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Meet Nesima Aberra, a Muslim Poet Writing Poems for Peace

Meet Nesima Aberra, a Muslim Poet Writing Poems for Peace

The Peace Studio, led by peace educator Maya Soetoro of the Obama Foundation, is
launching a new campaign, 100 Offerings of Peace. This project brings over 10 countries together with both known and emerging creatives in visual, performing, literary, spiritual, and musical arts to generate new works about what peace means to them, how they practice it, and where they see it could rise up and flourish amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It also focuses on the impassioned protests over centuries old racial injustices and inequalities occurring across many continents. The goal of 100 Offerings of Peace is to ultimately move us toward a more peaceful world.

Nesima Aberra is one of the artists joining The Peace Studio’s new campaign. Her offering is a poem dedicated to her family, Eritrean refugees, who have been hoping, striving, and building peace for decades. 

Day 13: Scattered People

My grandmother sits alone like a tiny doll.
Her cream cotton scarf flowing gently over her head.
She blows a kiss over a WhatsApp call from Sweden, raises her hand and prays in Tigrinya.
For peace in the world.
For the virus to go away.
And for our family to be reunited, under one roof.
My mother is a quiet revolution.
She escaped a war for a better life in America.
Taking care of patients who ask her where she is from.
As she wonders what it would have been like if she stayed behind and served her people.
Where she wouldn’t have to fight to use her degree.
My countless relatives hover at borders.
Languish in crowded refugee camps and sleep on ocean floors.
Because they dared to seek the freedom our ancestors fought 30 years for.
But have yet to witness.
Tell me, how can you begin to build peace when the tools have been exiled, the historians have been imprisoned, and the rest of the world drinks your coffee, but can not even find you on a map?
Our hands will only reach out as far as the mind can wander.
These stories I gather of scattered people, scattered thoughts, and scattered dreams from a homeland I’ve never been to,
So that one day we can all come together and build a movement for justice.
That can not be ignored.
@NesimaAberra

Nesima dedicates this poem to her family, Eritrean refugees, and all those in the diaspora who have been hoping, striving, and building peace since the country gained independence in 1991. She states that the history of Eritrea’s war, the ongoing human rights crisis, and its people’s stories have unfortunately been ignored for so long, so she wanted to do her part to change that.

With the love of her country, she talks about how Eritrea’s war for independence was simultaneously a war for its culture: its ancient traditions as well as its modern manifestations and transformations.

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Nesima is an Eritrean-American writer, poet, digital strategist, and community builder. She’s been published in Everyday Feminism, Vox, The Atlantic, and more. She is an alumna of the VONA Voices Fiction Writing Workshop and The Power of Diverse Voices: Poynter Minority Writers Workshop. Nesima received her master’s degree in International Media from American University and her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Global Studies from Arizona State University.

With the love of her country, she talks about how the Eritrea’s war for independence was simultaneously a war for its culture: its ancient traditions as well as its modern manifestations and transformations. She goes on to say, “Successive enemies of Eritrean independence over the years have tried defining Eritrea in ways that would justify the outrageous measures they would take to deny Eritrea its place in the sun. They have tried to diminish Eritrea politically, economically, militarily, and culturally into non-existence except as an appendage of the builders of colonial and neo-colonial empires. But Eritrea has proved a survivor.”

To see the spoken word version of the poem, click here.

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