"I was the first person in my immediate family who came to the United States, and first to be born outside of Tunisia. My son was the first, to be born in the United States."Personal stories can been a powerful catalyst for change – challenging stereotypes, building bridges, and inspiring action. In a country as diverse and complex as the United States, the identities of Muslim Americans remain layered and contested. We all have stories to tell: stories that deserve to be collected, conserved, and celebrated.
“Muslim American Journeys” is a MALA program produced in partnership with NPR’s StoryCorps and the Library of Congress, providing a platform for Americans of Muslim heritage to share their individual stories. By sharing a diverse range of narratives and experiences, “Journeys” aims to document oral history, inspire pride, and celebrate individuality. Every story recorded is officially archived in the Library of Congress, and outstanding stories are featured on National Public Radio.
Slim Kherzi (aka SLIMK), an artist and entrepreneur in California. A former Michael Jackson impersonator, he runs DoubaJen Records, an independent record and publishing company. He has acted in numerous TV shows, films and music videos, including a film on the Armenian Genocide, an Amnesty International ad on gay rights, and the music video for KSHMR that chronicles the life a would-be suicide bomber.
My family’s origins lie in Tunisia, going back at least six generations. My father immigrated to Switzerland, returned home to marry my mother, and then relocated to Germany. I was born and raised in Germany, but then moved to Tunisia for six years when I was 9. When I look back to great nostalgic times, I often think of the times in Germany rather than the ones in Tunisia. But I don’t regret the time I had there with my extended family, who made me who I am and taught me a great deal about myself. Thanks to that experience I appreciate the many points of view between the West and the Middle East.
17 years ago, I moved to the U.S. America is the kind of country that you either LOVE or really HATE. Some of my friends came and were disappointed, as they always tried to compare it to movies. I was realistic, and having lived in Germany and Tunisia prepared me that reality might be different. For me it was love at first sight, when I walked out the LAX airport doors. I knew right then that I’m going to grow old here. However I was a little surprised at how many Americans are a bit ignorant towards what goes on around the world outside the US.
My first jobs in LA were modeling and small bit parts in films. I had the classic struggling actor’s empty apartment, old black & white TV, mattress on the floor, and lots of ramen noodles. Look at me now – houses, family, cars, my own companies – all from scratch, from zero. I’ve come a LONG way, living the dream… the American dream. Lots of hard work, patience, focus, passion can get you anywhere. In Germany I felt that many are focused on what one can’t do, here in America I find that many are focused on what one can do. Just that mindset makes a great deal of a difference. Positive, optimistic, uplifting.
America to me is more than just a spot on the map, it’s an idea I admire, an amazing and unique one. Some Americans don’t understand it or realize how lucky they are.
I personally have never faced any racism, nor religious prejudice at any time or in country I’ve been to. I’ve seen it though, but never experienced it personally. I never had any trouble with American authorities. I’ve came in and out of the country many many times over the past 17 years. I do think it is a matter of attitude and how you present yourself. I don’t have a problem either if stopped by police and questioned. I have nothing to hide and would always treat the situation with respect. Works well for me. I brought with me to America a few traditions from the old country – for example certain holidays I observe, certain foods I cook that my parents and my grandmother taught me. Over time I have given up a few things that I consider to be outdated traditions or superstitious religious things. I outgrew these time, not because of pressure from anybody. You go through soul searching. I’ve always had an open mind, and I am a very curious creature that can’t stop learning. My goal is to learn about life by living it, not by trying to figure out a cryptic plan a ‘creator’ has in store for me. I had a very rich upbringing – not in terms of money, but culturally speaking. Growing up between two different cultures and multiple languages, Europe (Germany) and Africa (Tunisia), going through nine schools in both countries, and having all of the traditions and cultures at my disposal.