Black Voices: Xilesia

Meet Samira: Social media intern, podcast co-host and TikTok creative.

Published by: Voices of Us
Date: 12/06/2021

Samira creates content based around dance, K-pop and general experiences she has that she thinks would be funny to share with her audience. She's also currently working towards entering the PR industry, particularly in music. She co-hosts a podcast with a few friends and will be branching that out soon by collabing with another podcast to make an entertainment network built by black and muslim women.

How does it feel to be black in 2021?

It can be exhausting. Black people are still seen as one group, as a monolith, which we aren’t. If a black person steers from the norm, it’s seen as strange or as a statement where it doesn’t need to be. Black people are also expected to be activists in a sense, which is unfair. Although I do want people to be more conscious, I don’t like how it’s expected of us (and us only it seems).I also dislike phrases such as “But you were there for BLM?” or changing BLM to fit something else (some did Asian Lives Matter when the perfectly good ‘Protect Asian Lives’ existed). It’s strange being at the bottom in terms of hierarchy but also being expected to do so much. And that is me speaking from the perspective of a hijabi in where I’m more likely to be perceived as muslim before being black (although I identify as both equally).

How has social media affected the social issues you care about? Do you feel like it has brought about any meaningful change?

I believe it makes me want to hold myself more accountable. The news doesn’t update us efficiently on what’s happening all around (for their own biased reasons) and seeing people update constantly on different platforms, with their motivation being bringing people awareness of different issues makes me want to be better. The definition of meaningful change may be different for everyone but I think there’s been some change, social awareness has meant more people are conscious of what’s going on. I’ve seen more of my friends go to protests, actively do something and I think that’s something. It may be little but it’s something. However, at the same time, unless action is taken on a systemic level, it’s difficult to bring about something that brings a change to a large group of marginalized people’s lives (compared to individuals).

How can we act now to consciously progress?

It’s hard to change things on a systemic level and I honestly believe in our lifetimes it may not happen. But I think, as simple as it sounds, spreading awareness is important. There are so many that are apathetic to anything that happens and they should be holding themselves accountable. Speaking about issues, making sure you’re up to date, being as loud as you can on social media. If there’s one thing I learned recently, regarding the Palestinian conflict for example, social awareness and protesting actually helped to an extent. It may have been small but Palestinians themselves asked the world to act. I think in the privileged situation I’m in, the absolute least I can do to progress is be active rather than passive.

What immediate changes would you like to see in your industry?

I would like to see more opportunities for minorities. It still surprises me that there aren’t many and I think it’s because I’m in a bubble here sometimes but I recently entered an actual workplace and I was maybe 1 of maybe 2 muslims and the only black person on the teams I was in. It’s not necessarily something that makes me uncomfortable but it does make me hyper aware of the position I’m in at times. I realise that as a hijabi muslim although I don’t want to be, I’m probably a representation of all hijabi muslims in that setting. This is something that doesn’t happen to white people.

What long term growth do you want to see within your industry?

I want to see many more black people in higher up positions or running networks. Sometimes I find myself thinking “Oh there’s already *insert black person* in this position, is there space for me?” which is so ridiculous. I don’t think I ever see white people thinking like that, there is space for us all.

Essentially, I want the future generation of black creatives to never think like that and see other black people that have made it as role models rather than something unreachable.

I also want knowledge of the creative industry to be more common. I’m 24 and I’m only entering the industry now. I genuinely think that many black kids (and POC alike), especially from low income households or are first generation immigrants, aim for degrees/jobs they believe will earn them money and that usually ends up being something like sciences. For example, I’ve met so many creative younger Somalis that don’t think that what they do can be their future. They think it’s unrealistic and not possible, and lack of support from family means it’s harder to pursue. In the long term, I’d love for it to be normalized and be seen as a possible future rather than just a ‘silly’ hobby.