“In the TEDxIB@York series, Our Kids features Q&As and TEDx talks from students and experts from the ideas conference in Toronto. In this article, Amal Ahmed Albaz — the spoken word poet who won the event’s student competition – shares her passion, purpose and perspective.
Q: How did you get involved in TEDxIB@York?
A: I actually heard about it last year through my school. Unfortunately though, I was not able to perform, because my school missed the deadline. However, I attended the event as part of the audience, but it was a completely different experience this year as a speaker. As soon as I saw TEDx last year, I just knew that I had to speak, and worked towards that goal since.
Q: Why and how did you choose the topic “Crazy about Peace”?
A: The title of my topic was inspired after reading the following from an Apple commercial: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
I’ve always wanted to create change, be it big or small. This might make you laugh, but a couple of years ago, someone asked me how I would like people to remember me after I die. Of course, everyone wants people to remember them in a good way, but all I replied was, “I just want to make a difference that’s so impactful, that there’s an “Amal Day”.” I guess I just want my footprints to remain after I leave.
Q: What is your mission with your poetry, and what role did your Egyptian Muslim background play in your work?
A: I’m a spoken word poet, and I use my words as a weapon to ignite the issues we face in society. My journey of poetry began at the age of 11 and continued ever since. I’ve performed at many places, striving to make a difference in the world, and I hope that my words are loud enough to be heard by all.
I was born in Egypt, and lived there for the first six years of my life before I moved here to Canada. I feel that my dual citizenship gives me a broader perspective on things, and helps me view the world in a slightly more objective manner. I am able to merge two completely different societies and ideologies together, being able to relate to both.
The poem itself was inspired by that hadith (saying) the Prophet Muhammad said hundreds of years ago. The amount of wisdom and practicality it possessed was immense! So I thought I could rhyme it up, and deliver it as an important message to our youth today. My religion does and did play a main role in my TED talk, for example, because when I spoke about purpose, that’s literally derived from the teachings of my religion. We are here to worship and obey God, and one of his main commands is to simply develop this Earth and make this world a better place. The world Islam itself is derived from the word peace, and I think that alone is enough inspiration.
Q: What is the main message you hope students, schools and educators got from your speech? (Read Amal Ahmed Albaz’s speech below.)
A: The goal of my speech was to make everyone feel bad, yet giving them an ample amount of hope at the same time. I wanted first to make the audience question their accomplishments in terms of making a difference in the world, and what they’ve really done with their lives. The solution or message I hope they all received was that it’s the little things we do that make a difference in the world, not the big ones. Our goal shouldn’t be to make one big difference, but millions of smaller ones. Also, my message was that the world is not going to change, unless WE change, and that is why we all need to look at whatever passions, whatever talents we have, and see how we can use them to benefit our society, then on a larger scale, humanity.
Q: What was your interaction like with other students and the audience after your speech? Did anyone’s comments about your speech stand out?
A: I found it AMAZING how there were all these IB students from all over the world, yet we all understood each other so perfectly. We could all relate in terms of our shared curriculum, like: TOK (Theory of Knowledge course), EE (extended essay), HL History, etc. It felt incredible, knowing that there are students in the world who are doing the EXACT the same thing as I am, stressing over the EXACT same things. As cheesy as it sounds, it gave me a sense of unity.
The audience’s reaction was extremely supportive, and I’m so grateful for that. This one girl actually came to me and confessed that she wanted to contribute to changing the world, and didn’t know how until she listened to my Ted talk! It was definitely a night that I shall never forget, knowing that I’ve touched so many people and many have touched me.”