brownindetroit brownindetroit

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brownindetroit  A collection of stories and more of South Asians in and around Detroit. 📸

“I was struggling a lot in ESL (English as Second Language) class when I was in fourth grade. My dad talked to my teacher to set up a schedule for me to go to school half an hour to forty-five minutes before everyone else, so I could have some extra time to review. English is a tough language to learn at any time during the day; but it is especially difficult ‪at 6:30am‬ when you’re trying to keep your eyes open and remember that the “ch” is pronounced differently in words like “character” and “charm." During these morning review sessions, my teacher often had me read short stories to improve my reading and comprehension. Once I was reading a story and got stuck on the word “s-u-r-v-i-v-e”. I had never seen that word before so I wasn’t sure how to pronounce it or what it meant. My teacher explained that “‘survive’ means something you need to live like food, water, sleep.” Huh. What a strange word. Survive.
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With the recent spotlight on immigration I don’t think many people quite understand what it means to be an immigrant. *
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We leave home to move to a country that greets us with a cautious side-eye, to survive. We learn to smile through pain of being too East for the West, to survive. We adjust to a life being invisible, to survive. I lied. I did know what the word “s-u-r-v-i-v-e” meant.”

"The more I meet people from my community, the more I see the reach of my community. I wonder how different I would have been if I saw all of these people in these different paths when I was growing up. I wonder how different the next generation will be."

(3/3) "After years of self-reflection and studying mental health and wellness as well as trying to provide  these services, it kind of hit me that working on my personal mental health is a forever type of thing. I'm never gonna be "cured" and I can't say confidently that I don't still have suicidal thoughts or that I won't in the future. I didn't just have a bad few months that led to my attempt. I had bottled up trauma; childhood sexual trauma, memories of verbal/physical abuse, poverty trauma, toxic relationships, self-image...and the list goes on.
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In the past admitting this made me feel like I was worth less, but it shouldn't. I may not be "okay" but I am a stronger more thoughtful person who isn't just burying their feelings. I'm not a believer that God does everything for a reason; sometimes life just sucks. I do however believe in the strengths based perspective; that what I've survived has made me more resilient and that seeking help for it has made me more thoughtful and kind. Being healthy and living my best life, for me at least, now means continuing to take time to work through all of this and be as kind to myself as I can."

(2/3) "The attempt was a personal wake up call. I managed to disclose to a few close friends and eventually even tell my brother (this last one may have saved my life). But at the time I thought seeking help meant "work through this phrase." I bought into the idea that self-care was about candles and baths, not real emotional work. Maybe deep down, I knew that I needed more then just one counseling session and a bubble bath but I was too scared to admit it. It made me feel like I was broken and I hated that feeling. *
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You know those people who might sustain a large injury, or be really physically ill, or emotionally distraught but just pretend they are okay? Yeah that's me lol. Maybe it's being the daughter of an immigrant who's survived hell. maybe it's being taught that every opportunity I've been given in this country is a privilege so complaining isn't an option. maybe its my own fucking pride. either way, a few years after I thought I had recovered I felt myself spiraling again. It hurt so much more this time because I wanted to believe I was "cured.""

TW: suicide/mental health/depression *
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(1/3) "A few years ago, I attempted suicide. I'd like to be able to tell you a story about how it was at a dark point in my life. About how I'm happy now and that was in the past. But to say that I'm simply okay oversimplifies the mental health issues I continue to struggle with and the personal traumas I am still working to overcome. *
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At the time, I was doing great in school and getting recognition for all these achievements. I had just studied abroad in Europe. However, at the same time my parents were separating, I was barely managing to afford school on my own, and I was buckling under the pressure and stress of higher education until eventually something kind of just cracked on the inside. At first I noticed little things that wouldn't phase me in the past now ruined my entire day. I had a hard time wanted to ever wanting to wake up. I would be messy on purpose. Then suddenly, I would begin to have these moments where I would freak out so badly I couldn't breathe. These panic attacks eventually led to suicidal ideation and me crafting what I thought was my plan of escape. *
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I even wrote this letter; apologizing to my loved ones. I still cry reading it because at the heart of the note.....I was apologizing because I felt like I wasn't good enough to be alive...that my existence wasn't valid because I couldn't live up to expectations of who I was meant to be."

"Looking back on my life, I can see my greatest moments of growth were preceded by immense pain. I wouldn't be the man I am today if I didn't go through, go face and go embrace the worst parts of my life and myself. When tragedy strikes I believe there are two options for an individual. You either come out the end of it stronger, wiser and more experienced or you lose to the sadness and spiral of depression. How long it takes for one of these to manifest is up to the individual’s journey. I’ve met tragedy and pain enough to where now we’re old friends. I’ve experienced many things in my short life, the specifics of which don't really matter. Pain is pain no matter what it is that gets you there. I’ve seen the devastation left behind in the wake of tragedy, but I’ve seen the change that comes afterwards. If you stick around, you can see and experience the transformation of yourself and others. A star shines brightest against the darkest sky. The hardships we face give us the gift of appreciation. I’ve experienced enough in this short life of mine to know pain can bring about growth.
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Growth can only happen if there is resistance to work as the catalyst. Similar to how we use weights to destroy our muscles so they become stronger, how powerful winds makes stems of plants stronger or even how when cells reproduce there is a breakdown and push before a cell splits in two, so too is pain for us humans. Pain is a necessary evil. If you’re attentive to your pains and face them with openness and honesty it can be a great gift. It is a mind opening experience when I think about the fact that good can come from bad things and vice versa. That there can be chaos in order and order in chaos. It is the truth behind the yin and yang. Having a growth mindset has given me an amazing goal in life. To be the strongest version of myself in all regards is what I hope and strive for and is the message I wish to share with others. The beauty of this goal is that it is one I will never reach. There will always be a way towards growth up until my last breath leaves me."

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“Up until 11th grade, I was the only brown girl in my school. Not “only Indian girl,” but legitimately the only brown girl. And because of that, the only woman I saw embracing my culture was my mom. And yes, like go mom, moms are amazing, always the unsung hero. But, as a teenager, obviously whatever my mom said was cool was perceived as completely not cool. So, instead, I just mimicked what all my white friends did, since that’s what I believed was cool, or beautiful, or bold, or whatever other positive adjectives 14 year-olds want to be associated with. My Indian and American friends were kept in separate worlds, Indian food was eaten only at home, and Indian clothes were reserved solely for Indian occasions.
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Then, in 11th grade, a new student from Maharashtra moved to our school. Now, I’m from a very small, very closed-minded town. This girl had everything going for her to be labeled as a “fob.” She had a thick accent, she wore a kurta and chudidhar to school, did all these things I always thought was a big no no. But, instead of receiving adverse reactions, this girl was adored. She looked amazing, she was brilliant, and so incredibly down to earth.
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At this same time, two-piece prom dresses (read as “westernized lehengas”) were becoming a big hit. Between the empowerment from this new girl, as well as this idea that my culture was finally beautiful because non-brown people approved of it, I basically did a 180. By December of my junior year, I was wearing kurtas and jeans to school, and taking roti sabji for lunch. I not only embraced my culture, but I felt very proud and comfortable with it.
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In college, I have found people that have allowed me to further embrace my culture, as well as appreciate it themselves. That said, I do still struggle to engage with my culture in a way that I believe is meaningful. Although it’s fun to pregame to Bollywood music and hit the Madras lunch buffet, being Indian-American is this experience that has no concrete definition, and because of that, has so much potential. I am so excited to have taken part in the Daughters of Color project, and I can’t wait to see what other experiences await.”

“Growing up as a second generation brown girl meant growing up with lots of culture, tradition, good food, and a unique perspective. Not only did I get to experience my parents upbringing while living wholly in the American dream, I got to blend the two lifestyles into my own unique experience. although I was taught to embrace my culture for the richness it carried I was never taught to embrace myself or my beauty for the richness I contained. The browness of my skin was hidden away under “fairness” creams and harsh chemicals, my childhood aged with burden as I stayed indoors to shelter my chocolate skin. Even the moments I dared to be bold and step outdoors, not caring about “how dark I would become” - I was quickly met with “you got so dark” in that judgmental tone. I frequently heard jokes about the darkness of my skin, laughing it away under the guise of confidence - all the while promising myself that I wouldn’t go outside for the next couple weeks hoping my skin would lighten up.

As women we’re often told to be confident and embrace our natural beauty while simultaneously being sold lightening soaps and creams, and magazine covers are edited to lighten models skin. As I’ve grown older being conscious of my skin tone is something I still deal with and I battle between not caring about what others think of me, but also letting it keep me from doing the things I love. I hope that every girl with an abundance of melanin, including me, learns to love it and embrace it because being darker truly is being beautiful.”

“One of my biggest insecurities is the fear of not leaving a lasting impression. I wouldn’t consider myself shy, but I am a relatively quiet person – especially in larger group settings. It’s not that I’m afraid to talk; I’ve always just been the kind of person that prefers to observe and keep my thoughts to myself.  This has been problematic in my mind because whenever I come home from an event where there were a lot of people to interact with, I fear that I came off as awkward or uninterested in what was going on. It’s something that I would fixate on for hours because I didn’t want people I was not well acquainted with to have the wrong impression of me or to not have an impression of me at all. I don’t have some amazing story of how I overcame this insecurity and put it all behind me because the reality is that insecurities like this are difficult to get past without feeling the need to overcompensate by dominating conversations or altering your personality. However, I have found ways to, at the very least, start taking steps towards rising above it like going into social situations with a more open mindset and learning to realize and correct when my mind is wandering to the point where I’m zoning out of conversations. It’s going to take me a while to overcome this fear, but I’m glad to finally be moving in the right direction.”

Part (3/3) "For me, that passion will always be music. I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I learned a lot from my grandma, who received her masters degree in music, and I also took private lessons with a voice teacher in the US for 4 years. When I received poor treatment and couldn’t use my hands to participate in recreational activities due to the pain, I did the only thing I could do — sing. I would sing for hours everyday so that I could remind myself of what I loved most, and why it was important to continue to fight my battle with lupus. Music provides a euphoric experience that nothing else can replicate for me, so it provided me with the motivation to live, because I’ll be honest — there were many times I wish I had died because of the constant, excruciating physical and mental pain lupus caused me to experience. I’m so glad I never gave up, because I wouldn’t be here today and would not have had the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. *
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If you’ve reached this point, you’re probably wondering where I'm at in life now. Well, despite facing lupus and multiple types of discrimination (including ableism), I am fortunate enough to be in a place today that I would have never seen myself in 5 years ago. I have become confident, knowing that, because I’ve dealt with so much despite being 23, I’m adequately prepared to deal with most things that come my way. I have remained true to myself by continuing to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards others. Because I don’t take things for granted anymore, I’ve experienced success in academia and work that I never thought I would. While I'm fortunate enough to be where I am today, I think it's important to highlight that there are many individuals who will continue to struggle with the issues that I've faced in my life. One area that I feel never gets properly addressed is the lack of acknowledgment of physical and mental disabilities. As a community, we must strive to educate ourselves on how disabilities affect individuals, and what we can do individually to improve the lives of those people."

(Part 2/3) "Facing discrimination is something that I had gotten used to since I consistently dealt with it, but nothing could prepare me for being diagnosed with lupus (an autoimmune disease) shortly after I turned 18. I was pursuing a degree in Music Education in school at the time, and a month into undergrad, I was suddenly struck with the debilitating symptoms of lupus. I was in excruciating pain from head to toe, I lost the ability to walk, my wrists were so weak and inflamed that I couldn’t turn a doorknob or lift my phone, and mentally, I was close to giving up. I had to medically withdraw from school that year, since I initially received an inaccurate diagnosis and poor treatment. Thankfully, I came across a physician at the University of Michigan, and through their excellent treatment, the pain and inflammation I experienced was significantly reduced. It’s been 5 years since my diagnosis, and not only can I do things that I was once unable to, but I can play one of my favorite sports, basketball, at full strength and without restrictions. *
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As if having a disability isn’t difficult enough, the negative and dismissive attitudes some brown people had towards me made dealing with lupus more difficult than it needed to be. I was told by members of my community that I withdrew from school because I couldn’t “handle” it. I was told I must be a terrible person because I did something horrible in a previous life, so I was getting what I deserved. I was told that I never prayed enough, and that God was trying to teach me a lesson by punishing me. What I wasn’t told by these people is that, when you have a disability, it’s more important than ever to love yourself, block out the hate, and to be patient and kind to yourself. It's okay to give yourself a break, and it's incredibly important to be easy on yourself. You experience things the average person will NEVER experience or truly completely understand — including those providing care to you. Of course, you have to be strong, but it’s so much more than that. You have to embrace the concept of self-love and truly find something that you’re passionate about."

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