By Cesilia Faustina
Photography by Cesilia Faustina
“The biggest challenge is growing up having the childhood that I had.”
Growing up, Taqua Ammar was trying to understand more about her heritage and background. A big curly afro and a tan complexion, many people have mistaken her for a half ‘white’ and half ‘black’ origin.
Taqua Ammar is American with half Palestinian roots from her mother’s side and half Libyan from her father’s side.
Raised in an Arab household, she has always wondered about her origins and cultural backgrounds.
A mix of multicultural exposures and a hard childhood have led her to a constant journey of the unexpected, however.
Growing up with abuse
Having lived abroad and currently the assistant principal of a preschool, Taqua seems to be shaping her life pretty well, however, she hides a darker past that is actually not uncommon in the States and other parts of the world.
“The biggest challenge is growing up having the childhood that I had,” she said.
“There was a lot of abuse and neglect, my mother was a very abusive person and I think it took me a really long time to see the effects it had on me because in the beginning, I was just trying to brush it off, like it’s ok and I don’t have to think about it and as I grew older, I realised that it does affect me a lot and I didn’t take the time to properly heal myself from those experiences.”
According to Childhelp.org, every year, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies and the US has one of the worst records amongst industrialized nations losing an average of four to seven children every day.
Victimsofcrime.org also stated one in five girls and one in 20 boys experience child sexual abuse in the US.
“When I was five my parents got a divorce…and during that time, my mother’s boyfriend molested me when I was seven years old,” she said.
“At the time, I didn’t understand the full gravity of what was happening to me and also the way my mother reacted to it caused a huge pain to me.”
Taqua said she was hurt by what happened and felt anger towards the world for some time in her life.
“My mother reacted in a very nonchalant way that it made me have a lot of anger growing up and at one point I was angry at the world because all these things were happening,” she said.
Child sexual abuse can have long-lasting effects on a victim’s mental health and are more likely to experience drug abuse, PTSD and depression.
“[Child Protective Services] was called on us so many times, and my mother was also a pathological liar so I grew up not having the ability to trust people, also feeling confused about what the right way to act and do things was because my mother was a very negative role model,” Taqua explained.
She felt one of the biggest things that hurt her was the fact she had to endure the pain and abuse before finally moving out.
“What upset me was that I stayed all 18 years with my mother and nobody ever did anything to stop this abuse,” Taqua said.
“The one person who should be looking out for me wasn’t looking out for me and I think that was challenging for me growing up and it still is challenging to this day, but it’s not as challenging now because I have learned to love myself properly and I’ve learned that every single person has pain.
“Even though not everybody has a story like mine, but they have stories and struggles they are going through that I will never be able to understand.”
The now writer and activist felt the experience really help shaped her – both negatively and in a positive way, which led her to find her passion in the art of activism.
Being an activist
“I truly believed for a very long time I had equal rights with everyone else and I was not going to be discriminated because of my ethnicity or religion…”
Having experienced the childhood that she did, Taqua eventually migrated to Jordan to learn more about her family’s roots and what shaped her mother today.
The Californian eventually migrated to Jordan to see her grandmother which led her to find her passion for activism and human rights.
“I would like to become a political activist and be more involved with humanitarian and political issues in our society,” she said.
“I want to focus more on refugees and the growing Islamophobia in the United States. I want to organize an event that will bring a better picture of Muslims, that paints a better picture of Muslims in the United States because I think there is a lot of fear amongst Muslims and Arabs and I think it is up to us to show society that we are not what the media portrays us to be.”
As a mixed-race individual and an Arab, Taqua felt the amount of racial discrimination she had to encounter in her life; one she felt the most coming from her brother’s story.
“The main event that woke me up was my brother when he got attacked by police officers,” she said.
“He was attacked by seven police officers and then he was charged with resisting arrest when he was 20 years old. That was the first time I truly woke up because I felt the police officer were acting based on my brother’s appearance, he is a big guy with a beard and he has a Middle Eastern name so this is when I woke up and started realizing.”
Many Americans still feel there needed to be efforts in achieving equal rights amongst minorities. According to a 2016 research by Pew Research Centre, around 61 percent of Americans said the country needed to continue making changes for ‘blacks’ to have equal rights with ‘whites.’
”I definitely have to say I, unfortunately, I was not always WOKE or awake in society,” Taqua explained.
“I knew I was different because of the way I looked in America, but I truly believed for a very long time I had equal rights with everyone else and I was not going to be discriminated because of my ethnicity or religion, but it has become more and more apparent to me that there is a lot of discrimination towards people of colour.”
Taqua one day would like to create her own organisation or institution that will support change, having attempted a few initiatives to promote charitable causes.
“My goal is to educate the public about these things and create events that help bring people together who have similar interests or just want to learn more about what’s going on in their societies,” she said.
“I already developed a Facebook page called Wake Up and in the future, I would like it to be, not a not-for-profit organisation or anything like that, [I want it to] work sort of like an advertising and marketing company, but for humanitarian causes.”
The future of humanity
“It is so important to make sure that you love yourself, not in the way society portrays you to love yourself, not in a narcissistic way, to love yourself in a way that you feel complete.”
One of Taqua’s greatest role models is Maya Angelou. Having quite similar backgrounds with the world-renown poet and writer, she aspired to be a role model towards other women as well.
“I think now [my experiences] have made me a lot stronger, want to learn more, open up to others and share that story with others, because growing up I never had that role model so when I heard that Maya Angelou was molested by her mother’s boyfriend as well, that was shocking to me,” she said.
“Somebody who experienced something like that came out great, she is inspirational and influential to so many people; it seemed that she never went through that struggle and that is what I strive for now.
“As somebody who can help people who have gone through these issues.”
Taqua said one of the main lessons she had learned from her life was to love yourself first.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned recently, it is so important to make sure that you love yourself, not in the way society portrays you to love yourself, not in a narcissistic way, to love yourself in a way that you feel complete and you do not need material possessions and other people’s approval or whatever,” she explained.
“To find the love within yourself so you can go out and help other people because you are not so focused on your pain and anguish that you can step out of it and help other people in a selfless way.”
As a survivor and a third culture kid, Taqua has experienced a diverse range of cultures that have shaped her attitude and mindset today. Whatever she went through though, the activist stated the importance of always looking at the big picture.
“I think it is important for all of us to look at the bigger picture,” she said.
“It is really easy to get focused on little things and the little things are important, they are and they add up and they mean something at the end of the day, but the most important thing is to look at the bigger picture and to always remember that there are others out there that are going through the same thing we are, that are going through the same struggles we are going through.
“Basically, we should always pay attention to the bigger picture, the bigger picture is important.”
Taqua is a writer, poet, rapper, activist and an assistant principal of a preschool. She is from California, the United States from a Palestinian and Libyan background. She is an activist and has been active in different events to support charitable organisations. She hoped to affect people in the humanitarian sector through the use of education and wanted to create greater impacts towards equality.