Yousef Askar: Holding Onto Memories

Yousef Askar is a 15-year-old high school student. He is the youngest of 5 children, born to Palestinian parents in Chicago. He aspires to become a firefighter and a servant leader in his community. Yousef is family-oriented and likes to push his family to go out and do things together. His role models are his parents who have taught him that a balance in faith and character is the essence of life.

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 Yousef and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
The biggest influences in my life are my parents. My father came to the states when he was a teenager, along with the rest of his family. He went to school and worked a hustle selling carpets at the Sunday flea market. My mother came to the states when she married my father. Without knowing a word of English she was able to take public transportation, visit doctors’ offices and make her way around to provide for us. They taught me that nothing comes easy. Everything in life takes work and perseverance. Without my parents I wouldn’t be anything. I wouldn’t be where I am today. I love them and I would do anything to make them happy.

If you could hold on to one memory in your life forever, what would that be?
I remember the first time I went to Palestine. It was so calm and peaceful. I used to go to the farmland that my grandfather owned and pick fruits off trees and vegetables off vines.  What they show in the media, it’s not how I remember Palestine. How can these things happen to a land my parents and grandparents once called home? I wish to visit Palestine many more times; moreover, get a feel of how things are now and how I can make a difference. I will hold on to that memory of calm and peace and hope that one day that it will become our reality.

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