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Guest Feature: Fouzia Chaparro-Bencheikh
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Before we dive right in, this week’s guest feature and my friend, Fouzia Chaparro-Bencheikh, wanted to share an important message with everyone about the wildfires currently spreading across Algeria:
The Northeast of Algeria is currently battling 118 raging wild fires, specifically across the Kabyle region. So far the estimates are 37 people have died, 200 others have suffered burns and respiratory problem, 350 residents have been evacuated in several provinces, and 2,600 hectares of land have been destroyed. This has been happening more frequently in Kyble, including last year when 90 people are estimated to have died and more than 100,000 hectares of woodland was burnt. It’s difficult to get resources into Algeria from the outside but if there are folks in the diaspora who are fundraising or working to get support the affected regions, please DM me on Twitter at @Fouzzzita so I can share that with folks who want to help. If you are a praying person, please send up your Dua’as for folks impacted. Thank you.
Okay friends, I am so excited to now properly introduce this week’s incredible human: Fouzia Chaparro-Bencheikh!
Fouzia is a learning designer and educator for activists and movement builders. For 10 years, she has designed and managed education programs bringing activists to learn with and from one another. Fouzia has led multidisciplinary programs for leaders in 17 countries and the U.S. She advocates for creating learning hubs in movement-building spaces where leaders can advance the knowledge and skills they need to further their movement-building work, form crucial interpersonal connections for solidarity, and expand the possibilities for collective transformation. She is currently the Applied Learning Officer at Malala Fund where she built and launched the organization’s first learning and development initiative for activists embedded in the organization’s flagship programs. Fouzia is also a Board Member of Teaching for Change, an organization working to equip K-12 educators and teachers to incorporate anti-racist, social justice curricula in classrooms around the U.S.
Outside of the professional realm, Fouzia loves bringing people together over food, any location near a large body of water, curious people, tea (all of it), white-water rafting, a royal color palette, a few hours to herself in the evenings to process her feelings, babies with glasses, astronomy, strong hugs, poetry, the thrill of riding a motorcycle, playing the violin, and painting terribly.
Fouzia is Muslim, the daughter of Mexican and Algerian immigrants, and lives in Chicago.
It’s clear that Fouzia literally does it all! And as y’all will see in her answers, she is just as thoughtful about her music as she is about everything else in her life:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I never imagined living in such a challenging time when I was younger. Tbh, I thought I’d be living in a prairie house on Saturn by now. I’ve been resisting despair by leaning into music that’s hopeful, defiant, and bombastic. My playlists have been invaluable in keeping me lifted and my fire burning bright.
“Disco Maghreb” by Cheb Snake. I’m Algérienne so you already know what song is going first. DJ Snake said “Djazaïr supremacy” this summer and I am left with no options but to stan. The guellal, the ghaïta on loop, the homage to Wahran and Raï. But what makes the song is the video. Seeing Algerians dance, sing, get married, race camels and motorbikes, and generally be jubilant is one of my favorite things. Everything about the song and video is flames and makes me proud to be Algerian.
“Al Norte” by Silvana Estrada. Silvana Estrada is an emerging indie artist from Mexico. She’s one of many artists putting out music that is modernizing a distinct Mexican sound Al Norte is tinged with a little magic. It’s gorgeous for summer days and nights.
“Water (FKJ Remix) by Little Dragon. My greatest loves are things, places, people, songs that remind me of water so I gave this a listen a few weeks back and I’m obsessed. FKJ really turned this song out. It sounds like it should be playing at a sultry, futuristic, electro underwater club.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Ya Rayah”, Rashid Taha’s version. Dahmane El Harrachi’s version is a chaâbi classic but the late Rashid Taha’s is basically the Algerian Nation Anthem. His voice and the melody evokes the yearning and nostalgia in the lyrics that so many of us in the diaspora have for Algeria. It’s a beautiful song and I’m so blessed anytime I am able to listen to this version in community with other Algerians.
“Cien Años” by Natalia Lafourcade and Pepe Aguilar. Mexicans excel at taking our feelings of heartbreak and despair and romanticizing them. So many of our songs about sadness and tragedy are the most beautiful songs I know. This song is a remake of the 1953 version by Pedro Infante about running into a lost love and the grief of that person (who you still love), ignoring your existence (gotta hear both sides tho… what did Pedro do?) . Every major Mexican entertainer has done a remake of the song but this is the best one. Natalia and a number of Mexican artists are ushering in this modern, romantic, folk Mexican sound that you hear in her version and it’s glorious.
“Late Bloomer” by Mereba. Mereba has one of the most beautiful voices and the otherworldliness of this song touches me deeply. This song brings me to tears because I think of my loved ones, my family, and the friendships I’ve developed in the last five years. So many of us are in the eras of our lives where we’re trying to overcome past trauma and personal disappointments in the midst of a society in decline. The message of this song is that it’s never too late to evolve into the person you were meant to be all along. When I listen to this song I think of how grateful I am for my community and what a blessing it is to be witness to someone’s growth and evolution.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
I don’t feel place-based nostalgia for anywhere I’ve lived or even where my parents are from (unless it’s soccer time, then the toxic nationalism comes out in full force). Home has always been my family who have loved and shaped me, and who I get up in the morning for.
“Me Voy de Casa” by Natalia Lafourcade. This song represents my most beloved ancestor, my mom. She passed away from cancer in 2017 before she could hear this song but the lyrics are like a manifesto for how she lived her life. The message of the song is not to be scared of what may happen, to roll the dice, and to be an active participant in the adventure that is your life. My mom took several leaps of faith throughout her life. She had a vivacious spirit and unquenchable wanderlust that is beautifully reflected in Natalia’s words. I sometimes feel like I hear my mom singing the words to me because it’s exactly the type of thing she would say when I was feeling anxious, intimidated, sad, and small.
“Let’s Dance” by David Bowie represents my brother (my bff). My brother and I sat down years ago to binge Flight of the Conchords. Their David Bowie episode led to us binging Bowie’s greatest hits which have led to multiple, epic renditions of Let’s Dance over the years while sing-yelling in the car and enthusiastically jumping on couches using a spoon as a microphone.
The iconic “La Chona” by Los Tucanes de Tijuana for my equally iconic, festive grandmother. My grandma is 97 and alzheimer's has taken a lot from her but something alzheimer’s will never do is take away her coquettish party girl ways. She loves being the center of attention at big family gatherings, dancing, and loud, Northern Mexican banda. Even at 97, when we are at a gathering, she’ll always get someone to sneak her mezcal, cigarettes, and cookies (she’s diabetic). She does all these things in front of my face even though she knows it makes me sick. This song about a fun-loving dance queen who can’t be stopped is my favorite song for my favorite fun-loving dance queen.
“Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior for my sister, la bébé. She’s 14 and we’re 20 years apart so she’s the child I never birthed. The song that unifies her, my brother, and me is the feel-good anthem Move Your Feet. I remember her singing it so freely and happily in the car the last time I went to visit and it’s one of my favorite memories of her.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Tellement n’brik” by Faudel. I can’t speak Darija and my French is meh at best but ooooh am I fluent in this song. Maybe it’s because I’m Algerian but I love a song that sounds like it was made with a 90s Casio synth keyboard. It’s also soooooo dramatic. He love this person SO MUCH. Again, I–a Leo– live for high drama and this song is it.
“Andar Conmigo” by Julieta Venegas. I love wholesome, romantic music and this is one of my favorite love songs. It’s in the melodic style of Northern Mexican love songs. The end of the song is so dreamy with chorus and the accordion and guitar in the background. One of my favorites to sing and a Mexican classic.
“All Night Parking” by Adele. My favorite song from her new album. I love the jazz trap production but the lyrics get me every time. The way she sings about being someone usually unimpressed and preferably alone in the throes of a major crush resonates deeply.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“Regardless” by Miraa May. I love British-Algerian baddie, Miraa May. All her songs exemplify the essence of Algerian women that I know and love so much – confidence, intelligence, hustle, humor, passion, grit, and the ability to knock you out if you EVER cross them. “I could never take no disrespect. Disrespect me, it's off with your head yeah…” Wow. An anthem.
“Summer Renaissance” by Beyoncé aka the Queen. At any moment, there’s an 8-way tie for my favorite song on Renaissance. However, I keep coming back to Summer Renaissance because it feels like a cumulation of all the songs on the album into one. I’m in love with the futuristic disco sound. I also heard “Summer Renaissance” at a club in Pilsen a few weekends back and the song sounds euphoric in a group setting.
“Ragda Fi Rimal” live 1994 version in the U.S. by the king of Raï, Khaled. This song has a special place in my heart. The worst year of my life was 2017-2018. It was one of those years where things just pile on relentlessly and you wonder if you’re going to make it to the other side. This obscure live rendition of Khaled’s Ragda Fi Rimal got me through (which is wild). I remember hearing it at a hookah bar and tearoom one Sunday where I was catching up on work and immediately stopping everything I was doing to listen to the song closely. Instant serotonin. Khaled’s voice, the production (at its most Casio keyboard synth-iest), the energy! This song quickly became my lifeline. The original version with that fusion Carribbean-Maghreb melody is legendary but the live version will always be special to me. During that year, I must have listened to that song 5 times, every day to get me through and it did. The wild thing is that I don’t know the meaning of the song to this day. My sister is the Darija speaker in the family but even she couldn’t translate it. I’ve never asked for it to be translated any further because it’s likely that there isn’t a deep meaning, which is fine with me. It’s sonically joyous, my go-to when I’m not feeling like myself, and hands down my favorite song of all time.
Big shout out to Fouzia for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Fouzia’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Be sure to go follow Fouzia on Twitter too, y’all!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Love to the People - Khaled featuring Santana
Agheeb - Almas
Laisse Tomber - Tagne featuring 7liwa
Wast El Nile - Moudy Al Arabe
S7ab - Joujma
Release - Zaina Berri
start again - Maro
Game Over - Tageel
Dama - Kira The Blurryface featuring Freek
SLOW - VLI WEEZY
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Cumbia Del Corazón - Los Ángeles Azules featuring Carlos Vives
Juego Del Amor - Aroe Phoenix
Envidia - Nino Freestyle
La Chain - Emilia
Se Acabo Todo - Vale
Eme - Big Soto featuring Ryan Castro
Cuando zarpa el amor - Vicky Carbacho
De Pari - Cazzu featuring Mora
Ande Con Quien Ande - Myke Towers featuring Jhay Cortez
Ulayeh - Sebastian Yatra featuring Nouamane Belaiachi
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
First Warning - snowsa
Love and Power - Transviolet
Budget - Megan Thee Stallion featuring Latto
SETE - K.O. featuring Young Stunna and Blxckie
Belize - Danger Mouse & Black Thought featuring MF DOOM
City of Angels - Nesta featuring Mereba
Margarites - Angela Dimitriou
202 - GoldLink
Out in the O - Double Lz
Clockwork - Stefflon Don featuring Spice
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Collective Beekeeping in South Lebanon - Yara El Murr, The Public Source
Started as a grassroots initiative, By Bee brings together Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian professional and amateur beekeepers working in South Lebanon.
Lebanon crisis: Citizens desperate to escape decry passport application chaos - Adam Chamseddine, Middle East Eye
With system hampered by a chronic lack of funds, applicants face waits of more than a year to book an appointment.
Silencing Kenyan activism and the spread of a new fear - Dana Hourany, NOW Lebanon
Human rights organizations call for the release of prominent Kenyan activist ‘NM,’ who is facing deportation and is currently detained at the Lebanese General Security. Fear of further crackdown on activists looms over the country’s neglected migrant domestic workers community.
Public sector paralysed as Lebanon lurches towards 'failed state' - Maya Gebeily and Timour Azhari, Reuters
"Now I can't do that because it means I couldn't afford to eat. This is definitely a failed state."
Burned alive, allegedly by her husband, Hanaa Khodr succumbed to her injuries - Zeina Antonios, L’Orient Today
The 21-year-old mother of two died Wednesday. Last Sunday, another woman tried to end her life, allegedly after being beaten by her husband. Women’s rights associations denounced an “unprecedented” level of domestic violence (*Warning: This story contains descriptions of abuse)
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Despite promises, Saudi executions already nearly double from last year - Sarah Dadouch, The Washingtost
As early as 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed said executions would be reduced as part of the modernization of the kingdom.
‘No hope’: Suicides on the rise in northwestern Syria - Ali Haj Suleiman, Al Jazeera
Continuing war and lack of opportunities and hope drive some in opposition-held areas of Syria to take their own lives (*Warning: This story contains descriptions of suicide)
Iraq's Garden of Eden now 'like a desert' - Tony Gamal Gabriel, Agence France-Presse
Vast expanses of the once lush Huwaizah Marshes have been baked dry, their vegetation yellowing. Stretches of the Chibayish Marshes, which are popular with tourists, are suffering the same fate.
After deadly church fire, Egyptian neighborhood searches for answers - Siobhán O'Grady and Heba Farouk Mahfouz, The ington Post
The back roads of a working-class neighborhood in greater Cairo transformed into makeshift funeral parlors on Monday, as a community confronted the devastating aftermath of a church fire that killed 41 people, including many children.
What’s in the Future for Anaheim’s Little Arabia? - Hosam Elattar, Voice of OC
As a long awaited official discussion on recognizing Anaheim’s Arab American business owners inches closer, their own city council district representative remains their toughest foe.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Rapper's delight: Against the odds Lebanon's rap artists are having a breakout moment - Muriel Rozelier, Middle East Eye
With the country's situation going from bad to worse, rap has emerged as the perfect vehicle for encapsulating its ills.
How Bella Hadid and Ramy Youssef Became BFFs - Sarah Hagi, GQ
Bella Hadid makes her long-awaited acting debut on the new season of Ramy. And it turns out her friendship with the show’s creator and star, Ramy Youssef, has helped her navigate some of life’s more meaningful questions concerning faith, family, and using your voice for the common good.
“I’ve built my career upon telling stories about marginalized communities, and by doing so, I’ve attempted to push us all out of the margins and into the center. Why? Because I know all too well the pain of misrepresentation.”
1974: Gil Scott Heron / Brian Jackson, Winter in America - Sama’an Ashrawi, 68to05.com
“What I know is: the record would have come into his life some time around 1976, four years after his baba passed away, and shortly after he, born a refugee in the basement of a church in Jerusalem, made it to the States from Palestine.”
How Professors Are Making A Case For Hip-Hop In Academia - Robyn Mowatt, Okayplayer
Over the course of 30 years, hip-hop has been on a journey to becoming more respected in academia. For these professors, the genre provides a unique way to look at the world.
📚 Other Reads 📚
What is ‘quiet quitting’? Gen Z is ditching hustle culture to avoid burnout - Alena Botros, Fortune
Tired of feeling like you’re working so hard with little reward, but you don’t necessarily want to completely give up? Try “quiet quitting,” or quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work.
‘It’s Untenable’: The Unequal Burden of the Student Debt Crisis - Giulia Heyward, Capital B
The loan payment freeze expires on Aug. 31 unless Biden extends it. Here’s how millions of Black Americans could be affected.
The 29-year-old was murdered by her ex-husband after she bravely shed light on the reality of divorce and escaping domestic violence as a South Asian woman.
Sylvia Fowles’s Final Ride and the Last Days of a Legend - Mirin Fader, The Ringer
The Minnesota Lynx star’s final season hasn’t gone exactly according to plan, but the future Hall of Famer is still cherishing every little moment—and lesson—before she walks away from the game she relentlessly dominated for 15 years.
Hundreds of kids witness parents shot to death. This is what it does to them. - John Woodrow Cox, The Washington Post
In Chicago, 2,400 children lost parents to gun violence over five years, a Washington Post analysis found. Some saw them killed.