At a writing conference on the first anniversary of former student Hasan Hussain’s death, freshman Saif Inam described his best friend with one word: “revolutionary.”
“He expressed to me that he wanted to write against oppressive institutions,” Inam said. “He had radical, new, insane ideas all the time. He refused to budge from his values … he never conformed.”
Inam said he and Hussain had been best friends since elementary school.
Hussain jumped to his death from a Hall on Virginia Avenue fourth floor balcony on April 18. Inam spoke about his best friend’s ideas and writing at a conference held in his memory Friday.
Inam said that Hussain’s writing, which he only really became familiar with after his death, inspired him to start writing poetry.
Junior Najma Khorrami, a member of the Muslim Student Association, organized the event, which she called a “GW Writers’ Conference: Writing and Reflections.” Hussain enjoyed writing poems and short stories.
“This is a way to remember former student Hasan who tragically passed away last year, and the best way to remember him is to remember his writing,” she said.
Thirty-five students submitted writings, including poetry, short stories and academic essays. The writings were voted on and authors of the top works received gift certificates for the GW Bookstore.
All of the participants met in workshops during the conference to critique each other’s writing.
Senior Chelsea Riley, an English major, won a prize for her poetry. Although she did not know Hussain, she said she enjoyed working with younger students during the workshops.
Four panelists also spoke to students about their careers in writing.
Melinda Knight, executive director of the University Writing Program, spoke about the growth she has experienced through writing.
“Good writing is that which accomplishes its objective. If the objective is to change people’s minds, then it is good and effective if it does that,” she said.
Patricia Stacey, an Atlantic Monthly writer, spoke about her recently published book on her son’s struggles with autism. University writing professor Matt Riley and journalism professor Larry Lipman talked about the importance of writing.
Khorrami started planning the event in October to honor Hussain and help budding writers. Although she did not know Hussain before his death, she felt a strong connection to him through the Muslim community.
“I read one of his poems, and that was the main way I felt a piece of him,” she said.
Khorrami focused this first-time event on personal growth through writing.
She said, “You can become a better person, a smarter person, a funnier person through writing.”