By LAURA KEBEDE Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted April 20, 2015
Noor Samee’s voice — through poetry, song and advocacy — has always been her primary avenue of expression, beginning at age 11 at her second-ever chapel service at St. Catherine’s School.
Just four years later, her voice will be amplified during her blogging internship with Voices of Youth, a UNICEF operation that selected 13 young people to share their perspectives on varying topics. Noor is the youngest intern and the only American. The internship runs through July 31.
When Noor, 15, interviewed for admission to St. Catherine’s, Sue Baldwin, the assistant head of school and director of middle school, said she surpassed expectations and would go far with the confidence that set her apart from a young age.
On her first day, she asked Baldwin if students were allowed to speak during chapel at the Episcopal school. She soon was up in front of dozens of girls she had not even begun to get to know to perform a piece she had written.
“And then she began to sing and everyone was absolutely stunned,” Baldwin said. “It was powerful, beyond expression. Something I’ll never forget.”
Noor said she hopes the internship will be a good opportunity to give a perspective as a young Muslim woman living in the U.S. but more importantly provide an avenue for other voices different from hers.
“I want to use Voices of Youth as a platform of: What are the struggles of people in my country?” she said. “I try to be as empathetic as possible.”
At St. Catherine’s, she is a member of the feminist and diversity clubs. Cynthia Lotze, an upper school English teacher, said Noor’s maturity and desire to make a difference is practical, not idealistic.
“It’s agency, not ego for her. ... The girls feel they can ask her about what makes her different. She just lives what she believes so actively,” Lotze said. “Noor came into my class a youthful thinker, and she’s becoming a responsible scholar.”
Her first post on the United Nations-affiliated organization’s website came out Sunday as a self-introduction. Noor said she primarily identifies with her family’s values and her religion. Her family is part of the Ahmadi sect of Islam, a minority group that has been attacked in various Muslim countries, including their own Pakistan. In 2010, about 80 people were killed in two nearly simultaneous attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan.
After an angry mob killed three while burning the homes of eight Ahmadi families following allegations of blasphemy in July and the events in Ferguson, Mo., that unfurled debates on race and police in the U.S., Noor wrote a song to address the tension she felt.
“I wish you could find the human in me/I wish we could live in harmony,” says the song, “RED.” “We’re red. We’re red. We’re passionate Red./When we all look inside we’re Red.”
Her posts will be featured on www.voicesofyouth.org