Siron starts her talk by explaining how attending the Tools for Peace summer camp in the Tehachapi Mountains outside Los Angeles transformed her:
“It’s like a parasite that gets into you and turns every cell that has been darkened by hate, frustration, or discrimination, or what you are holding on to—it turns them pink, and makes them smell like roses.”
Once a refugee from Sierra Leone and Yemen, Siron speaks of transformation from hard experience:
“I’m 18, but 15 of those years were the hardest years of my life. . . . My first memory is of my mother running down the street while the local boys threw stones at her, yelling ‘Kafir’ in Arabic, which means infidel. My older brothers came home from school with bruises on their cheeks. My education was nonexistent since I was female. When we finally arrived to the USA, culture shock hit my family: The bare legs, beauty, and confidence . . . The kids in schools had pencils, and shoelaces in their shoes . . . And chocolate. We were in a whole new world. But we were still in a place that seemed to resent our family.
“So I grew with intense hatred …