Rashid was born and raised in the foothills of the Alps, but his roots lie in east Africa. He attended the Vienna International School in Austria before moving on to Ohio University. Rashid is an aspiring writer who served as managing editor of the Arapahoe Pinnacle as well as the art & photography editor of the triple-award winning literary journal PROGENITOR. To compliment his B.A. in political science, Rashid recently completed his associate degree in Journalism from Arapahoe Community College. Rashid also gained extensive international experience while working with the United Nations in various capacities.
Interviewer: What topics tend to interest you when you write?
Rashid Mohamed: I’m always interested in writing about human adversity and how people overcoming challenging situations. Like what’s happening now, as people try to cross borders in search of a better life for themselves and their families.
I: What power do you think written works regarding current situations in society have? Why are they important? Are they?
Rashid Mohamed: I believe written works play a powerful role when it comes to holding up a mirror to society. Quite often people are so immersed in their day to day activities and responsibilities that they don’t notice when things change around them incipiently. It’s as if they can’t see the forest for the trees. But if they read a current book on the topic, and that book is written well, then I think that book could have a profound impact on the way people think, especially young people. I’m halfway through reading an incredible book called Naughts and Crosses in which the author, Malorie Blackman, turns the world on its head. What’s white is black and what’s black is white. Now that’s a really thought-provoking notion in today’s time. If a book like this were to become mandatory reading in all high schools, we would be a step closer to eradicating racism and prejudice.
I: Literature can sometimes tell us our past, present, and future. Thank you for sharing that. Along the same lines, in your poem “Ode to the Blank Page” you say, “Virgin births of illiterate suns, pure”. What duties do writers have to the illiterate suns that they birth? In plain, what must a writer do after filling a blank page?
Rashid Mohamed: I think we are all duty-bound, primarily to ourselves, but also to the outside world, to bring forth that what is within us. Something is given to each and every one of us at birth, in one form or another, and that must be brought to life. I’m often haunted by the image of all the ideas I’ve ever had in life that I didn’t act upon, standing around my deathbed chastising me for not having followed through on them. And now they would die with me. The duty of every writer is to be true to the emotional self and hope to thereby connect with the reader. (I hope I answered the question!)
I: When you say stay true to emotional self, what do you mean? How can a writer keep themselves honest?
Rashid Mohamed: As a writer, I think one must pay attention to one’s own feelings and write from there. One should not write something simply to pander to an audience. Let me add, that it’s not always easy to do. We live in a world where everyone strives to be an individual, but we are really being forced to conform to society’s norms. Everyone’s ideas are being bounced back and forth on social media, that it’s often hard to form your own ideas and opinions. This can have an impact on one’s writing.
I: What things did you learn firsthand as the managing editor for Arapahoe Pinnacle and art editor for Progenitor that you believe no one could have taught/ told you about?
Rashid Mohamed: One thing that I came to appreciate early on as managing editor of the Pinnacle was that each reporter, each writer, and each editor is different. They each have different personalities, different ways of writing and different ways of approaching a task. I learned to deal with each of my co-workers on an individual basis. At the end of the day, most of the work is really people management. And although I had worked in groups and teams many times before, I realized that when it comes to art and literature, five people (editors) can have ten opinions! Therefore, it’s important to take all ideas and opinions on board and sift through them objectively. I also learned that deadlines are always a matter of life and death!
I: Ha. I feel you. Where did your writing journey start? Where would you like it to lead?
Rashid Mohamed: I’d say my writing journey began with my father. He would have me and my older brother write compositions and short stories on the weekend, much to our dismay given that we would rather have been playing football outside or something. So, he sowed that seed in me early on and I soon realized that it was a wonderful way to channel the crazy imagination I had as a kid. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, perhaps because I’ve always had it easier with the written word than the spoken word. But I wish to continue writing, for the sake of my sanity, and in the hope that my stories will one day reach a bigger audience.
I: I have a met many writers who have said writing is therapeutic for them and that they must write to be happy. Do you ever think someone writing for themselves can be a bad thing or that it can get in their way?
Rashid Mohamed: In my opinion, most writers write first and foremost for themselves. At least that the way it is for me. I believe with strong conviction that in order to create a genuine piece of work one has to be in touch with one’s self to quench the thirst that drives their creativity. I think once a writer is comfortable in being true to themselves, then their work will not only benefit them but hopefully others as well. Writing for yourself is always good. In fact, I think one should write as if no one but them will ever read their work. That way they’re being true to themselves.
I: Can you tell me more about where your poem “Fading Star” came from? Especially, the repetition of “Aren’t we going home?” and the image in the last paragraph.
Rashid Mohamed: Fading star is a poem I wrote in remembrance of my father. He died many years ago (too many for me to still be mourning him) of stomach cancer and in that poem, particularly the last stanza, I wanted to relive his last moments, his last words, his last vision of life. As a kid, my father was a camel herder, a nomad in east Africa. He used to tend to the family’s livestock and defend them from predators like lions and hyenas with a flimsy spear. Towards the end, I think his mind took him back to those days of hardship and struggle. He hardly recognized the faces around his deathbed except for my mother’s to whom he would whisper one last time: “aren’t we going home?”
I: Thank you for sharing that. It is always nice to know where a poem might stem from. What are you currently working on and how/where can readers follow you?
Rashid Mohamed: I’m currently working on a children’s book along the lines of Dumbo except it features a gerenuk which is a kind of antelope found in Africa. Perhaps a better parable might be Bambi. I’ve also recently completed a short story about a Somali family that escapes war in their home country and the perilous journey they take to seek refuge in Holland. Most of my work can be found on my website: rmmohamed.jimdo.com. I plan to expand the website some more to include some of my latest works.