Hussain Manawer, who is a Muslim-Brit, beat thousands of competitors for a seat on the XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx commercial spacecraft which sets off into space next year and will orbit the earth. Young adults from 90 countries applied to the contest, sponsored by talent firm Kruger Cowne’s Rising Star. Hussain delivered a spoken-word poem on mental health in front of judges Sir Bob Geldof, Fatima Bhutto and an international audience.
Hussain, who has a YouTube channel called ‘Hussain’s House,’ talks to BuzzFeed about his personal mission on mental health awareness: “I think all of us in our life are going to encounter something bigger than us. And I think we can learn – especially ethnic minorities and working-class communities – how to support one another. If we can help support each other we’ll be in a better position than [we] actually are. I remember going to [my] aunty’s house one time and people were like, ‘Don’t talk to her,’ as she’s depressed, and I’m like, ‘Yo, it’s not contagious y’know. You’re not going to catch it.’”
The activist talks about the irony of winning a trip to space in contrast with his experiences with more local travel, being profiled at various airports here on Earth. “At the final ceremony they announced me as the winner. The first thing I did was give my acceptance speech and said: “My name is Hussain and I’m not a terrorist”, that was important for me to say… Because people think Muslims are terrorists, and being able to travel, I have faced so many racial profiling encounters.”