I didn’t want house chores to be my only duty as they were for most other women in my society. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be able to do anything a boy would do. I wanted a good education because I had dreams and goals — and I didn’t want ISIS stopping me. I didn’t want my status as a refugee stopping me. So despite the dangers, I went back and got the principal to sign the transcript.

Read more.
Reader spotlight 
“Assembly isn't just a newsletter — it is an assembly of different ideas. Of different movements, of different cultures, of different young women from different places. It is an assembly of different people's passions and dreams that have become reality. It is a nexus for young women who have dared to dream and those who dreamt of being daring.”
— Sabina, 16, Australia

We love meeting our readers and hearing from members of our community. Tell us about yourself or about your ideas for Assembly using our submission form — and you could be featured in a future issue!

18-year-old Andréa Bak uses poetry to address prejudice in Brazil
Andrea Bak
  By McKinley Tretler
At age 18, Andréa Bak is already making a name for herself in Rio de Janeiro as an artist, singer and slam poet. The chemistry student’s work confronts racism and violence against Afro-Brazilians and challenges “what the system tries to hide: genocidal structure and the history of diaspora” in Brazil.

Vivid and gripping, many of Andréa’s pieces are influenced by the time she spends with the women running Rede Nami, an organisation that holds graffiti classes to help women find their voice and fight for their rights. Their workshops combine art lessons with discussions about the most pressing issues affecting women in the country — racism, sexism and domestic violence. In 2017, Andréa started attending their #AfroGrafiteiras workshops for Afro-Brazilian girls and women.

“The #AfroGrafiteiras program taught me a lot — it worked on my process of self-knowledge and self-acceptance,” Andréa explains. “Each step in the project made me stronger, from the lectures [on black feminism] to the practical workshops on the walls. It was very enriching for me and I’m very grateful.”

Andréa began to emerge on the slam poetry scene in Rio at the same time that she started attending Rede Nami workshops. She gained attention in the poetry community for her powerful pieces about feminism and her experience as an Afro-Brazilian woman.

Andréa’s poetry is reaching new levels of fame. She was a finalist of “Slam das Minas/RJ,” a spoken word contest for girls and women in Rio. In July 2018, Andréa performed an original piece, “Perifa Zumbi,” for Malala Yousafzai during her visit to Brazil. The poem is a rallying cry for Afro-Brazilians to overcome the decades of disenfranchisement they have experienced in the aftermath of slavery.

Watch the video.
Career profile
Japanese animator Aya Suzuki on bringing your favourite films to life
Aya Suzuki
  By Tess Thomas
An avid drawer and cinephile from a young age, Aya Suzuki was 13 years old when she realised she could turn her passions into a profession, thanks to acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki.

“In Japan, every summer when his [Miyazaki’s] films were out, everybody would go see his movies because they were insanely popular,” she explains. Miyazaki is known for directing films like “Spirited Away,” “The Castle of Cagliostro” and “Princess Mononoke.” Aya shares that because of his fame, “it became quite normal to see the behind-the-scenes footage of how animated films are created on daytime news.”

Watching hundreds of people sketch professionally captivated her: “That had a huge impact on me, to see grown adults every day going into work and drawing and making a living of it… I just knew that I wanted to make film.”

Aya spent her high school years working towards that goal — she attended schools in the U.S. and the U.K. after her father’s job at Mitsubishi transferred him overseas. Her teachers helped prepare her for art college by recommending which classes to take and explaining how to create a portfolio. Aya’s hard work paid off — she earned her bachelor’s in film and animation at the Arts University Bournemouth in the U.K.

Since graduating, Aya’s animation career has taken her around the world to work on films like “Isle of Dogs,” “The Wind Rises,” “Wolf Children” and Disney’s upcoming “Aladdin.” Aya is a freelance artist, meaning she works on a project-by-project basis, rather than for one specific studio. This allows her to have more creative freedom when choosing opportunities. When she’s considering a job, she often asks herself: “What can I learn from that environment or what am I gaining for the future?”

Read more.
Get published in Assembly!
  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
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