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Guest Feature: Mai El-Sadany
I want to start by expressing anger and frustration in the Lebanese state.
This week, protests in Tripoli erupted against the implementation of a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in Lebanon. The lockdown comes after lax enforcement of COVID policies during the holiday season when hotels, clubs, and celebrities actively held and promoted superspreader events across the country.
Now, with COVID cases skyrocketing in a country that was already dealing with a massive financial crisis AND the explosion in the Port of Beirut, the people are the ones who are suffering. You would think that there would be a plan in place to give people some sort of financial assistance, but no. The government isn’t doing a thing.
In moments of desperation, when nothing seems to be getting through to those in power, the people are going to quite literally fight for their lives. Of course they’re going to throw stones at government buildings and clash with internal security forces. How can you blame them?
The state decided that the best way to deal with this was to fire live ammunition at the protestors. And now, two people are dead with many more wounded.
Rather than ask “why are they throwing stones at buildings and rioting” we should be asking “who impoverished them.” The Lebanese state is actively killing its own people in more ways than one. As the World Bank put it, this is “deliberate depression” of the people, and it is an outrage.
Okay everyone, we do have a lot to get to. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Mai El-Sadany!
Mai is an Egyptian-American human rights lawyer based in Washington, DC. She's the managing director and legal and judicial director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, an organization dedicated to centering the voices of local advocates and experts in policymaking to foster transparent, accountable, and just societies in the Middle East and North Africa.
I had the honor of working with Mai back in the day, and she is a great friend and someone I truly admire. Her heart and her passion for human rights is unmatched, and I wanted to see what songs keep her going each day:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
"Say You Won't Let Go" by James Arthur. I absolutely love songs that tell a story. This is not a new song, but it's one of my go-to's, because you can totally imagine the couple in the song meeting for the first time, falling in love, and living a long life together--challenges, successes, and all.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
"Wild" by John Legend. Generally anything John Legend. I was super lucky to catch a remarkable, outdoor concert he had in Maryland a few years ago and listening to him brings me back to that night.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
"Lessa Bahinlha" by Ramy Essam. It speaks so deeply to me as he sings to a country that he loves so deeply but from which he had to flee.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
"Shallow" by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. I know both duets and I cannot get enough.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
"Remind Me" by Brad Paisely and Carrie Underwood. I know it's not the fastest pace of song, but I really do get into it. And yes, I'm a huge country music fan. (Lived 4 years in Kentucky, but that's a whole other story).
Big shout out to Mai for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Mai’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included with this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Also, for the 10-year anniversary of the protests that took place across the Middle East and North Africa, Mai’s team launched a project that is dedicated to ensuring that those who organized, are organizing, and will organize in the region have a platform to tell their stories and drive the discourse. So definitely be sure to check it out here!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Arab Flows (Middle Eastern & North African artists) 🎧
Layla - Tawsen
Russian Roulette - Chyno With A Why? featuring Mbee
966 - Jara
Ejmad - Jowan Safadi
Estabaina - Ortega
Do’ - Nadya Shanab
7ali Ya 7ali - Inkonnu
Morphine - Ammar Hosny
Sidi Wesalak - Angham
Daberha - Walla’at
🎤 Las Vibras (Latinx & Hispanic artists) 🎤
Nena Buena - Ozuna & Anuel AA
Loco - Anitta
Caprichosa - Beatriz Luengo featuring Mala Rodríguez
Deseo - Daniela Andrade
Agua de Jamaica - Maluma
Baila Conmigo - Selena Gomez featuring Rauw Alejandro
Solo de Mi - Bad Bunny
Tú Sí Sabes Quererme (TSSQ-Michel Cleis Remix) - Natalia Lafourcade featuring Los Macorinos
Reggaetonista - KYEN?ES? featuring DJ Nelson
Piel Morena - Thalía
🎼 Other Music 🎼
White Roses - Tyesha
Sicko - CLOVES
Ginger Me - Rema
Long Way 2 Go - Cassie
Again - Lenny Kravitz
El Camino - Orion Sun
Video Phone (Remix) - Beyoncé featuring Lady Gaga
Single - Ne-Yo
Overrated - Blxst
Tigress & Tweed - Andra Day
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Lebanon's coronavirus lockdown stokes hunger, fear among desperate families - Yasmine Salam, NBC News
"I'd rather die of Covid than die of hunger" has become a popular line among the Lebanese, according to charity workers.
‘The country is falling apart’: Lebanon’s hospitals overwhelmed by Covid surge - Chloe Cornish, Financial Times
Stricken nation’s pandemic response hindered by financial crisis and fallout from Beirut port blast.
Despite major steps forward in domestic violence law, lockdowns expose the many shortcomings that remain - Rana Tabbara, L’Orient Today
In December, the Lebanese Parliament passed a landmark law criminalizing sexual harassment and approved amendments intended to strengthen the country’s existing law on domestic violence. But with Lebanon now back in lockdown and facing a potentially prolonged period of closure, how much of a difference will these new laws make to women who may now be back in 24/7 confinement with their abusers?
Syrian refugees in Lebanon are under pressure as never before. But they say Syria is still too unsafe to return. - Miriam Berger and Nader Durgham, The Washington Post
“Syrians have long struggled in Lebanon. Recent events have brought a new cascade of problems.”
People Always Leave - Farrah Berrou, Bambi’s Soapbox
“I’ve accepted that being Lebanese means grief is part of our existence but I didn’t know that it was going to be for the memory of a city instead of the city itself.”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Between Insurrection and Revolution - Rasha Elass, Newlines Magazine
What principles guide citizens and nationhood in the Arab world?
A Decade On, Silence Fills Egypt’s Field of Broken Dreams - Declan Walsh, The New York Times
In 2011, Tahrir Square was at the vanguard of popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring. But hopes for a democratic Egypt were crushed and the historic square given a sterile new look.
Why Palestinians stopped listening to their leaders at the height of a pandemic - Yara M. Asi, +972 Magazine
For years, Palestinians had been losing trust in their leadership for its corruption and failure to end the occupation. Then COVID-19 hit.
‘I Can Breathe Again’: Affected Families Celebrate The End Of The Muslim Ban - Rowaida Abdelaziz, HuffPost
“It is so beautiful and it’s just so amazing to see how one signature can make such a big difference.”
Councilor Essaibi-George jumps into the mayoral fray - Danny McDonald, The Boston Globe
Arab-American and Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, a former public school teacher, confirmed Wednesday she is enteringthe Boston mayoral race, becoming the third candidate — and third female city councilor of color — to declare.
🎶 Music & Culture 🎶
Music service Anghami moving from crisis-hit Lebanon to UAE - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
The decision to shift base from Beirut to Abu Dhabi is a ‘no brainer’, company says, as Lebanon struggles to tackle spiralling economic and political crises.
The Crisis Behind the All-White Grammy Category - Samantha Hissong, Rolling Stone
Only white artists were nominated for Best Children’s Album — and three of them have asked to be taken off the ballot. Artists of color in children’s music are fed up with the genre’s homogeneity: “It’s like being served a baked potato with fries and hash browns on the side,” says one black artist.
The women who brought down Burger Records - Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times
In July, Souther California indie label Burger Records shut down after female fans and musicians accused some of bands of sexual misconduct. These are the women’s stories.
Even Fanless Arenas Can’t Stop NBA DJs’ Music - Paolo Uggetti, The Ringer
While 26 of the NBA’s 30 arenas sit empty this season, team DJs are still considered essential staff. How are they adapting to this new environment? And what requests are they getting most from players?
Bomani Jones thrives where race and sports collide. Can he be a star at ESPN? - Ben Strauss, The Washington Post
“During last summer's racial reckoning, Bomani Jones was a star at ESPN. But the network's shifting business model may leave him on the outside.”
📚 Other Reads 📚
Hank Aaron and his eternal connection to Black baseball - Claire Smith, The Undefeated
Aaron became his generation’s most direct descendent of Jackie Robinson not because he wanted to, but because he knew he had to.
He Bonded With Kobe as a Competitor, Then as Another #GirlDad - Marc Stein, The New York Times
A year after Kobe Bryant’s fatal crash, the former NBA All-Star Zach Randolph and his daughter MacKenly, who played for Bryant’s girls’ basketball team, are still learning how to grieve.
“Not only are these guys shitty at their jobs, they keep each other and themselves in power so they can continue to be shitty at their jobs.”
The Mount Pleasant Miracle - Jefferson Morley, The Washington Post
How one D.C. neighborhood quietly became a national model for resisting gentrification.
What Defines Domestic Abuse? Survivors Say It’s More Than Assault - Melena Ryzik and Katie Benner, The New York Times
The Congresswoman Cori Bush and the musician FKA twigs describe how manipulative, isolating conduct known as “coercive control” helped trap them in abusive relationships. Lawmakers are starting to listen.
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