I remember the first time I met Yasmin. It was during the summer sessions of my senior year of college; she, my good friend Ayla and myself were taking an International Affairs course on global economics. We would gather sometimes after class to discuss our professor, a wealthy Italian financier, who once called Michelle Obama ugly. What intrigued me the most about Yasmin then and what intrigues me now, is the fiery spirit within her that comes through her perfect pairing of words when she speaks. Everything that comes from her mind, mouth and fingertips are words of truth, passion and righteousness.
She was so gracious as to be my very first feature of The Questions. Please also check out her featured poem, “When They Come With Machetes in Their Mouths” Enjoy!
Name: Yasmin Mohamed Yonis
Hometown: Mogadishu, Somalia
Age You First Fell in Love: I have known love, but I have not “fallen”, though I prefer the term “walking in love.” Romantic love of that magnitude, like much of love, is a choice, something that needs to be fostered and tended to in order to grow. So while I have known love, I have not been in a situation where that love could be tended to in order to grow in all its potential.
What is love?
Love is what keeps our spirits connected to our souls. Love is the daily, not just the dramatic. It is making a commitment to someone, something every single day. Love is saying, “You are not perfect. You do not have to be perfect. I accept you in all your softness, all your hardness, all your wonder.” Love is wanting the best for them, even if that means it is not with you. And love cannot exist without respect, without support, without kindness. And love, surely, cannot exist without courage.
What is Black Love?
Black love is where joy grows despite destruction. It is inherently political. It is a celebration of one’s blackness, of one’s ancestors, of one’s brothers and sisters wherever you might go in this world. It is waking up every morning even when it’s easier not to, it is living more than surviving, it is affirming each other’s humanity. Black love is double dutch and braids that swing in your face. It is grandma’s smile. It is the kinks, the coils, and how the dark night comes so gently. Love is the fact that God has blessed us and bathed us in melanin. Black love is finding a home in that one similar face in the crowd. It is standing up, speaking out, and knowing we do not begin nor end in our oppression. Black love helps us survive a world we were never meant to survive.
What examples of relationships/love did you have growing up, Did they influence the relationships you have in your adult life?
My parents have been married for over 30 years and I have been raised in their love. My mother told me my father used to send her a handwritten love letter every day when they were young in Somalia and sometimes twice a day when he missed her something bad. Love is having babies and fleeing a country in war together. It is being scared and being brave anyway. It is missing each other and always being friends. My parent’s love taught me that you need more than beautiful words for love to survive. Love is hard work, it is a commitment every day, it is doing what is necessary to make sure the other person is ok. My father somehow took care of a family of 12+ on a taxi cab driver’s salary and studied by a lamp’s light every night. My mother raised 10 children in a country hostile to their very existence with nothing but pure wit and strength. So I learned early on that love must manifest in actions. My favorite memory of them is how my mother would wait to eat until my father came home every day and them sitting together just laughing, talking, and loving. One time, my father took my mother’s hand and looked at us sitting around the table and told us, “you know, I love this woman. She is my best friend.” And the way my mother still looks at my father, I know he’s not the only one who feels that way.
Were you raised in a religious household? Has religion influenced your views on sex, love and relationships?
More than anything, religion is at the center of every relationship for me. And while most of the people in my life, outside my family, are not Muslim, Islam has helped me be what they love most about me. Islam has taught me that you can’t just say you believe, that you have to show it in love (actions). I learned early on that love is what nourishes our souls and sets the world right. That love is trying to be kind every single time, it is forgiveness, it is taking care of others whether you know them or not, it is standing for justice, it is taking time to convene with God and the other beings you love. And my faith has taught me that there is nothing beautiful about playing small nor about accepting pain and calling it love.
What kind of love are you giving? What kind of love do you want to receive?
I show love by being there for the people I love when they need an ear or a shoulder to cry on or someone just to share laughs with. Being there is so much of love. Showing up. Knowing people can trust in your love. I also swoop in and help whenever I can. I try to be nurturing, supportive, and a giver of joy. In receiving love, it’s really important for me to feel accepted for who I am, all of me, both the cracks and smooth edges, without requiring me to change. My ability to love myself allows me to freely give love to others. I also enjoy nothing more than good, heartfelt conversations full of laughs and breaking bread with those I love. The beautiful part of fostering these relationship is that there is nothing like knowing there will always be someone who cares about [how] your heart is doing and wants to be with you. Now, how about that for love.