American Pathways – Page 2 – StoryCorps

Longing For The Home She Left Behind: One Woman Reflects On The Refugee Experience

Growing up, Najat Hamza was a precocious child, and one of twelve siblings in a large and close-knit family. She grew up in Oromia, a regional state located in Ethiopia, but due to a violent conflict in the region, she was forced to flee with her father and two older siblings when she was a young teenager. 

Leaving the rest of her family behind, they initially went to Kenya before resettling in Minnesota, where she still lives today. 

Photo: Natjat Hamza in Stillwater, Minnesota in 2020.

In 2017, she came to StoryCorps to reflect on her refugee experience and the unshakable longing for the home she left behind. 

Top Photo: Najat Hamza in Maplewood, Minnesota in 2017. Courtesy of Najat Hamza.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices and Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 16th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.  

“I Have These Dreams Where I Go Back”: Dad and Daughter Mourn a Syria They Once Knew

Walid Sakaan grew up in Syria and immigrated to Memphis in his 20s, where he settled and raised a family of his own. Despite moving away, he always stayed connected to where he was from— which included a large close knit family, where he was one of eleven siblings. 

Photo: Walid Sakaan (bottom center) with his siblings in Aleppo in 2006.

In an attempt to connect to her father’s roots, Walid’s daughter, Magda, moved to Syria as an adult and built a life for herself there but when the war began in 2011, she left and they have both not been back since. 

They came to StoryCorps to remember both the country and the people they love.

Top Photo (left to right): Magda Sakaan and Walid Sakaan at their StoryCorps interview in Memphis, Tennessee in 2019. By Eleanor Vassili for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired March 12th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Room In My Heart: How One Woman Found Forgiveness After Her Brother’s Murder

On January 21st, 1995, 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa, a student at San Diego State University, was out delivering a pizza, when a gang tried to rob him. Things escalated, and at the urging of an older gang member, 14-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed Tariq.

Tariq Khamisa as a high school senior. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Tony became the youngest person in California to be charged as an adult, and spent the majority of his sentence at maximum-security prisons.

As the Khamisa family was grieving, Tariq’s father, Azim, leaned on his spiritual practice as a Sufi Muslim. 

In 2000, five years after Tariq’s death, Azim went to Folsom State Prison to meet Tony for the first time (you can hear them in conversation here). 15 years later, Tariq’s older sister, Tasreen, did the same. The friendships forged between the Khamisa family and Tony directly contributed to Tony’s release from prison in 2019.

To hear more from the Khamisa family and Tony, check out this episode of the StoryCorps podcast.

Top Photo: Tasreen Khamisa and Tony Hicks. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired March 5th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Both Ends of the Gun: How Two Men Were Brought Together in Tragedy and Forgiveness

On January 21st, 1995, 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa, a student at San Diego State University, was out delivering a pizza, when a gang tried to rob him. Things escalated, and at the urging of an older gang member, 14-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed Tariq.

Photo: Tariq Khamisa as a high school senior. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Tony became the youngest person in California, at the time, to be charged as an adult; he was sent to a maximum-security prison at the age of 16.

In the years that followed, Tariq’s father, Azim, came to the realization that “there were victims on both sides of the gun.”  Soon after, he reached out to Tony’s grandfather (and guardian), Ples Felix. They developed a friendship and worked side by side to start a restorative justice foundation in Tariq’s name.

Five years after Tariq was killed, Azim went to Folsom State Prison and met Tony for the first time, and they’ve been in touch ever since. 

In 2019, at the age of 39, Tony was released from prison. He now works as a plumber and volunteers his time with the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Tony and Azim recently spoke over StoryCorps Connect to remember the day they met, and the unexpected connection that was forged between them.

Top Photo: Tony Hicks with Azim Khamisa in 2019. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired February 26, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A COVID Love Story: Detroit Couple Reflect on How a Difficult Year Brought Them Closer Together

When they first met, it didn’t take long for Namira and Omar Anani to fall in love. For Omar it was instant, but for Namira, it was Omar’s small acts of kindness that made her realize he was the one.  

They got married in November of 2019, but just four months into their marriage, their busy lives changed as Namira, a non-profit lawyer and Omar, a restaurateur, were faced with a slew of challenges brought on by the arrival of COVID-19.

They came to StoryCorps to reflect on a difficult year and how it ultimately brought them closer together. 

Photo: Namira and Omar Anani at their wedding in 2019. Courtesy of Namira Islam Anani.
Top Photo: Namira and Omar Anani in 2020. Courtesy of Namira Islam Anani.

This interview was recorded in partnership with the Arab American National Museum. It is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired February 19th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

They Called Him Papu: The Life of a Beloved Grandfather

During World War II, Ricardo Ovilla came from Chiapas, Mexico as part of the Bracero Program, the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. He went where the work took him, travelling across the country to pick fruits and lay railways. It was hard labor, but Ricardo hoped to build his family a home in a new country. Eventually he did just that, bringing his wife and kids to the United States. 

In those early days, things were tough. Ricardo’s whole family worked alongside him in the fields picking fruits amidst thorny branches. But no matter how hard things got, Ricardo refused to be demoralized. He’s remembered by his granddaughters Martha Escutia and Marina Jimenez as an eternal optimist — a man “whose mission was just to bring joy to his family and his kids.”

At StoryCorps in July of 2020, Martha and Marina took time to reflect on Ricardo’s incredible journey. He was born of the Zoque People in Southern Mexico, and joined the Mexican Navy at 18. He crossed the border in El Paso, Texas and picked fruit in fields where Disneyland stands today. 

A young Ricardo Ovilla, who served in the Mexican Navy when he was just 18. Courtesy of Martha Escutia.

Ricardo passed away in 1999, shortly after naturalizing as a U.S. citizen. But he lives on in his granddaughters’ stories. To them, he will always be the tender hearted, marimba-loving, menudo aficionado who stopped at nothing to see his children laugh. They knew him simply as “Papu.”

Ricardo “Papu” Ovilla with his wife Marina “Mamina,” surrounded by their grandchildren. Courtesy of Marina Jimenez.

This story was recorded as part of American Pathways, StoryCorps’ new initiative to record, preserve, and share the stories and experiences of immigrants, refugees, asylees, and Muslims living in the United States. Learn more here.

Top Photo: (L) Ricardo “Papu” Ovilla with daughter (R) Martha Sandoval and their family’s first car. Seated inside are Ricardo’s children Aurelia and Rodolfo Sandoval. Photo taken in 1949 at a labor camp in Escondido, CA. Courtesy of Marina Jimenez.

Originally aired August 21, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.