The Shahbag movement was the single most important ongoing news story in Bangladesh in the last year. The Bangladeshi people were outraged about a verdict for traitors of the independence war who had committed atrocities and were still considered not guilty 40 years later. A group of youth activists created a blog to voice their opinions and what began with this led to a cause that grew out from Bangladesh to protests even in the U.S.
My parents took me to one of those protests in Artesia, California once, and I arrived with really no interest in the day’s events. Bangladesh and its culture were never really important to me throughout my childhood years, and as a kid, I never really appreciated what my culture had to offer. Being a Bangladeshi-American was weird for me because I had never felt a connection to half of that title– my attention to my culture limited to the family get-togethers I was forced to attend every weekend and the news from Bangladeshi channels added on our TV package.
But seeing all these people gathered in the U.S to express their concern for their homeland evoked something new within me, a sense of understanding and appreciation for my country that I never felt before. The posters, the chanting, everyone lined up in solidarity—I was moved. It was then and there, while I held up my own poster and candle while listening to speeches, that I had become a completely new girl with a completely new agenda in life.
The power of speech and the press was something that I had always valued and found absolutely amazing, and seeing that a single person’s voice through media was able to lead a modern-day revolution was extremely inspiring. After then, Bangladesh, which once held no significance for me, now became a beacon of major things that I stood for— change and progress. And with the movement and the change it brought, I came my own realization that I too wanted to make some kind of difference with people in the same way, and add to the progression and success of society.
When I was in school, I had begun taking interest in things like journalism, thinking when I joined the club that I only enjoyed it so much because I had always loved to write. But journalism was a lot more than just that. It was real, and it was professional, and it was a way for me to say something that could make a change in people’s minds and hearts. And because of that, I absolutely loved it.
Journalism was the way I’d be able to make a difference. It gave me the voice and platform to not just sit idly by with my thoughts—and from my passion came a new passion for political discourse as well. I realized I wanted to be an active force of change and get involved in politics to directly help true justice prosper. After Shahbag, I was more than just a girl who liked to write, but a girl with a cause to write for.
My connection with my culture and Bangladesh had changed dramatically with this event, as well. Now, Bangladeshi events that I attend have a new joy for me, and I celebrate the country’s holidays with as much enthusiasm here in America as anyone in Bangladesh. I try to help the underprivileged of Bangladesh by raising money for various charity projects. I wear the country’s colors, green and red, with pride and try to educate people on the potential and hope that Bangladesh has in its future. My country and my culture are dear to me–it’s not just because it’s where my parents immigrated from.
It’s because Bangladesh reminds me of who I truly am.