Sixteen-year-old Garo Guyo was born in America. She is first generation Oromo, a fashionista, an artist, a sister, a jokester and a Muslim. Like all of us, she carries a laundry list of identities, but as a young black woman who wears the hijab, she doesn’t always feel fully seen. After fielding confusion from people about how she can be both Muslim and black, she decided to put together a photo book to showcase a wider spectrum of Muslim identities.
Guyo will be among eight interns at educational research group Foundry 10 who are launching creative endeavors on Aug. 23 from 5-7 p.m. at the Fred Wildlife Refuge, 128 Belmont Ave E., in Capitol Hill. The event is free and open to the public. There will be a fashion show and a spoken word performance.
Reagan Jackson: Tell us about your photography project
Garo Guyo: So I’m doing a photography project for the internship at Foundry 10 and the name I gave it was “Not Your Typical Muslims” and the word typical has a strike through it on most of my pictures and the artwork and stuff and so basically I’m trying to show awareness… to bring awareness that most Muslims aren’t only Arab majority. There’s different minority Muslims and we go through stuff. And most of the time it’s overlooked. So like if there’s natural disasters in the Muslim community we’ll focus more on Arab majority countries instead of the Cham Muslims in Vietnam or Cambodia or the Nigerian Muslims or the Somali ones. So I was like I’ve got to show awareness for my fam you know.
John John gave me the idea or provided me the idea of having a picture book kind of like how Kim Kardashian had all her pictures in a selfie book. And I was like I should make that and also we’re going to blow up some of the pictures so you can see them in different frames.
RJ: Who is John John?
GG: John John (Roque) is my mentor. He’s on the (Foundry 10) media team so he does all the photography with a bunch of help from other people on the media team. He does videography and photography. Anything with media and art.
RJ: How do you identify?
GG: Muslim American or just like Muslim in general because I feel like a lot of people try to push, “Oh, I’m American. I wear red, white, and blue with stars hijab.” I’m just like, “Nah, man.” I was born here, but I’m not like hardcore because the history of this country is problematic.
RJ: So you’re first generation?
GG: Yeah I’m first generation. I was born here, but from Ethiopia.
RJ:: What’s it been like in the wake of the Muslim travel ban and some other Islamophobic policies to be Muslim in Seattle?
GG: I get stares and stuff, but not that many people will come up to me and say Islamophobic stuff. But my sister recently had encounters with that. So I’ve been kind of like, “Oh, people that are closest to me have been affected.” Like one of my best friends, her brother and dad were coming back from Somalia and they had an interrogation for 7 hours straight and they were just like, “We want to go home. Just let us go home.” So yeah it hasn’t directly affected me, but the people I care about the most it’s directly affected, so I’m just trying to work my way around it. So I’ve got this thing where if somebody tries to come for me on the bus I know what to say back at ‘em, like tactics for how to battle.
RJ: What do you hope to accomplish with this project?
GG: Just to show more awareness that not all Muslims are Arab or from Arab majority countries. ‘Cause I’ll get a lot of comments like, “Oh you’re Muslim, I thought you were Ethiopian.” Like I can’t have two identities basically. I get that a lot. And some of my Asian friends who are Cham. Someone will be like, “Oh you’re Muslim, but you can’t be both,” and they’ll be like, “Yeah I can because one is a religion, one is a religious identity and the other is my ethnicity/race. So yes I can.” So I’m trying to bring more awareness to that.
RJ: What’s it been like working with Foundry 10?
GG: It’s been great. They gave me really good resources. The mentors are great. The people I work around are super supportive and they give me feedback. And they are always commenting on my art and I’m like yes please, I love the feedback and the compliments. They’ve been really supportive and I love it.
RJ: And what is Foundry 10?
GG: Foundry 10 is a research company based in Seattle. And they work with a lot of youth researching youth and how they interact with the world and different things like social media and self esteem and all that.