From the Desk of the Council: Finding Myself in The Arts

One of the core missions of the Honors Diversity Council is to serve as a voice for marginalized communities on campus and foster a sense of belonging. This semester, they are launching weekly blog posts that will discuss the experience of students with marginalized identities/and or how the University community can be a more inclusive environment for everyone. This week, Rabiah Na’Allah is sharing about her experience as a cinema major.

I knew I had my work cut out for me the moment I walked into the University of Iowa. I tried to get to know as many people as I could while living in Daum Residence Hall during the peak of the pandemic. I was struggling to reestablish some sense of normalcy and get that college experience I’d always dreamt of. I made friends with the different individuals in my Honors Primetime section and went out to eat with the people on my floor on a regular basis. For the first couple of weeks, I was asked, “What’s your major?” numerous times daily. I was in a sea of Pre-Med and Computer Science majors feeling out of place as an Art major. This made me second guess myself a lot. I constantly asked myself: Did I make the right choice? I felt invalidated in my achievements and hard work because I had an “easy major” according to everyone else. I had to first be okay with myself as a college student before I could even begin to find my footing as an arts student.

It wasn’t until my first semester of my second year when I added on Cinema to my degree. I had always loved film and production and was excited to fall more in love with it in my coursework. However, in my art and cinema classes, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. I was faced with the reality of being at a PWI head-on. At times, it hindered me from fully expressing my creativity. It wasn’t until I reached out to Afro House staff on campus and actively diversified my spaces when I realized I shouldn’t reject my differences. The beauty of art is that it doesn’t have a singular definition. I have the ability to create my own narrative. My art didn’t have to look like everyone else’s because I wasn’t someone else. I was me. I want others to learn from me just as I learn from them. I love my Nigerian culture, my Black identity, and the Hijab on my head so much. I stopped running from my heritage and decided I want to share it. I am sharing it.

About the author:

Rabiah Na’Allah is a second-year student double-majoring in Graphic Design and Cinema from Peoria, Illinois. Rabiah is heavily involved in the University of Iowa Honors Program and serves as an Honors Outreach Ambassador and leader on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. She is involved in various organizations on campus including the Muslim Student Association and Student Advocates of Planned Parenthood. When she’s not working on school, you can find her doing photography, volunteering at student productions through the Theater program, analyzing her favorite movies, or binge-watching Criminal Minds.

Edited by: Alexis Carfrae, Honors Admin

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