Waggeh is a civic organizer with African Communities United, co-founder of Smiling Coast Women Empowerment Network (SCWEN), a youth group for young Gambian-American Muslim women.
The majority of young women that I know around my age in the community are married with kids or recently engaged.
I feel like I can't mess up, because I'm one of the few who has been able to successfully complete her education. I'm very cognizant of what I do, of showing that the education that I'm pursuing is for the well-being of my community.
Whenever you're the one who strays away from the traditional path, folks are always going to look at you, how you're doing, and if it's "successful".
If you look in the Koran, the prophet's wife, salallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam, Kadija, was a businesswoman. She was divorced too, and she got married when she was like forty-something. She was a feminist in her own right.
I think it's a concept where our communities make it seem like it's new for a woman to want to be financially independent or for a woman to want to be successful, but it's always been there, and it's a part of our traditions as well.
I define my community as people of color, then it can go down to African immigrants, then to Muslims, then to Gambians, then to Soninkes, and then woman's in that mix as well. My main community is the Gambian Soninke-speaking community in the Bronx.
I hate when people put me in a box. I hate that. Identity is fluid. When people make it seem like you have to be one thing at once. I cannot just be a black woman right now, I have to be a Black, Muslim, immigrant woman always.
How do you break out of the box? How do you deal with it, when people can’t see you?
I think, just knowing that I'm there, and knowing that I'm expressing my voice unapologetically, that's all I need to do. That's it. I don't let it get to me. My presence, in and of itself, I think, speaks.