NAME: Fatimah Asghar
HOMETOWN: Cambridge, Massachusetts, but I haven't lived there since I was a kid. Right now I'm between Michigan for school and Chicago, Illinois
NBC Asian America asked celebrities and industry leaders to nominate individuals for our inaugural list, and Fatimah Asghar was nominated by Grammy-nominated musician Hollis Wong-Wear: "Whether through her poignant poetry - by turns stark and surreal - or through conceiving a world on the screen where queer women of color unapologetically take center stage, Fatimah uses her craft for both resistance and re-imagination, and is damn good at what she does. Her voice is an essential force in a time of real fear and uncertainty, and her work has already impacted, affirmed and inspired so many, that I look forward to her amplification worldwide."
How do you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Fatimah, but people who love me call me Fati.
What inspires you?
A lot of my peers and the Chicago artistic scene in general. There's so much really innovative and inspiring art, and the city grinds in a way that I love. It also kind of constantly pushes me to think more about myself and who I am, which is really great. I'm also constantly inspired by Chicago activists and all the work that so many organizations — like Assata's Daughters, Young Chicago Authors, and BYP 100 do.
What challenges you?
There are a lot of challenges living in America as a Muslim, South Asian, queer woman. There feels like there's always constantly attacks on the humanity of marginalized folks. I think that feels like a real challenge.
Tell us about the biggest risk you ever took.
Deciding that I was going to pursue art as a career rather than a more traditional day job. That was hard because in a lot of ways it was entering a life of uncertainty. As a freelance artist you don't always know when/how you'll be making money. But I am really glad that I did it.
What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?
I just finished reading Morgan Parker's "There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce" and Safia Elhillo's "The January Children," which are both incredible books. I also love Frank Ocean's new song "Chanel." And I'm loving watching "Legion."
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what job would you want to have?
I think scientists are really cool, I really admire them. Especially scientists that fight for the environment. I have a lot of respect for those folks. I think it would also be cool to be a farmer. I think one day I'd love to really learn how to care for the earth, and have a little commune where we could live off the food we grow.
What’s your motto?
Do your work.
I celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because...
...there are so many ways in which Asians are misunderstood by so many people, and our histories are erased from the fabric of America and the world. There's a lot of harmful and inaccurate rhetoric about Asians being apolitical, and the erasure of Asian history from American history makes it feels like we are perpetual foreigners here or like we don't belong. I celebrate being able to highlight these many varied histories, as well as to complicate the notion of what it means to be Asian in America.