By Hadia Miah
Discussed: gun violence, racial and religious discrimination, Islamophobia
This is my College Personal Statement. As a senior, I spent a lot of time at Girls Write Now with my mentor working on this essay along with my other supplemental essays for college applications. This essay demonstrates my passion for technology and activism while also showcasing my growth.
Discuss an accomplishment event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
A white man walks into a mosque and is greeted warmly by an elderly man. The elderly man extends his hand to invite this new man in, and within seconds, he is shot point-blank. In the blink of an eye, a life is taken on screen in what is the start of a killing spree seen around the world. How does one react to such a video?
On March 15th, 2019, my perspective changed when a live stream of a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand circled around social media. Upon watching the video, I wept hysterically while my friends rushed to console me. My family and I could have been a victim of this terrorist attack. We live in an apartment on the top floor of the West Bronx Jame Masjid in Bronx, NY and attend services regularly.
Prior to watching that video, I was apathetic to the number of rapes, mass murders, and injustices happening around the world as they seemed not to affect me directly. Instead of engaging with controversial events and ideas, I turned a blind eye no matter their significance. However, after watching the video, I wanted nothing more than to spread awareness about the terrorist attack. Despite constantly requesting my friends to attend vigils and protests against White Supremacy and Islamophobia—the very ideas that fueled the terrorist attack—not many people showed up. That’s when I realized that I needed to do more.
In response to the Christchurch terrorist attacks and the lack of social justice awareness in my school, I co-founded the Political Awareness Club (PAC). Through weekly meetings, the club members share information and exchange ideas about current political events through stimulating student debates and “thought-talks” in a no-judgment, comfortable space. As the president, I’ve engaged members in discussions on topics such as the Rodney-Reed case and the dangers of fake news. Recently, we ran a campaign to encourage seniors in our school to register to vote and sign petitions against the Chinese concentration camps. For the remainder of the school year, we are planning fundraisers, protests, a women’s panel, and workshops that non-members can also attend to discuss politics. In addition, we plan to attend the Women’s March this January and conduct mock elections. Last week, we added our tenth member, and we hope to continue growing as the new year progresses.
While increasing political awareness through PAC, I consistently questioned the role of technology giants such as Facebook, YouTube, and so forth in propagating violence and xenophobic actions. The fact that it took Facebook nearly 24 hours to remove 1.5 million videos of the Christchurch Livestream forced me to ask the question, “Could these tech companies have developed responsible artificial intelligence to flag the videos before they became viral?” This question prompted me to participate in Girls Who Code, a highly competitive summer immersion program for students interested in computer programming. As part of the program, I led a group of peers to build a website that aimed to bring awareness about the US Immigration System in response to the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Over the course of the year, my teammates and I have been meeting regularly to continue working on our website called “Build A Wall Against Discrimination.” Our vision is to create a one-stop-shop for immigrants, such as my parents, to access immigration-related information and resources on demand.
My experience with Girls Who Code taught me that technology, if leveraged correctly, has the power to accelerate political activism and fuel awareness campaigns. As I stay up late nights to finish sets of source code for the website, I am reminded of the people whose lives were taken during the Christchurch shooting. I know I cannot bring them back, but I promise to work hard to ensure innocent lives are not lost due to misinformation and xenophobia again.
Hadia Miah is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Bronx, NY.