‘Brown Girls’ Interview with Fatimah Asghar

Interviewer: Ajanae Dawkins

Fatimah Asghar is a nationally touring poet, performer, educator and writer.  Her work has appeared in many journals, including  POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, BuzzFeed Reader, The Margins, The Offing, Academy of American Poets and many others.  Her work has been featured on new outlets like PBS, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, and others. In 2011 she created Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Spoken Word Poetry group, REFLEKS, while on a Fulbright studying theater in post-genocidal countries. She is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and a Kundiman Fellow. Her chapbook After came out on Yes Yes Books fall 2015. She is the writer of Brown Girls, a web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Currently she is an MFA candidate at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan.

Q: What role does friendship between women of color play in your web series, both in the fictional characters and in the women who are creating / producing the show? 

Friendship is at the heart of everything about this show. The show is based on my friendship with my best friend– I tried really hard to get the texture of our friendship down, and to show the ways that we ride for each other always. Friendship is huge behind the screens too– Sam Bailey (the director of Brown Girls) and I are really good friends. We couldn’t have this series without our friendship and our mutual trust of each other. Sam is an amazing artist and person, I feel like I’m constantly in awe of her.

Q: What has the creation of this show taught you about the necessity of relationships between queer women of color?

I created the show to reflect the relationships that I have with different women of color in my life. I’ve gotten so much from those relationships. I think this show, particularly its reception so far, has taught me that so many people feel the same way. I think that’s a beautiful realization.

Q: What are your favorite things to do with your best friend(s) and how have your favorite moments with your best friends influenced your writing of the show?

Really I just love to sit around and talk shit with my friends. And be silly and act a mess. I think thats one of the best things about friendships– they are people that you feel safe being messy around. You can be totally unfiltered and stupid. That’s great, because it allows you so many possibilities of freedom. This show is nothing if not messy. All the characters here are navigating their own messy ass lives, and how they can be themselves but still be functioning citizens of the world.

Q: Right now (and always) being a queer woman of color means being unsafe at the intersection of marginalized identities. How does creating work like this make the representation of brown girls joy, a weapon against those who look to oppress you?

I’m all about weaponizing joy through art. I think that joy and love are often our strongest weapons. As queer women of color we deal with so much shit everyday, so many people trying to rid us of our humanity. With this show I just wanted to carve out a small space of joy in resistance to that– to show black and brown people talking about mundane things like pink eye and stuff. I wanted to show that we are human, we who have complicated intersecting identities that America pretends to ignore. We are here, we exist.