Alika was born in Germany to German parents. You guessed right, Crossing Identities is about children with a migration background, about being different. But nevertheless, difference is still the subject today! Alika has an interesting story. Just like children who grew up between the world of their migrant parents and the one of the country they live in, she had to overcome a similar struggle, in order to become the confident person she is today.

Listening to Alika’s story about her being overweight since early childhood , the challenges with her environment reminds the the challenges of children of migrants.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

Not only does Alika have overweight, which she carries beautifully, but also does she have a quirky taste in fashion. You can see her change hair color regularly. Green, blue…. you name it, she will be up for it! This makes up two reasons to make her look different from classmates and in public.

As a child Alika was  picked upon badly at school for her overweight. She felt miserable which she compensated with more food. Alika shut herself away. Luckily to her, she had a mother who did not accept all that to be her fate. And luckily to anyone out there who doesn’t have a mother or anyone to confide to, this article will give you some tools to deal with bullying.

Alika’s mother did not accept that her daughter should suffer for the nasty behaviour of her classmates . She told her daughter to go on confrontation course, to tell her fellow classmates that she thinks it’s them acting disgracefully and that she is just ok as she is! That their thoughts about her looks are not her problem. And if they don’t understand her, it’s actually them who is stupid. The fact, that she faced them with pride impressed her classmates.

Her classmates started to respect her for her courage, they befriended her. Until today people stare at Alika in public, when she has one of her quirky fashion days, however, she got used to it. She has a mantra, that she repeats in those situations: I am ok the way I am. It’s the others who have a problem. I am happy with myself, the way I am. It’s the others who are not happy with their lives and have to pick on people who look different or seem weaker then they are!

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And that is how we came back to Crossing Identities. Depending on where your parents come from and depending on where we live, one’s looks can differ from the “common” population. According to Alika and further interviews, what makes people pick on each other, is a divergent appearance, for any given reason: gender, origins, age…..  Overweight is just the same, different, shoot me (not!). The students who choose to confront their environment constructively and talked about their feelings may benefit from higher self-esteem then the ones who retreat. However, none of the students would have gone the confrontational route if it weren’t for an adult who would have encouraged or guided them through the process.

This shows how much responsibility we have as adults to guide the younger to stay afloat with their struggles. We have so much power to make this world a better place, if we care a little bit. Next time a student acts out, hey, there might be something they are dealing with. Something, that they don’t know how to resolve on their own.

Crossing Identities was kindly sponsored by the Berlin Senate for the 50y jubilee of the partner cities Los Angeles and Berlin in 2017.

Writer & Photographer Semra Sevin

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