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an open letter to Malala

Malala theater

Malala ~ an unexpected blessing entered my life early last week… someone invited me to attend a pre-screening to your upcoming film He Named Me Malala (opens in theaters in New York and LA on 10/2 and nationally 10/9). I truthfully didn’t know much of your story, other than that you had won a Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out on behalf of education for girls in a region that had moved backwards on that issue. Expecting to be touched at a gut level of what an amazing girl you are ~ I was definitely not disappointed. However, I was truly surprised at the gentle, soft, normalizing depiction of how you (and your father) spoke bravely amongst extreme conflict and danger. Your film shows just how “average” you are ~ silly arguments with your brothers, crushes on boys, disappointing grades at school, and shyness when addressing certain subjects. I wonder, where do you feel your bravery came from? Did you always feel empowered and brave? Do you feel your parents simply don’t limit your ability to express yourself? Did you somehow know instinctively that if you didn’t speak, no one would? Most of us get caught up in the “what ifs” ~ how did you move beyond them?

About your father ~ how blessed you are that he ‘never clipped your wings’ (from his TED talk)! What do you think makes him able to view the world through his own lens ~ not the lens of the perceived majority (or at least the current rulers)? He chooses to see you for the magnificent person you are, and always did from the moment you were born. And your mama! She doesn’t share too much with us, but it’s so evident that she also embraces your choices and purpose in life.

What most amazes me about you is your quiet resilience. Even after being shot in the head and nearly dying, you choose not to feel hatred towards your attackers ~ not even a “quark” of anger. That says so much! You can see it is the mental illness of the movement backwards, the constricting and dangerous nature of the extremists in your homeland that needs to be dealt with ~ not the actual humans who carried out the attack against you (well, they should be personally held responsible also, but possibly not hated for their inability to see their flawed and cruel actions).

I’m the curious sort… so the question I am left wondering after seeing your film is, do you feel that most people in your home region believe that girls’ education is important and valuable, but they are just too fearful to speak and/or act out in opposition of the extremists? Do you feel that your viewpoint is the norm there, or the exception? Are you speaking a truth shared by many, or are your ideas new and a teaching message instead?

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I’m also a mama (thus a female!) of two beautiful girls. I just cannot imagine their (or my) possibilities being so restricted by a mania of a distorted selection of people in power. How deeply that must affect you and the other females from your homeland! It makes me so baffled to wonder how treating half of the population with such disregard can be accepted by so many.

It’s funny ~ I sort of expected to be blasted by a loud, in your face message of “look what Malala did” in your film ~ and that’s not at all what I got. I got a soft message, whispering in my ear saying, “Suzee, if she can speak, so can you…” We are ALL enough. We ALL have voices. Thank you Malala for whispering to me, and not shouting. May peace reign again soon in your homeland. May girls and women be valued for their magnificence ~ and may they be allowed to attend school, and carry out their lives as they wish with purpose and without fear, and most importantly with voices that can be heard and faces that can be seen.

Peace to you and your family Malala. May your strength to speak out continue to inspire all of us for many, many moons.

: Suzee

P.S. On a completely different note, I just LOVED the art throughout the film! The subtly in which the past events were so keenly depicted by these paintings-come-to-life was such an amazing touch! The artist in me wants to have a whole other discussion with the person/people responsible for that aspect of the film.

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