“What will this day be to me?
How do I call it?
The day that made me know
That I am a human being.
The day that make me realize
That I am a part of people.
The day I taste chocolate.”
–Ojullu Opiew Ochan, Ethiopian Gambelan refugee
I remember the day that Ojullu gave me this poem. I can still remember the two of us walking through the desert and the way he seemed to skip through the air as he recounted his feelings.
It was also the first time he had ever tasted chocolate. I remember asking him in that moment, “Really? You’ve never tasted chocolate?” As he placed the chocolate in his mouth, he shared with me, “It looks like mud. It’s very sweet. It tastes like honey.”
Ojullu was one of many refugees I have been mentoring over the past six years, hailing from the war torn countries of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
I also still remember the advice my friends gave me when I lived in Dadaab: “Listen, if you hear a sound like, boom, ka, ka, ka, ka, the fighting is very far. But, if you hear whizzing sounds, woo, be very careful!” And then how after revealing such a disturbing truth, the laughter that followed as they enacted the dance of dodging bullets.
Humanity and one’s own story, I have come to learn, are complex. This is one of the reasons I wanted to begin the practice of coming together and sharing stories with the MFF Salon.
The MFF Salon, which began last year, is a reimagining of our Clubhouse as a place not only of training, but also of public exchange and sharing of ideas. If MFF and fitness teach principles on how one approaches their life, I wanted to bring artists and other thinkers with diverse points of view of the world into our Clubhouse for conversation and dialogue to build on those principles.
So, when the recent travel ban happened, I felt it was imperative to bring some of my friends into conversation with our community to discuss this larger issue, but also to shed light on the power of resilience.
Move the Rock
For instance, I once asked an individual who was seeking refuge from violence about what he hopes for.
He answered me, “I don’t really think about hope right now, because when it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t manifest. You’re Sisyphus trying to get to the top of the hill, and the peak you’re never going to fucking to get to. So, what do you do? You get up every day and you move that fucking rock. That’s not hope, that’s determination, there’s a big fucking difference.”
I will always remember that statement.
So, I am honored to welcome to our next MFF Salon my friend Suud Olat, who was a refugee from Somalia for over 20 years, who will not only share his story and discuss the power of resilience, he will also bring a very personal connection to a much larger issue.
We will also be joined by Filmaid International and The International Rescue Committee (IRC), who will share more context on the refugee crisis, but also provide our community with ways that we can personally get involved.
In these times, I am learning that freedom is something concrete and practical. It is not enough to speak about it, but I believe it is a call for our community to do something about it. Let’s move that rock together.