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Dana Shkokani

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Dana Shkokani was born in 1997 in Palestine. On the anniversary of Nakba in 2013 her friend was shot through the chest for throwing a rock during a protest. She then decided to move. Dana came to the United States to attend Columbus State to study Computer Science and became interesting in social activism.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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My grandmother always told me her immigration story. It was 1948, she was sixteen and pregnant with her first child. Israeli forces came knocking on the door yelling “Get out or get shot”. People ran, some left behind their children, their spouses, and some didn’t make it out alive. My grandma got out with two things, her baby and a key to the house she no longer owned. Hearing my grandmother’s story I never thought I’d be an immigrant too. Both of my brothers immigrated and left us behind. I remember when we came to visit them, I hated the United States so much. It was so green, it looked so fake. Then I started talking to people and I hated it even more. Because they seemed so privileged complaining about their iphones and their fancy cars everywhere. When I was sixteen it was the anniversary of the Nakba, the day my grandmother and 700,000 other Palestinians fled their houses. Many of us would march and yell. I remember one of my friends, Nadeem Nawara, wanted to do more. He wanted to stand in oppression face; he wanted to throw rocks. I was with him when it happened, he threw one rock and not a second later four bullets penetrated his chest. That’s when I knew I had to leave. I drifted apart from my parents who felt like they lost their last child to the United States. I stopped calling them and I stopped bothering to explain my actions to them. They wouldn’t understand is what I always told myself. I’m not Palestinian like them. I don’t have a strong accent, if I don’t go out in the sun much I can pass as white. Maybe if I fake it well enough the reality will change. It finally hit me a while later. I was at work that day, and a woman asked: “Do you ever miss it?” when she saw my necklace of my country. But she didn’t wait for my answer. She just continued. “I bet you don’t. You’re better off here.” That day it was as if all of my memories were retrieved. Even though I have visited the U.S. before I still felt really weird when that airplane landed. I’ve always been an independent child but my parents were always around somewhere in the shadows. Now, I was truly on my own. After two long years at Columbus state I finally got into OSU and I honestly think that’s the most thing that changed me. It opened my eyes, I’m a Computer Science Engineering major but I met so many people in political science, psychology, sociology. I joined multiple student organizations and I went from being one of the shyest students on campus to a student activist. I found my passion within OSU and I got my most recent and two biggest culture shocks: racism and freedom of speech. I don’t know if it was where I grew up or what exactly but I was blind to racism for a long time. When I wanted to describe someone I never thought of their skin color, sometimes it didn’t even register in my head. But coming here I was discriminated against multiple times and I always waved it off as people just being rude. I didn’t realize that my skin color and all the stereotypes that came with it were the reason until my best friend mentioned it. It was a day that I fell and got a concussion at school but they made me wait an hour before seeing a doctor. My friend said “well if you were a white girl crying they would have let you in right away” and the reality hit me. I started realizing racism a lot more but the thing about the way I was raised is that we always have to be polite even if we’re in the right. I realized later on that many Americans don’t have that. They use freedom of speech as an excuse for rudeness and racism. I guess you can say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to that. Becoming passionate about these issues I became a lot more active and many people suggested that I change my major. I don’t hate my major but I’m a lot more passionate about social justice than computer science. But the thing my parents don’t see a future in a major that doesn’t end up in an office and I can’t use their sacrifices to do something they don’t approve of. In the end I just want to answer that lady and say yes, I do miss my country. Just because I’m an immigrant doesn’t mean that I hate my country or that I don’t want to go back. It also doesn’t mean that I hate it here. People think immigrants are the lucky ones, the survivors. But the thing is there’s so much pressure on us, we’re looked up on by everybody in our country’s. We can’t break down because my mom who falls asleep to the sound of rockets can’t know that I’m failing a class after she sacrificed everything to get me here. I read the news everyday wondering if I’d hear of the death of a loved one. The biggest lesson I learned is that your heart never leaves your country but you also need your heart to survive so it cuts itself in pieces and you never become whole again.