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Guest Feature: Houda Mzioudet
In the past week, three fires have broken out at the Beirut Port. And as the fire continues to burn, the Lebanese government has taken zero action and responsibility.
In fact, the government has barred rescue teams and firefighters — and anyone — from approaching the site, citing “safety concerns” and claiming that they are trying to find a solution that has the least amount of repercussions.
But frankly, as Ilham al-Bikai (whose son was killed in the August 2020 blast) put it, “They say they're worried about public safety. The fire has been burning for more than a week.”
The government’s concerns don’t seem genuine (of course).
All of this is incredibly triggering for Lebanon and everyone still traumatized from the blast from August 2020. What’s happening is criminal, truly, and both the apathy and the continued lack of inaction from the Lebanese government remain a big middle finger to the people and their collective trauma. All of this happening as we approach the two-year mark of the port blast.
My friends, let’s get into the rest of the newsletter today. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Houda Mzioudet!
Houda an academic researcher who has covered the Arab uprisings and their aftermath with Al Jazeera English, the CBC, the BBC, and Qantara (Deutsche Welle). She has been active since the Tunisian revolution with the Black Tunisian community. She published articles, research papers, and policy briefs about the Arab Uprisings for international think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The German Council for Foreign Relations, the Arab Reform Initiative and Fundacion Alternativas. She has also co-authored a book on the Libyan Displacement Crisis (Georgetown University Press, 2016).
Her research work focuses on transitional justice, border dynamics in North Africa, civil society activism, intersectionality, Black identities in the MENA region, gender and media, and migration and diaspora identities. She holds an MA in Cultural Studies from the Manouba University (Tunisia) and is currently studying for a BA in Political Science at the University of Toronto (Canada).
Houda always has such thoughtful analysis on Tunisia, the developments in the country, and Black identity. And also, Houda has to be one of the nicest people I’ve come across on Twitter. It was such an honor to have Houda share her go-to music, and to read the personal stories behind her answers:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I am a late Gen X/early Millennial so I have the knack for anything 1980s. For “Drive”, I first heard a decade ago in a documentary about Bob Geldof’s African humanitarian work and it touched me deeply.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
These songs are my best to sing karaoke (I am a fan) because the amount of feeling and vibes they have when I sing them. For me, music is the universal language and it enters you without having to understand its lyrics.
Mary J. Blige and George Michael are my most romantic singers (I cried a lot when George died because he represented my childhood’s first musical memories and he is a genius). Daniel Balavoine is a great committed French singer who sang about universal love in “Sauver L’amour” but also denounced racism in France and his premature death was devastating to many in the Francophone world. France Gall’s song is one of the most famous French songs in the English-speaking world paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and the fight of African Americans for recognition and emancipation in a racist society. Sade’s song is the epitome of high poetry about love and she is classy. Roxette’s song has a great vibe that brings goosebumps whenever I hear it. I love to sing it on karaoke.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
My childhood in the southeastern Tunisian town of Zarzis was cradled with all the songs whom my late uncle Kamel, a music lover, used to play for me and my little sister. We used to dance on these songs since the age of 4-5. As Black Tunisians, listening to Black music from the West was spiritually uplifting (in this case reggae).
For Ahmed Fakroun, this is from Kamel’s stay in Benghazi working there in the 1980s and bringing his cassettes, when at that time Fakroun was considered a precursor to World Music before Cheb Khaled shot to fame. Yasmine Khayyam’s song reminds me of my late night’s trips back and forth from Tunis — for me as a southerner living on the border to Libya, traveling to Tunis was like travelling to another country as a child.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Roch Voisine helped me get over my dad’s premature death in 1992, so I used to sing his songs whenever I felt down, nostalgic. Also, I got the first glimpse of Quebec and Canada in general and started dreaming of living in the country since my teenage years. Same for the British band Take That, whom I credit for having improved my English through learning their songs — and would daydream to visit Manchester as a teenager lol.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Morissette’s songs are impactful with a lot of messages of gratitude, hope and wisdom. “Thank You” is one of them (I thank India for having invented yoga, the best therapy one can ever have). U2 are a political band and their music is like a history book about the fight of the Irish against British imperialism and African-Americans against US racism — and by extension a tribute to people living under oppression, in particular Palestinians. I love Ireland and Irish people and got the chance to have visited the beautiful country. R.E.M. albums, which I bought when I used to live in London in 2003, would give me the energy to work hard (I was a research student at the time working on my M.A. on hip-hop music).
Big shout out to Houda for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Houda’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please, go follow Houda on Twitter right now to keep up with all of her incredible work!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Ganzeer - Perrie
Le Dem - Samara featuring Didine Canon 16
Kevokim - Şehribana Kurdi
Zero Limite - Khtek
Dounya - othmanouilki
Panorama - Marwan Moussa featuring Karim Enzo and Yonyo
Petite Soeur - Tiiwtiiw featuring Marwa Loud
El Qahera - Donia Wael & El Waili
Feel Something - Ramriddlz
Balak - zeyne featuring Saint Levant
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Mine - Nino Augustine
A Tiempo - Pitizion
Castigada - Catalyna featuring Young Miko and Cory
Los Cachos - Piso 21 featuring Manuel Turizo
Me Hace Tanto Bien - Yuridia featuring Eden Muñoz
NOSE - La Gabi
Celular - Claudia Prieto
Toma - Pitbull featuring Lil Jon
Ain’t Loyal - Melii
Tu - Noelia
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Definition - Mabel
Game Over (Remix) - Lil Flip featuring Young Buck and Bun B
Sit Back - Shaé Universe featuring ENNY
Green Light - Jimmy featuring Unknown T
Xtasy - Ravyn Lenae
Life is Good - SiR featuring Scribz Riley
STFU - Digga D
2NLuv - Jenevieve featuring Benziboy
Sunshine - Steve Lacy featuring Fousheé
never forget - Omah Lay
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Lebanon telecoms mark-up threatens migrants' link to jobs and safety - Maya Gebeily, Reuters
"Now in Lebanon if you are here, you are wasting your time, wasting your energy ... Because everything is expensive, and you'll have nothing to save for yourself or send to your family. So it's better to go home"
Lebanon minister: Silos destroyed in 2020 blast may collapse - Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
The ruins of the Beirut Port silos, shredded in a massive explosion two years ago, may collapse because of a fire that ignited last week and that is still smoldering inside the structure.
Ongoing civil strikes further cripple everyday life in Lebanon - David Enders, Al Jazeera
Lebanese may be sympathetic to public sector workers striking over wages, but frustration at inconvenience remains.
Zeina Hashem Beck's poetry collection 'O': a little bit of everything - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
“I was saying for the longest time to the people close to me: this collection will not have Lebanon in it,” Hashem Beck says, “but it is impossible. If I am writing about me, as a mother, there's Lebanon in it, if I'm writing about my relationship to my body, there is Lebanon in it.
Foundation: $250 million lawsuit filed over Beirut blast - Bassem Mrou, Associated Press
Families of some of the victims of Beirut’s deadly port blast have filed a $250 million lawsuit against an American-Norwegian firm suspected of involvement in bringing the explosive material to the port.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
In Iraq, Centuries-old Black Community Still On The Margins - Tony Gamal-Gabriel, Agence France-Presse
"Since the establishment of the Iraqi state, we have not seen anyone from the community occupy a senior position in the state. We have not seen a governor, a minister or a lawmaker."
For Shireen Abu Akleh - Jennifer Zacharia, Boston Review
Condemning U.S. deference to Israel, a cousin remembers the life and legacy of the slain Palestinian American journalist.
Murder, mayhem and manipulation: The brutal methods used to silence independent journalism in Yemen - Anonymous Yemeni Journalist, The New Arab
Since the outbreak of the Yemeni war, journalism has become increasingly dangerous. Subject to targeted killings, sedition and extortion, journalists face a host of professional landmines in their bid to tell the truth.
Tunisia’s scarred economy dealt further blow by war in Ukraine - Heba Saleh, Financial Times
Rise in global food and energy prices hits country already struggling with falling living standards.
This Jordanian recycling initiative is turning plastic waste into fuel - Lyse Mauvais, The New Arab
Two Jordanian entrepreneurs want to depollute agricultural land and revive local industries in rural Jordan thanks to pyrolysis, a process that turns plastic into fuel.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Meet Wissam Khodur, the Music Head Giving Your Favorite Arab Artists a Voice - Yassine Hariss, Mille World
The former rapper, who is of Syrian and Lebanese descent, is now sitting in one of the industry’s most respected seats as he is, in layman’s terms, the first point of contact between artists and managers from the Arab World and Spotify, uniting sonic creatives, from all genres, nationalities, and styles, under his experienced supervision.
Inside the Fight to Fix Economic Inequality in DJ Culture - Philip Sherburne, Pitchfork
New initiatives from startups and streaming giants aim to justly compensate the producers whose tracks serve as the lifeblood of DJ sets and mixes.
Abubakr Ali Gets a Boost From Whale-Watching and Eid Fashions - Juan A. Ramirez, The New York Times
As the first Arab Muslim lead in a comic book adaptation, the Egyptian American actor lists the things guiding him as he steps into the spotlight.
“Brotherhood, community and togetherness”: Nick van Tiem documents a community of skaters in Cape Town - Ayla Angelos, It’s Nice That
The photographer’s latest series highlights the importance of storytelling and collaboration: “There are kids just like them doing exactly the same thing on the other side of the world.”
How an acclaimed cartoon shines a ‘crucial’ spotlight on Black American Sign Language - Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times
Cartoon Network’s ‘Craig of the Creek’ worked closely with Southern California Black Deaf Advocates to make a milestone of Black Deaf representation.
📚 Other Reads 📚
The etiquette of returning Tupperware: ‘It always comes back with something in it’ - Jennifer Curcio, The Guardian
In some cultures borrowed bowls should never be returned empty, but what you choose to give involves some careful consideration.
Brittney Griner’s story always transcended sport. She’s a real American trailblazer - Maya Goldberg-Safir and Sue Hovey, The Guardian
The full impact of Griner’s body of work has always been bigger than basketball. It’s a story of confronting discrimination, breaking glass ceilings and leading radical change.
Sir Mo Farah reveals he was trafficked to the UK as a child - Ashitha Nagesh, BBC News
Sir Mo Farah was brought to the UK illegally as a child and forced to work as a domestic servant, he has revealed. The Olympic star has told the BBC he was given the name Mohamed Farah by those who flew him over from Djibouti. His real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin.
Why Millennials are Facing More Economy Anxiety Than Ever - Charlotte Cowles, The New York Times
We may not have the same access to the benchmarks of adulthood that their parents did, but we also want different things.
Sri Lankans rose up as inflation soared: A visual timeline of the crisis - Ruby Mellen, The Washington Post
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned. Here's how he and his family lost their grip on power in the country.