Shadi Hossam is a Sudanese American from Boston. He is the oldest of five children and is a student at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He is pursuing a degree in Construction Management. “My hobbies are Basketball, Football and Soccer and I like to chill with the squad and doing those said hobbies with them.”
This story is part of “American Muslims”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States. We will not only be sharing the images from the project, but each image will be accompanied by a personal and unique story to show our shared humanity. To read more about Shadi and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.
So Shadi, I have to ask what’s it like to be the oldest child? Do you feel like you have to be a role model for your siblings?
To be honest being the oldest has its pros and cons, being the eldest no one can really tell me what to do and I get to experience things first hand before my siblings, but like I said it has its downs as well. I’m also the test subject for my parents, especially when it comes to major things such as applying to college, but overall my parents raised me right and I hope my siblings will learn through me.
What made you decide to go into Construction Management?
I was into Computer Networking but I lost interest and it took too much time from my daily life, so I talked to a few close friends that went to the same high school with me and I have actually enjoyed it ever since.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I am going to keep it simple and say my father; he’s been through it all. Coming to the United States not knowing basic English at the age of 16, he started from the bottom to get to where he is today and he has taught me everything I know because of the fact that he’s already been through it.
You mentioned your father is your biggest influence in your life? How so?
Without a Master a student cannot exist, and without a student a Master cannot exist either, my father came to America barely knowing any English. Imagine being in a world not knowing anyone or the language, and you have to start making a living. He has seen the best and worst of life and he has taught me all these things so that I won’t go through the suffering he did.
Do a lot of people act surprise when they find out you are Muslim?
No not really, I have rarely seen people give me a surprised look when they find out I am Muslim. They’re actually pretty accepting and respect my religion and don’t believe what the media says about Islam.
In your experience, what’s it like to be Muslim and black? How often would you say you experience racism and/or bigotry?
To be honest it is hard to be Black and Muslim. I experience not only racist cops giving me dirty looks but also being labeled a terrorist, so I have to struggle with both. I have experienced more racism than Islamophobia because people can immediately tell that I’m Black but won’t be able to tell that I’m Muslim off of a first impression.
What advice would you give to the younger generation that sometimes forgets to respect their parents?
A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father.”
That in itself should show how important your mother is, she went through nine months of pain carrying you, then years waking up at 2 am when you cried, fed you and took care of you when you were sick. No amount of work I do or will do for my mother will ever repay my debt towards her.