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Anjail Rashida Ahmad - Award Winning Poet, Educator and Activist
Even without sight, vision is clear:
Blind professor doesn't let lack of sight get in the way of her seeing the big
She is a poet, an activist, a mother of three, a grandmother but most of all, an inspiration. Why? Because she does it all without eyes.
Dr. Anjail Rashida Ahmad, the Creative Writing Director at A&T, had a premonition that she would lose her sight when she was 13 years old. Afraid that she would miss out on something, Ahmad says she lived her life in a hurry.
"Inwardly, I felt rushed. It made me kind of hurry up or live with more intensity."
Passionate, persistent and pressed on finding out what life's purpose was, Dr. Ahmad began doing everything she could as fast as she could.
She emerged from and era where a lot of activist were honed. She was there when the Nation of Islam took a stand against the man. She was there when Angela Davis was arrested; in fact she picketed at a prison not far from her school in Xenia, Ohio with some of her fellow classmates to "free" Angela.
"Heavy times," as Dr. Ahmad refers to them. It was then that she discovered her knack for poetry as a student, trying to make a difference. But she would soon leave school to get married and have children.
Then later start a career at First Atlanta Bank It was there that Dr. Ahmad realized how unfit this life was for her and so she began taking classes to get an undergrad degree again, which later led to her getting her Masters and on to her Doctorate.
But it was during her PhD years that the dreaded day came. In 1998, her sight started to go. She had already begun teaching. Having a career which she felt depended a great deal on her ability to see, Dr. Ahmad stopped teaching and furthering her education.
Knowing that this was something she could not escape and would have to face head on, Dr. Ahmad sought strength from her grandmother, who offered her stories about her own struggles.
Ahmad says that when things got hard and she wanted to give up, her mind would rotate back to her grandmother.
"I would say, okay she did it and she didn't have any scholarship and she didn't have any help and she did it."
Ahmad says she would kick and scream and cry, then join the rest of the world. She said one of the things she had to learn is its ok to be down but you have to get back up. In 2000, she decided to go back to school to finish getting her PhD and continue educating herself.
By 2001 she had to use a cane and admits that she experienced some shame in having to do so. But she knew she couldn't let a little shame stop her.
Dr. Ahmad, who says she wants to be remembered for her irrepressible spirit, recalls how she remained a dreamer throughout those troublesome times.
"I just can't imagine me with no dreams; even then, I could not imagine me being in life with no dreams."
And so she kept dreaming, all the way to becoming the Creative Writing Director at North Carolina A&T State University in 2003.
Recently, Dr. Ahmad has returned to her activist roots when the city of Greensboro was preparing to impose a fair of $72.00 a month for transportation passes used for the disabled.
"A lot of them, after their rent was paid or their housing was paid, a lot of them had anywhere from $30.00 to $60.00 to live off of," Ahmad said.
So she and a team of others got the city to lower the fare after an eight month battle before the city council committee filled with media attention.
Dr. Anjail "the poetry evangelist" Ahmad was selected as one of the top ten persons to make a significant difference in the triad by Poets Writing in a Time of War in 2005.
In 2007 she was selected a member of the North Carolina Arts Council Touring Artist directory and nominated by A&T for the 2007 Human Rights medal. She believes that she is a voice, not only from a creative writing standpoint, but for people who can not speak for themselves.
"The way I have to live my life is to be a presence in the world so that the people I come in contact with, they will be empowered to be able to realize their own dreams or realize their own life purpose," she said.
Dr. Ahmad's approach to life has been successful with at least one student here at A&T. Ruben Jackson said she's way more than an inspiration for him.
"Dr. Ahmad is an example of how life is an occasion that we have to arise to. She doesn't make any excuses for what happened to her so when you're around her, you have to step your game up. She's the main reason I'm trying to do a lot of the stuff I'm doing."
Her colleagues are equally inspired by her. One in particular, Professor Valerie Nieman, who works with Ahmad in the creative writing program, speaks to how Ahmad has inspired her.
"She not only is an incredibly gifted poet. She leads the creative writing program with grace and has a wonderful vision for what the creative writing program can be in years ahead."
Dr. Ahmad may have lost her ability to see but she never lost her ability to dream, believe and be heard. To refer to her as an inspiration would probably be an understatement.
Latoya Haggins, Aggie Register
Anjail Rashida Ahmad, PhD
Director and Associate Professor,
The Creative Writing Program at A&T
North Carolina A&T State University
Greensboro, NC 27411
Tel: 336.334.7771, ext. 2370
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
This site has been made possible in part With support of the North Carolina Arts Council and the partnering arts councils of the Central Piedmont Regional Artists Hub Program.
Copyright (c) 2010. Anjail Rashida Ahmad. All rights reserved.
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