The Ayesha Karim Story
By Ayesha Karim
The Little Black Girl That Grew Up and Became Herself.
What makes a healthy self-image? It’s not perfect parents, but good parents, loving parents and a protective environment. I lived in a rather protective environment with a middle class socio-economic background. My stepfather retired from his Social Security Administration job after 25 years, and told me he loved the poetry chapbook I had published in 2016.
I started writing poems in the 5th grade while attending a school called Al-Karim in Old Brooklyn. I call the Brooklyn of my childhood Old Brooklyn. I was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 28, 1981 at a hospital called Brookdale. My parents loved Chinese food and my mother said their favorite meal was called Chicken Cantonese.
This is the story of the little African American girl who grew up to become a woman who likes and accepts herself. Ayesha wore a school uniform that consisted of a green sweater with AKS on it for Al-Karim School and a green plaid jumper that all the girls wore to school. Ayesha went from preschool to 6th grade at Al-Karim School, which had mostly African American students. Ayesha was a smart girl and her teachers encouraged her parents to skip her a grade in elementary school.
Ayesha started writing poetry in the 5th grade. She loved to write poems about everyday mundane occurrences. She kept a composition notebook for every subject when she was a little girl and pupil at Al-Karim School. She was also good at mathematics.
Ayeesha left Al-Karim School and went to the Brooklyn Friends School, an integrated K-12 independent school established by the Quakers, for 7th and 8th grades. She was a shy 10- and 11-year-old.
Ayesha got into three New York City Catholic high schools after she took the Catholic Schools Admission Test in 1993. She chose her top three schools: Catherine Mac Aulay, an all-girl high school in Manhattan where school uniforms were mandatory; Bishop Ford high school; and Bishop Loughlin, the school her cousin Jeanette went to.
Ayesha was in the honors program at Bishop Loughlin and in the best freshman class until she started to lose her own voice and develop schizophrenia.
Ayesha’s parents, Shellon and Neil, moved with their daughter to New Jersey in the summer of 1994. One day, in February 1995, after only six months in New Jersey, Ayesha was walking home from the school bus when a man screamed “Nigger” at her and sped off in his car. This was the incident that pushed Ayesha over the edge into schizophrenia.
Ayesha finished high school on home instruction. She graduated from a 4-year college/university at age 34 despite living with schizophrenia since she was 14-years-old.
Ayesha volunteers with an organization called NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). She has been involved with NAMI Mercer NJ since September 30, 2008. She’s been a volunteer from December 2010—present. NAMI gives Ayesha quality of life. Ayesha has a place to go, friends to socialize with and a place to volunteer and be productive.
Ayesha had a poem published in the January 2018 NAMI Mercer NJ newsletter. She has published several poems in their newsletter since January 2013. Ayesha is a poet, creative writer, blogger and now a children’s book author. Ayesha is in her mid-late 30s. She loves putting on lipstick, one of her five moto jackets and a motorcycle hat while smiling at herself in the mirror.
Ayesha feels good about herself, having grown up from that bullied little African American girl who wrote poetry as a form of escape since the 5th grade. She is a self-love advocate and quite independent despite her diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
Ayesha loves her life and says, “I wouldn’t have done much differently even if I could. I made peace with my illness. I have SZ; SZ doesn’t have me.” That is the Ayesha Karim story!