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Staff Spotlight: Faiza Jama

We sat down with Faiza Jama, our wonderful Administrative Assistant, to chat about her life, what she's passionate about, and some fun facts that make Faiza unique! Get to know the woman that we have the pleasure of working with every week :)

White Bird: Where are you from?

Faiza: I am from Somalia. I moved to the States with family on July, 26th 2006.

Who named you and what does your name mean?

My older brother named me. My name, Faiza, is Arabic and it means victorious, successful, beneficial, and a winner.

How many siblings do you have?

I have a total of 9 siblings. I actually haven't met one of my sisters. I found out about her in 2015 and she is currently living somewhere in Africa.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Stacking pillows in the living room and challenging my dad and siblings to see who can come jump over them the highest.

What’s a funny moment from your younger days?

I had plenty of moments when I was younger just because of transitioning to a different culture. I didn’t speak English, I cut lines during lunch because I didn’t know what a line was, all the food was strange to me- there was one time the pizza at lunch had olives. There was a boy that put the olives on his fingers and ate it that way. It seemed cool to me and I tried it but the olives were disgusting and I spit them out. Something else was for a whole year no one got to go to recess or would get out to recess really late. This was because we couldn’t go out until all the tables were cleared and I didn’t know I was supposed to put my own food and tray away. So for an entire year I would just stand up, leaving my tray, and wait to go outside. Then the teachers would be asking ‘who’s tray is this’ and all that, but I just didn’t know what they were talking about. So for that whole year I was the reason we couldn't go to recess.

What was your first memory of dance?

My first memories of dance would be from my early childhood. We weren’t on our phones, we were out experiencing life, with dance being a part of that. Dancing would be done for rituals, as a part of our culture, or just for fun.

Somali dancers practicing traditional folk dance called Dhaanto. Dhaanto, one of the most popular Somali dances, is played at nearly every Somali festive celebration. Dhaanto is inspired by the camel and also mimics the actions of the camel. The song to this dance was used to raise the spirit of soldiers and was often sung on horseback.

Where are you going to school and what are you studying?

I recently transferred to Portland State University from Fisk University, a historically black school in Nashville, Tennessee. I am currently studying International Business and Public Affairs but I am thinking about making a switch. Nothing is for sure yet but I am thinking psychology.

Why White Bird?

I found out about White Bird through networking. I know Renee Mitchell, who is friends with Paul and Walter, and she told me they were hiring so I applied and here I am. I don’t like to limit myself so even though I don’t dance professionally, I still was open to working at a place like White Bird. I like to get involved with as many different things as possible because you never know what opportunities can come from it, you might learn something new about yourself. You have to be willing to take chances in life and so far this one is working out for me.

Faiza (right) with Renee Mitchell (center), Portland-based writer, speaker, artist, teacher and Creative Revolutionist.

Which group are you most looking forward to seeing perform next year and why?

Honestly, I am excited to see all of them. I think this upcoming season is really exciting and strong. I can’t pick just one.

You're involved with a local organization called I Am M.O.R.E. Tell us what it's all about.

It is an organization that was started about six months ago. Three students at Roosevelt High School got the ‘Beat the Odds’ scholarship and the question came up ‘how do we recognize these students' stories?’ And we didn’t want it to just be a momentary thing, it needed to be continuous, with the idea of turning tragedies into trophies. I Am M.O.R.E is a platform that gives young people a place to have their voice heard, express who they are, tell their stories, and discuss their traumas. It is all about trauma informed practices. We show people that you are more than the worst thing that happened to you and you don’t have to