Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Is It Like Where You're From? By: Yuna Zarai

Let me just introduce myself. Hi, I'm Yuna and I am 25 years old. I am a Malay Muslim girl. I weigh around 55kg, I have black eyes and I wear the hijaab. I come from a tiny country called Malaysia where I grew up in Kuala Lumpur and I went to a public school. I had a mix of friends, Malay, Chinese and Indian. I grew up with them and visited their homes, ate their (halal) food, and treated their families like my own. I speak Malay and started to converse in English by slowly learning the words to my favorite song. I was 7 and the song was 'Don't Speak' by No Doubt. It was then that I realized that this was what I wanted to do -- music. And also, hopefully touch lives like how No Doubt did to me.

My first task was to understand the meaning of "almighty frightening." Now I understand! I cringe whenever someone asks me about my "hopes and dreams for the world." What do I say? Do I even have a say? I'm no politician. I'm not a leader. I was not even a part of the college debate team. Better ask those kids what they think. They'll have better things to say! But I guess I’m human too and we share the planet, so I'll just give it a try.

Watch Yuna perform "Someone Out Of Town," courtesy of FADER TV
That's where hate stems from: lack of understanding and how we're easily influenced by what we hear or see. Only a few of us are of the 'research' type. Or just plainly, we sometimes feel that we have better things to do, rather than spending some time learning about people who live their lives differently from us. Or maybe we just feel like we're better than them. Back in school, when I used to have a lot of bullies calling me names like 'stick' or 'anorexic' or 'flat,' I wish they took the time to ask me why I was skinny. I ate normally like other kids. Both my parents are tall and lean. I guess Allah created me in such a way, like how He had created the universe, before we were even here.

But of course, besides that, me being me, I had other theories about my weight I'd like to share with them and when and if they finally understand, they will start calling me 'Yuna.' I guess that's all I can think of now. I wish we all have the means to a better understanding of people.

24-year-old Malaysian singer Yuna sings "Decorate" at Heathers Bar in the East Village.

It's plain and simple really, with better understanding, we will all be able to develop respect and love for people who are different from us. It's not easy to do, I know. We all have so much to do in our worldly schedule. Most of the time, we roll our eyes to whoever out there who goes "Hey, let's change the world" Maybe we need to see things in a different light now? Give positivity a chance.

We are going to be here for a while (insyaAllah) and every now and then, we are shaken by horrible news. From pollution to war, and how the earth is acting all crazy now. It's just too scary. I feel like we can't afford to form new types of hate towards anybody anymore. We're running out of time. Because the fact is, we are not just here to exist. But also to find the strength to co-exist with another. To do that, we just need to start asking the person next to us "What is it like where you're from?"


Yuna performs during the The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding event hosted by Russell Simmons.



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