By the time you’re asked for the 10,000th time where you’re “from”, the message becomes loud and clear: whether it’s your classmate, your neighbor, your colleague or the person striking up a random conversation at an event asking the question, you’re not really from the same place.
It took me a while to stop coming up with ever-so-creative retorts to see how many times they’d keep asking the same question:
“I live down the street”
“But where are you from?”
“I moved here from California”
“And where were you before that?”
The only time the inquisition stopped is when I provided the answer they wanted to hear: from somewhere that’s foreign, far, and clearly not within the vicinity of their “from”.
In case you’re wondering, my personal best is getting 5 questions deep before finally answering. After that, I learned that I’m either officially mean or just entertaining myself out of sheer boredom.
And with that, you now know something that matters to me: I always tell a story to make a point. That’s pretty much the only way to communicate when you’re 100% Palestinian 100% Lebanese — and yes, 100% American. The other occupational qualification that comes from this heritage is a knack for standing up to injustice: being a child of a refugee, a child of war, and an immigrant five times over imprints a sense of personal mission:
That everyone deserves a sense of “home” and to belong — whatever shape that takes.
Being part of a diaspora dispossessed from its land, I know that true social change comes by reallocating power to marginalized groups; by figuring out pathways to effectively communicate their message at mainstream tables; and by utilizing a multimodal approach to build bridges of understanding.
Today, I am one of two principals, and I focus on making sure we match each and every client with unrelenting passion for and belief in their work. I do this with Mixte’s other principal, Jamie Hampton, from our backyard, nestled in the mountains of Central Oregon. And I’ve been blessed to do this for more than 20 years in international business and community-based organizations, through the development of policies and programs.