“We Teach Life, Sir”

A year ago, I chanced upon Rafeef Ziadah’s poem ‘We Teach Life, Sir’ and was immediately captivated by her powerful words and earnest tone. Many times, Ziadah has been asked why Palestinians teach their children to hate and this poem was her response. Instead of fighting back with anger, she chose to express her thoughts in a straightforward poem.

Ziadah captures her audience all within a four-minute poem, relentlessly showering them with reality as the poem captures the attitudes of thousands of children, refugees and Palestinians. Her frustration and her anger at being ignored is clearly heard through her spirited but eloquent narrative. As a Canadian-Palestinian, she describes herself as a spoken word artist and activist. Ziadah released her début CD, Hadeel, in November 2009, which she dedicated to the Palestinian youth. She stands up to the numerous people who tell her to sit down and tells the world her story and her struggles. Her feisty response to journalists’ questions becomes an anthem for overlooked Palestinian refugees and activists against the people who want them to stick to the status quo.

Listening to Ziadah’s sincere response to critics made me realise how mute I had been, not taking a stand against something that clearly affects me. Her unconventional bluntness proves to me that making your voice heard is the only way to change society for the better. I’ve learned to admire the people who suffer from society’s ignorance and bravely face their opposition. The more I listen to Ziadah and learn about the shared plight of millions, the more I become conscious of how society mistreats people and how something has to be done.

The maltreatment of Palestinians sickens me and it seems as if no one is doing anything to help these people. However, Ziadah’s poem is a confirmation that Palestinians still stand strong and I have so much admiration for people who can still smile despite their hardships and trials. I can no longer keep quiet on pressing matters. I have learned to stand up for the people who deserve respect and a decent life. For most people, going against what society expects is terrifying and yet it is the people who are brave enough to make their voices heard like Ziadah that push society in the right direction. It has become my personal obligation to help the mistreated, the oppressed, and the people whom society has degraded.

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