African American Studies
Fatima is originally from Algeria, but spent her childhood in France. She was born into a “rabea” family of Algerian “traditionalists” and “nationalists.” Her dad moved to France when he was 10 years old, and her mother moved there in 1970 when she married her father. Her mother was employed as a babysitter through the DAS program of the French government. She eventually adopted some of the children she babysat who had been abandoned by their parents. This complicated her childhood because the adopted siblings were of different ethnic groups, which caused confusion when they were introduced as family members.
While in school, she received a scholarship from the “prestigious Apollinaire” but was discouraged to accept it by her parents. She eventually earned a degree in Accounting. Throughout her youth, Fatima learned Karate and Dance. She was really interested in hip hop and American culture. She also held many random jobs throughout her youth.
Her grandfather was a general during Algeria’s war of independence and has a large statue dedicated to him in Beyard, Algeria. This contributed to her family’s nationalist ideas. As she grew older, she didn’t like living in France and was attracted to the idea of moving to New York after being invited by a friend that lived there. She went there in 2002 when she was 26. She fell in love with the city because it was a place where “all kinds of social classes interact” unlike in France. She also believes working hard is rewarded more in New York than in France. She soon met her husband and decided to get married within a few months.
She moved with her husband to Castle Hill in the Bronx, which reminded her of living in Paris. However, she felt bothered that family ties in the US aren’t as strong. Eventually, she moved to Spanish Harlem. She worked in a restaurant and her husband was a school chef, and they didn’t make much money. She eventually bought a Jamaican-French restaurant, and expanded it to a second location.
As a mother, she has struggled to teach her children Algerian culture and nationalism – though she does continue practicing Islamic culture with friends. She also thinks New York is a great place to raise children because it offers many opportunities in life, though she wants her son to eventually go to school in France. She also wants to leave New York, to live in France or somewhere tropical, but return on vacations. She concludes by saying that New York is a place where hard work pays off and you can do anything, regardless of “origin, color, name, or whatever.”
Salem, Fatima Naik. Date of interview unknown. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
Click below to download supplemental content.Salem, Fatima Naik Part 1.mp3 (46955 kB)
Salem, Fatima Naik Part 2.mp3 (18838 kB)
Salem, Fatima Naik Part 3.mp3 (5376 kB)