Natya Stroud and Fawzia Khan
DescriptionOne Small Step conversation partners Natya Stroud (43) and Fawzia Khan (56) discuss family, career, and faith journeys. They share their approach to the politics & their hopes for the future of this country.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Natya Stroud
- Fawzia Khan
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
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00:01 Stroud I am 43 years old today's date is January 16th, 2021. I am located in Fridley Minnesota. The name of my interview partner is fozia and will be participating in one small step conversation together.
00:25 Hi, my name is Plaza Han. I am 56 years old. Today's date is January 16th, 2021. I'm located in Hopkins Minnesota. And the name of my interview partner is Natasha as part of the one small step program for storycorps.
00:56 Polisenos bio is as follows. I am an immigrant originally from Pakistan but born in Nigeria and move to the US at age 12. I was raised Muslim but am now a new you. I'm worried a Lutheran white Minnesota boy. That was a I wasn't OBGYN but left my practice when my son was born to stay home and raise him best decision. I ever made I went back to school for visual art when he was older. I lost my dad to cancer over 20 years ago. My mom died two years ago both very difficult in different ways. Our son recently started gender transition to female.
01:44 Nittaya's bio. I'm a born and raised Minnesotan. I converted to Islam in high school. I'm married to my high school sweetheart with six adult children when nurse practitioner specializing in women's health. I am focused on Healthcare and financial equality. I'm also excited to see what's to come in. My neck is phase of life. I am commonly described as determined and ambitious.
02:40 I feel like my life is pretty Dynamic. I was born here in Minneapolis actually. So I live in the suburbs now and I have a large family many aunts and uncles my mother and father separated when I was very young and my mom remarried and went on to have two other children with that marriage and then after she divorced years later I had she had another relationship. I had another sister. These are all my siblings are my mother's side of the family. I do have siblings on my father's side, but I'm not that close with but I'm getting to know them. I had been only child until I was around age 7, but I have many cousins and we've always spent lots of time together growing up.
03:40 I've always been labeled as in pants or knowledgeable and so ever since kindergarten I was placing advanced placement courses and classes. I am pretty outgoing. I do like to engage with others a lot, but I don't like the drama. So I tried to steer clear of that but that can sometimes gets be challenging especially at times like during the pandemic and social distancing and have access to socialize. I did get married as a teen to my high-school sweetheart. And that was with the support of my parents. My parents are not Muslim. I converted to Islam prior to be getting married. Maybe about a year before and
04:32 My first children were Twins and so I had them at a very young age continue after school as I started my family. So I'm work.
04:45 Attended college and eventually had six kids and so my children will I have five girls one boy. And the youngest now is 19 years old as I've completed college. I've progressed in my career initially started out as a nursing assistant with a goal to be a registered nurse. I have work currently as a nurse practitioner here in Minnesota. I have done that for over 5 years and I have really enjoyed that I am looking to change practice is somewhat so that I can increase access to a little more diverse population which has been my goal and I am focused on taking care of women in a variety of aspects currently working to specialty clinics one is for menopause and sexual health
05:45 Mother is for women with breast cancer center breast clinic.
05:51 Outside of that. I enjoy nature while raising my kids to kind of get really involved as a parent and Lose Yourself somewhat and so as my kids have gotten older I have had more time to focus on myself and also encourage other women to do so because we can put ourselves last outside of that still married to my same husband. He's been married now.
06:23 Almost 27 years
06:34 I think that's the most of my life story.
06:41 So, okay. I like I said, my parents are from Pakistan.
06:51 When my mother was some they got married my mother got pregnant a month later and then a few months after that my dad lost his job and took a job in Nigeria. So he moved there and my mom followed him. And so I was born in Nigeria.
07:08 And then my brother came along two years later and so it's just the two of us, but we have a very large extended family. Also, my mom had eight brothers and sisters. My dad had seven they all have lots of children. So we grew up in Nigeria till I was about 12.
07:31 And that we would go back to Pakistan in the summer for two months and see all the family there but Growing Up So Nigeria got their independence in 1960 and I was born in 64. So everything was still pretty British and run by the British even though they had Independence.
07:55 There were four military coups while we lived there. I only remember the last one that I was old enough to remember when I was 11 and it was very scary. And the daughter of the man who was assassinated actually went to my school at that time. So I just remember something happening and people, you know coming to pick us up at school early because there were
08:27 Folgers in the street and so forth has pretty good childhood. Otherwise, we immigrated to the United States when I was twelve my parents wanted.
08:42 A better life for their children and we thought about going to England versus the United States and my my dad had two brothers who were already share one in Chicago and one in Philadelphia and so they decided to come here. So we move to Fort Wayne Indiana and we lived in the Attic apartment of somebody's house for year-and-a-half went to Junior High there was not a good experience.
09:15 Small town and not very welcoming to immigrants. So then my dad got a job in St. Louis. He was an engineer, but he was already in his 50s. So he had a hard time finding employment and he are going into too much detail now, but he needs work for some time teaching at a technical institute. My mom was a physician and she ended up working as a at the library making copies for a while because she needed to go through all the exams and repeat her Residency program before she could practice.
10:03 So it was several years before either of them. Re-established. They were lucky that my dad got a job because his boss was Turkish and had been an immigrant himself and was a Muslim and and hired him give him a chance. So we settled in St. Louis. That's where I went to high school.
10:26 And after high school, I graduated when I was 16, I went to a ba MD program in Kansas City, which was six years and then did a residency In Obstetrics & Gynecology in back in St. Louis, which is where I met my husband he was a
10:49 Doing an ICU pulmonary Critical Care fellowship and we met at work. And like I said, he's from Minnesota is half Swedish half Norwegian fairy.
11:10 Different from the way I was raised I suppose so, but we met and fell in love and decided to get married. And after we married we were there another year to finish our training and then we both got jobs in Seattle and moved out to Seattle.
11:29 And that's where our son was born. I was practicing in a private practice and after my son was born. I had a really hard time.
11:44 I think I have some postpartum depression.
11:48 My husband took a month off work. I took two months off stayed home went back to work. He took a month off more to stay home. And then we had a nanny that we had hired but I was so miserable after going back to work that he sat me down and said, you know, what's going on you seem miserable at night. I basically said I just really want to be home right now with this baby. I don't want somebody else to raise my child when I could be doing it. So I decided to stop working at that point and I stayed home.
12:23 And we were there in Seattle for a couple more years and then came back to the Midwest to Fargo cuz my dad was sick and things with Healthcare. We're not great at that time. So we lived in Fargo another six years and that's where I decided to go back to school and to get a degree possibly in graphic design and then my husband got a job here in Minneapolis. And so we moved to Minneapolis where I finished my degree at U of M. I got a bachelor Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture.
13:07 And like I said, I was raised Muslim, but we can get into that more if you would like. I have been questioning for a long time and I think after I got married.
13:22 We weren't going anywhere for any sort of spiritual or religious.
13:29 Community and then two of my husband sisters got married. Our son was for the time we came back from both weddings. And he said well, what's our church? So that's when we decide to go to the Unitarian Universalist Church. And so we've been going there ever since
13:53 So yeah, so I totally understand the whole thing about your childhood. My so my child is now 26. We were not blessed to have any more children all the way would have liked that and
14:11 So I've been working as a practicing artist now for about 10 years.
14:18 15 years natural and
14:23 Yeah, that's where we are today.
15:24 Yes, yes.
16:12 Well, as far as someone who's been kind this to me and my life.
16:19 I don't know. I feel like I have so many life experiences and in each of my experiences there has been people who have been supportive or very kind and so it's hard for me to just pick one person to say this is the kindest person. I mean if I had the name a single person, I would probably say my husband because he's been there through all of my changes in all of my ups and downs and emotional xan. Everything else and he's always stay by my side and has never wavered. He is an excellent father and although at times. I feel like he is a typical guy and maybe doesn't hear what I'm saying or understand my feelings when I am very direct about those things. Then he understands and takes time for me. So
17:16 Yeah, I think I had the same reaction when I saw that question is like one who's been kind of has there been so many people who have been in different situations that I couldn't really pick one. And yeah, I think I have a wonderful husband. So I think we're lucky that we both feel that way about our spouses. I do think he's a good father as well and
17:47 Very supportive. I think I'm the more difficult person to live with you know, and so I feel like he has to put up with more than the other.
18:01 And my mom my mom was one of the kindest people that I know so she said a really good example, I think for me for my brother for all of our family is from what a good person.
18:19 You mentioned that your mother had passed away two years ago was she in the United States at that time or yeah. She she lived in St. Louis, you know, that's where we grew up and she retired at age 70. She actually went back and did her residency in Psychiatry. So she had her own practice. She retired at 70 and moved up here to be close to us and her only grandchild and that was wonderful and she lived maybe just half a mile from us for a mile away and
19:03 And then she worked here for awhile. She retired and then 6 months later went back to work cuz she couldn't stand it worked another five years and then retired for good. She had moved to senior care facility. It wasn't it was Independent Living.
19:24 And pretty much the Divine had a couple health issues along the way but nothing really serious and she just died in her sleep. What is actually the day after my birthday two years ago.
19:40 I mean, that's the way everyone's hope to that. That's right. I'm is never easy losing someone but she had to pick how you doing. I'm happy. That's the way she went for her because I know she was worried because my father had a very kind of painful long or long battle with cancer. So yeah, but at the time it was like this big shock because I got a call, you know from a policeman called and said your mother didn't come down today and now they sent someone to go that was hard.
20:27 So that's the story about kindest.
20:34 So tell me more about
20:38 What prompted you I'm curious what prompted you to convert to Islam actually a lot of people don't believe me when I tell them that I'm a comfort or that I am actually African-American and so, you know today I have my scarf up but I wearing a variety of different ways and my complexion doesn't necessarily say that so I while in high school
21:13 My husband at the time with my boyfriend and I had been raised in a Baptist Church and had been baptized actually twice. Honestly, I don't understand why I did that happen twice, but I remember it being baptized twice, but my family was really not overly religious growing up but we attended church on a regular basis and you know, I never went as far as like church camp and things like that but Sunday school and all that was part of growing up and at some point my mom got turned off from the church and we stopped going and so I would say that was when I was saying around middle school or so, maybe 11 or 12 and
22:07 By the time I made to HighSchool, I still had like this feeling that what kind of like I was in complete or I needed that higher level of spirituality. And so my boyfriend also had the same feelings and we have been in a committed relationship for a while at that point and we started exploring different churches in our area and and it wasn't just charges me. There was one of the places we went was a non denominational churches in South Minneapolis. So that was one of our place we went to I think at least six different churches trying to establish a church Community or see what resonated best with us. And at the time we have to also have friends that were Muslim and in our age group and so they knew that we were on this type of spiritual journey and invited us to come to
23:06 Some Islamic events, like for example prayer service for Muslims on Friday. So one of our friends said hey come to jummah and you'll see how you think the sermon is and you know, see what we do and then another friend had invited me to a woman's halekoa, which is just like a Bible study, but for Muslims and so I had started going to those classes separately and
23:44 We weren't married by this time, but we kind of would come to you like the most one piece of everything about most touching to our heart. And so we started to a $10 more some of the other churches. We visited just didn't resonate or the people that ran the church or was responsible for visitors. He said negative things to us. And so we just kind of like, okay. Well, we're not going back there but this felt more inviting and like it resonated best with us. And so they're in Islam is a lot of separation of men and women and soul classes for the individuals within there were some combine two activities and then we would go to the hollow cuz and it took us over the course of maybe
24:35 I want to say 8 months before we decided we wanted to convert to Islam and so he had decided after going on a high school. We are still high school going on a high school trips to Mexico is gone for about a month and then he had took some books with him and had been doing something but dang and meanwhile, I had continued going to the weekly classes and many of those women that I attend the class with I'm still friends with today. And so I just it was just one day at one of the classes that I said. I'm ready. I'm ready to go like something in my heart. So this is the time that is what I need to be doing. And so I took the hot at that time, which is the conversion. He had taken his shahada shortly after he returned from his trip to Mexico.
25:31 We had already had a relationship. So we maintain that got engaged and I want to say about a year later. We got married.
25:42 Was the Moss that you visited and went to all of these was it mostly African-American or was there a real mix of muscles from different countries still like so there are like with any religion there are many different sects of Islam. And so we didn't follow any particular sect. So the masks that we attended or a blend of people from other places, but also because we are American list loan is in poor be around people like that to to better understand ourselves and have that connection. And so there weren't many american-based Masters in Minnesota around that time. Maybe I think too and so we started out at 1 they moved so in love with
26:42 I think they moved twice and then after that they ended up moving third time and that Moss is now located in well actually after they move twice a kind of split into different mods like two separate masks. And so we split it was hard for us if field dedicated only to one single mask because we noticed some changes and the communities between the two and so I would say that the mosque in North Minneapolis Masjid Noor is our primary mosque, but at the time we had also been attending doll fruit as well. And so that must had moved to a proper Como near the University of Minnesota and and in recent years has been a lot of change.
27:42 Set that mosque. So kind of lost some of that connection and but we you know, I know in some Churches like you are a member of this particular church and me and in some matches, I like that too and some will some are very dedicated to a single Mass. But we tend to not do that because there's some Division and those kind of things and we try to avoid that.
28:11 Yes, I've seen that too.
28:16 It's been hard as American Muslim early when I became with him. A lot of my friends were immigrants. I had a couple other American with some friends as well. But as an adult as a Muslim, it's sometimes challenging because then you get questioned. Well, what kind of muscle are you or do you do all of XYZ? Like I have to validate that I'm you know, validate my face to other people and I think at this stage in my life that I'm too much over that and when people ask. Just so, you know, yes, I'm Muslim and keep it moving. I mentioned my ethnicity are sometimes confusing two people at somewhat ambiguous cuz I am mixed race but not the typical mix race and so everyone in my family even my extended family.
29:16 Assemble my appearance and most of my family is not Muslim. My immediate family is but my extended family know and so often times I have people asked multiple ways. What's my ethnic background or where did I come from or who's your parents? Where did your parents come from? This kind of thing and I a lot of American Muscles get those kind of questions and pretty universally we feel it's an appropriate.
29:48 Anything you want to ask me?
29:58 Well, I'm interested in your art career. Most of my children have careers or are in school or learning some form of Art. And so that's really interesting on what made you specifically go to that and you mentioned that you're still working in like what kind of way is that what your are so when I started thinking about that I want to go back to practicing medicine. I knew that will number one. It would be very demanding TimeWise, and I wanted to be home and I wasn't really happy with the way medicine was working out for me.
30:46 So I thought about what I wanted to do and I went to a career counseling thing that was set up and
30:55 I did the strong inventory. I think it is where they look at your interest and their six areas is like entrepreneurial research Arthur creative structured so forth. So I ended up equally between structured and creative which are on opposite ends of the spectrum. And so they recommended that I think about doing either a structured job in a creative environment like an Arts administrator or doing a creative job that had structural limitations like graphic designer architecture. And so when we moved to Fargo I decided to explore that further, I've always been very
31:44 But my mom taught me how to sew and crochet and those kinds of things. I've always done that kind of thing. And I joined the Quilters Guild in North Dakota and learn how to quilt and they had a newsletter and so I volunteered to help put out the newsletter and the woman who I work with to do that was a graphic designer. And so she taught me how to use the programs on the computer and all that. So I decided to see if that was something I would want to do and take a class. So I went to the university there in Morehead State and the guy who was the head of the department was a graphic designer instead in order to really get something out of the intro to graphic design class. You need to take a year of drawing and a year of design.
32:39 So I decided I might as well do that and once I got into it, I really really enjoyed it and realize that this is something that I can do.
32:52 So I did that whole here and it was until the second year that I could take the graphic design class. And I also took intro to life drawing and I ended up taking a sculpture class cuz you have to take a 3D if you were going to do a 2d major and I love sculpture.
33:09 And I was amazed.
33:13 I got to learn how to use woodworking tools. I got to learn how to weld and do all these things that you normally wouldn't think of women learning to do and and then I took the life stuff for class and realized that
33:35 I could do that and I think it was the knowledge of anatomy that I came from doing medicine and doing obstetrics surgery that really I realized I have a very three-dimensional brain that way that I can see those things. So I decided to continue with that and that that was something I did just for me.
33:56 You know, I feel like I was very driven in the first part of my life to do what was expected and to you know, do it because I was smart school. I thought I can do medicine so I should do medicine I can help people because that was important to me but doing the art was for me and so I decided to keep going with with sculpture and metal casting bronze casting and then we ended up moving here before I was done. So I finished at the University of Minnesota.
34:34 And since then I was pretty busy after I first graduated I got a studio and I started making work and
34:45 Heads a few shows lined up and then when my mother retired and moved up here that sort of took a back seat for a while. But then after she passed away, I really decided to rededicate myself and focus on Art. I would say my art is
35:06 Contact driven a message and it's interesting because you were talking about women and and working with women and with women's issues that has become more and more my focus in my art is women's issues and I went to the women's art institute at Saint Catherine University, which is a intensive month-long program in the summer. I met a lot of other women artists saw what they were working on and I was very inspired to do more.
35:43 So now my artist kind of installation.
35:49 I went to a studio in Northeast to learn how to screen print on fabric because that was something I I wanted to do. I had gone to Pakistan and seen the artist are the henna artist and the fabric artist who do fabric design and these are people we normally don't think of as artists when you think of the Western Art world, you know, their designers are you know, they do henna so they're craftspeople, but I really thought know this is still an artistic Endeavor and I want to bring that out because when I went to Pakistan and everything there was so artistic and creative like everything in it and there's such a big industry around that for weddings.
36:38 So I wanted to bring that out in my work here and give a nod to it. So that's why I wanted to learn how to screen print sofa for a while. I was doing henna designs but then printing them on fabric and then making things out of the fabric.
36:54 But after I went to st. Kate's I kind of went back to the content piece of it. So now my work is is
37:04 About the role of women and and this is where religion comes into it too and culture and what I've been told all my life about what the role of women is.
37:21 So and I'm currently working on a state Arts board grant that has to do with Minnesota women.
37:30 A variety of women in Minnesota and how they're contributing to.
37:38 Okay, cuz I think you're going to be your contribution might be raising children and that should be acknowledged as a significant contribution, you know.
37:52 I think everything that a woman does is important.
37:56 So you could be working at a job and that's important.
38:02 I think sometimes we're looking at women and their role and contribution and things like that. Sometimes the focus is on others perception of that and even from the woman standpoint, they are others going to perceive or see that I'm doing this or acknowledge that I'm doing this and not all wouldn't have that but I do see it quite often and whether it's a dominant feeling or kind of a passive feeling I think that it's something that a lot of women question and some women are seen to be driven and ambitious and making changes to you. No feel fulfilled. Sometimes those feelings of fulfillment intertwine with what other people are thinking of you, which can sometimes be unmet
39:02 Challenges I think
39:05 But Society plays a really big role in all of those things as you mention, like religion and The Impressions that are given and I know in Islam a lot of times as perceived as that.
39:20 Women are oppressed or things like that and ultimately as someone who tows to be Muslim, I see that but I don't see it as an Islamic thing. I see it as a cultural thing that gets Tangled into being described as Islam and I see it in other religions in other cultures. And so that says to me that this is a universal thing that looks different depending on where you are.
39:53 Quite right I couldn't agree more.
40:35 Would you like to go first sure how politics today is crazy and people are insane and I
40:46 Sometimes wonder
40:49 How based in reality people really are I think the purpose of politics and government is to help.
41:00 Facilitate when there are a large number of people living together, I think having lived in Fargo, which was the smallest place I ever lived.
41:13 The smaller the number of people the less you need government because everybody knows everybody else. No one wants to do anything that's going to get around to everyone else and be perceived as bad and there are more resources for the people that are there.
41:34 I think when you get into larger communities, then you need some rules and regulations and I think that's what the purpose of government is and we are very large country with a number of states each with their own large populations. So I think the government is necessary and I think the purpose of government should be done to make life easy for it's easier for a Citizens that to make sure that their citizens have the opportunity to have a good life to support themselves to contribute to society to raise their children to be able to feed their and clothe and house their families.
42:20 And I think we also have an obligation to take care of the planet that we live on because
42:29 You know, we could easily destroy it and it'll be gone and that will just make things tougher for everybody who is here.
42:36 I think that's what's been becoming more and more evident. Especially with the current political climate is there's a lot of overgeneralization is happening and a variety of areas whether we're talking about race or religion or immigration or finances or you know, all these different things with a lot of overarching. Do you know phrases are buttons and you don't really understand the nuances are or how something came to be how it is and how do you know openly discuss? Okay. This is isn't it sure is not an issue. It may look like an issue based on the limited information. But once you find more information that okay, this is actually something else like there's not enough conversations happening and with that going on the people quickly jumped to one side or the other based on these hot fries.
43:36 And it does get more division developing. I mean, I'm pretty confident that one of my close co-workers has the opposite political view than I do but we get along really well and we talked about family and life and we don't argue about the things like you have a lot of common feelings and beliefs, even though we are very different people and I think that people just took a breath and calm down and actually talked to each other. In fact, I had a friend a Muslim friend who went to a recent protest at the state capitol and she was kind of on the front lines and she just started talking to the people across from her like why do you believe that like what what's the backing for?
44:36 And then they openly had a conversation and then they both realized. Okay. I will see you in a different. You know what I mean? Like I thought you got something else or I thought you were representing the store and maybe the person was initially until they understood the background from her side and it's like oh, oh, okay. I didn't realize that you do. I mean, so just just people coming down a little bit and actually exploring what's going on. But then at the same time, I see people who aren't interested in exploring more they just jump to whatever they're told or what seems to make sense. But unless you actually talked about it is not going to be the life is like a mathematical equation is unless you studied the the algorithms and the weight of the process of operations. You not going to get to the right ending. It's it's going to look different and it's in might be wrong. You might be wrong. It might be the wrong.
45:36 Ending or thought because you didn't pulley like processes. I told my husband this morning, but I feel that there's Neil this polarization that's going on and then there's a whole bunch of people who are probably somewhere in the middle.
45:55 In our country and
45:59 You either feel like you have to go to One Direction or the other because there are these two extreme groups out there or
46:08 You don't say anything because you're the middle the moderate and it made me it made me think of after 9/11.
46:16 When people were talking about Muslims and saying how they were, you know, Kerris and this and that and the other and I thought and the Muslim World said, you know, the majority of us are sensible peaceful calm people and these are extremists. Okay, but extremists are so vocal and everybody else is not so, you know, you don't realize how many people don't feel that way because they're not loud. It's you know, they say the squeaky wheel gets the oil has me so much. It's like, you know what they're not the voice of the majority and it's not even just in politics. I mean, I'm sure you've had co-workers or organ it or other people you work with an organization's then they complain enough or do certain ways or do certain things enough to get things in their favor and it's like wait a minute. That's not the right where it's not the
47:16 Everyone else feels and unfortunately, I don't know how or why it came to be like that. But yeah, you're right. The people are more vocal tend to get the attention and an end to another one of your points is people aren't comfortable with saying I don't know, you know, I don't know that I heard about this or I learned about that, but it's not a place where I can pick a side.
47:46 I'm also worried about social media.
47:50 And the influence that has I remember when when my I'm going to call her my daughter now cuz she is my daughter when she was in school and they first started using the internet for research as a resource and allowing to quote things from the internet for papers that they wrote and they were told you can't just quote Wikipedia you have to
48:17 You have to make sure as a reference even if you see it on Wikipedia, so it's not just that and now I think nobody does not anymore. Nobody thinks about that. They see something on Facebook and they just believe it. They don't question.
48:32 Yeah, not even realizing that Facebook isn't a reliable source. Yeah, it it goes back to that people not like pausing and saying wait a minute. I need to actually see if that's really what's happening or just going along with a herd of what everyone else is doing.
49:17 My Hope for the country I would say is I really hope that people have taken this time we're we're forced to change our lifestyles during the pandemic to really reflect a broadly on what is most concerning to them or what's affecting their lives, I think that if we continue to look through a telescope lens then we limit ourselves extremely as far as myself goes. I really hope to continue working on myself care and continuing to be someone that can help other people see themselves and see a different perspective and other people
50:08 Thanks for the country. I would like to see people step outside of their own skins and see things from others point of view.
50:26 I think the country has to reckon with its history and it's past and I don't think we've done that and I think we need to get there but it is going to take everybody realizing what other people go through that is different from their experience.
50:49 For myself
50:55 I hope to continue to grow my biggest wish for my family is that my daughter find herself and her place in life and that she is happy and can live a fulfilled life for her because I worry for her. I worry a lot.