After escaping from the civil war that ravaged Somalia, Wahira Labelle grew up in refugee camps. Unfortunately, because the country and its culture discriminated against the LGBTQ community, Wahira continued to experience difficulties. She was continuously ridiculed and sometimes even beat up. Worst of all, she was not recognized for who she was.
Eventually, she found her way to California. Wahira Labelle is a Black trans woman migrant and refugee. Her identity and lived experiences give her a unique insight into the intersection between racism, discrimination, displacement, and other issues that continue to plague modern society. Exposure to any of these can significantly affect individuals and communities. However, instead of looking at these issues in isolation, Wahira knows firsthand how these are interconnected. Only with such a comprehensive understanding of human nature can holistic steps towards positive change be accomplished.
For Wahira Labelle, the journey to change and healing starts with communication. Finding herself in a unique position, Wahira has searched for the best language to tell her story—a story that all displaced people share. Speaking five different languages certainly has helped Wahira advocate for the dignity and rights of the LGBTQ community and all marginalized groups.
It is in arts where Wahira Labelle truly found her voice. Art and music transcend the limitations of language, conveying universal thoughts, emotions, and experiences to a global audience. Music has been an essential part of Wahira’s journey to healing. In writing songs, she found a channel to express her pain and pour her heart out. More importantly, this language makes it possible for her story to be heard around the globe. She hopes that when her people listen to her songs, they feel validation and strength.
The artist, storyteller, and activist is acting as the voice for the voiceless, especially Black refugees. Wahira Labelle’s story and art remind the global community that refugees are humans too. Through lived experiences, she draws attention to these social and cultural issues with conciseness: discernment is real, and equality is essential.
Major networks and broadcasters have featured Wahira Labelle, her story of resilience, and her transformative art. These include BBC Africa, Blavity News, QueerEthiopia, and more. Having crossed borders and mountains to get to where she is today, Wahira focuses on spreading a message of hope. As long as life persists, people can hold on to hope despite the length of the journey. Wahira shares her hope with her audience that things will get better.
Wahira Labelle draws from the past to lead her people to a brighter future. She recognizes the amount of work that still needs to be done. But she moves forward in the position she has found herself in to advocate for Black minorities, refugees, and LGBTQ migrants. Wahira encourages those who feel displaced and unwelcome, “Create your own tribe.” The famous line communicates her confidence in her community’s power to shape their destiny. Wahira also founded the Pause$Pose initiative for refugees.
For more information, please visit Wahira Labelle’s website.