What is in a name?
That is a question I have been struggling with my entire life. When someone asks me my name, why do I always answer “Moh”? That is not the name my parents gave me. They named me Mohammad.
Identity is a funny thing. It’s a concept I have wrestled with for years, growing up as the born product of refugees from a land I’m told is no longer mine. Growing up in white schools and white neighbourhoods, I tried to be more like everyone else, but some things can’t just be shaken. I’m brown.
When I go through airport security, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name. When I click submit on that online job posting, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name. When I check off the ‘visible minority’ box on every form I fill out, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name.
And when I walk the streets of Palestine, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name, only this time, I’m the norm.
So what about here? Canada? My place of birth? One of my homes?
The truth is, I’m still a young brown man with an Arab name, and that’s not going to change no matter how much I travel or where I go.
So, for the kids in Canada named Mohammad that bring weird lunches to school, I guess what I’m trying to say is: be you. Embrace it, because that doesn’t change.
And when the time comes when they ask you your name, tell them what makes you comfortable. But if you shorten it like I did, make sure it’s because you want to, don’t do it for others. Your name, your identity, that’s your home, no matter where you are.
Mohammad Mousa is a 23 year old Palestinian-Canadian, born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. He graduated from the University of Ottawa in 2015 with a major in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, lived and worked in the West Bank, and plans to continue on to graduate studies in a related field within the next year.
Dr. David says he's over it: price tags put on parking spaces, mini coopers at thirteen grand, bras for a buck or two hanging off of swingset stands.
The Great Glebe is on sale. Ambam and Jojo join Wookie for early strolls through pedestrian traffic down uptight streets into huckster herds galore, howling "what a haggle, what a steal!" for four dollar dogs hot off the grill and ritzy serves of lemoned water - that's another toonie or two to go. the bank's an all in a day type deal this morn - feisty moods, sweaty and sweet, mr. alan's shopping in the hood.
free-thinking royals on fifth ave. balancing civic expression and freedom of speech with signs that read :: [ "No matter where you're from, you're welcome in Canada," ] ... for $25. Inclusion ain't cheap. bourgeoisie at a price - fedoras for fifty bones - "Google it, you'll see what I mean," they say, to dappers on the streets of Bytown who wiggle through dress codes for cheaper than this. there's a Biltmore at home, anyways. on second ave. "it costs $0.50," for the book, but "$0.25" is the highest she can go - the eyes roll over, a sigh lights the air and a muttered "fine" fills the merchant's mouth. it's just the beginning of the day. a stroll turns into storm on clemow ave. "those books are one dollar," barks the elderly and so "thank you" I reply, most patient as possible, uninterested in her three copies of angels & demons, seeking some Scott instead. "Didn't you take one?" the old one demands in motivating language and peeking into my pockets, // literal diplomacy at its finest for an accused book thief. And so a head tilt protrudes and with disbelief, a "come on" is blurted out and silence ensues.
it's nine in the morning and my city's up on hangers - posters from Warsaw - what is their story? "So like, my sister, went on like, this theatre exchange kind of thing or whatever in Poland a couple of years ago and brought these back. Want 'em?" contemplating their being put to good use, and with neighbours stepping on these Reeboks, toothless walks by an Ashbury sweater and recounts Peter puking in the toilet and passing out with his pants down, an unfit recap for the girls. a glare is shared, but it means nothing around here. the Great Glebe Garage Sale:
where grandiloquent is a metaphor for loose change.
Images courtesy of Lukasz Lukaszek