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Guest Feature: Mysa Kafil-Hussain
On Wednesday, Oxfam released an important report detailing the impact of the August 4th Port of Beirut blast on Lebanon’s queer community almost one year later.
Oxfam surveyed 101 people who identified as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and had been living or working in the neighborhoods in Beirut impacted by the blast. The results are truly heartbreaking:
70% of those surveyed lost jobs in the past year, compared to an unemployment rate of 40% among the total workforce
41% cannot pay their rent, and 58% reported that their homes were damaged in the blast
35% were forced to relocate or change their living arrangements, 39% do not have a safe living space, and a further 11% had been forced back with their families where many said they faced abusive, unsafe or unaccepting environments
73% of survey respondents said that their mental health has worsened to a large extent due to the three-layered crisis.
The queer community has few safe spaces left and remains among the hardest hit by the combined impacts of the 2020 blast, COVID-19, and the ongoing economic crisis. You can read the full report here, along with actions Oxfam calls on the Lebanese government to take immediately to meet the unique needs of this community. I hope you take the time to check this out.
My friends, let’s go ahead and get right into it. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature for this week: Mysa Kafil-Hussain!
Mysa is a London-based art historian and archivist primarily focused on modern Arab art, and especially modern Iraqi art. She works mainly with Iraqi artist, Dia al-Azzawi, and has also worked with organizations such as the Atassi Foundation and the Dalloul Art Foundation, as well as writing and researching for numerous art-related publications and projects. Mysa also volunteers with the amazing afikra, heading up the Europe ambassadors and also co-coordinate afikra's weekly Storytime feature on Instagram.
I have learned so much from Mysa just from following her on Twitter. She curates beautiful Arab art and thoughtfully tells the stories behind each piece and each artist. Mysa always finds a way to rep Iraqi culture, and it’s heartwarming to see. When she agreed to be part of the newsletter and share her go-to songs, I knew her music would reflect her thoughtfulness:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I found out about Bjork collaborating with Syrian artist Omar Souleyman a couple of weeks ago online, immediately searched for the track, and obviously now I'm playing it on loop. “Jaw Ard” by Egyptian producer, Molotof, and Palestinian rapper, Shabjdeed, is up there too. It's such an epic track and both Shabjdeed and Molotof are so talented. I listened to this every day during my lockdown walks during the miserable British winter. It definitely gave me some much-needed energy!
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I really struggle to choose just one or two tracks for this because deep down I'm a little emo kid with lots of moody music. These are just a tiny selection of some of my favourites. Sampha's voice gets me every single time, and whenever I listen to 'Hard to Find' by The National, I feel like I've been transported into some intense emotional scene in a movie. Matt Berninger's vocals are so delicate and it's just beautiful. “Everlong” (especially the acoustic version) by the Foo Fighters needs no explanation - a perfect song.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Anything by Kadhem al-Saher reminds me of my parents and being driven around by them as a child. I think every Iraqi kid had a constant Kadhem background soundtrack with his hilariously dramatic, very 1990s music videos on the TV constantly. “Babylon” by David Gray is a random one - it was huge in Ireland in the last year I lived there before my family and I moved to the UK. It instantly reminds me of my last summer in Dublin with my childhood friends and it's been one of my favourites ever since.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Absolutely everything on “Hybrid Theory” by Linkin Park because it was the first full album I was completely obsessed with, and ”More Than Words” by Extreme, which has been one of my favourite songs for years and years and I don't actually know how that happened. I think I heard it as a kid and it stuck with me because it's just really simple and beautiful! Also, they have really great hair.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
It's so tough to choose! “Chop Suey!” by System Of A Down and “All & All Together” by Kano are firm hype-inducing favourites (and great for exercise and/or driving). I have to add “Ya Abyad Ya Eswed” by Cairokee and “True Sorry” by Ibrahim Maalouf too! “True Sorry” starts so gently and just builds up more and more - I love it.
Big shout out to Mysa for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Mysa’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And listen to her recent podcast with Asia House here and look out for her upcoming feature article with Tribe Photo Magazine about young, up-and-coming Iraqi photographers!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Arab Flows (Middle Eastern & North African artists) 🎧
Haga Ghariba - Abdel Halim Hafiz and Shadia
Dounia - Souhila Ben Lachhab featuring Karim El Gang
Stop Là - Souf featuring Lyna Mahyem
Entaha - Balqees
Franchise - Lil Baba featuring Abyusif and Abo El Anwar
Betshoufni Ezay - Lella Fadda
Bahr Shar - Ahmed Abdo featuring Houda Bondok
En bas d’chez moi - Zaho featuring Naps
Ya Aen Daly - Najib Alhoush
Roots - Mona Najib featuring Omar El-Deeb
🎤 Las Vibras (Latinx & Hispanic artists) 🎤
A Poca Luz - Big Soto featuring Manira and Selected Music
Tukuntaso - Tokischa featuring Haraca Kiko and El Cherry Scom
BOBO - Mariah Angeliq featuring Bad Gyal and Maria Becerra
A volar - Muerdo featuring Lido Pimienta
Mis Hijos - Aristi featuring Micorriza
Falso Amor - Salomé
Tarari Tarara - Cuban Deejays featuring Rosaly Rubio and Ceky Viciny
Trakatá - Ptazeta featuring Farina and Juacko
Sencillo - ChocQuibTown
Azul - Debi Nova
🎼 Other Music 🎼
Get Up - LION BABE featuring Trinidad James
Come Alive - B Young
Overprotected - Britney Spears
Fixate - Shekhinah featuring Bey T
Whateva U Need - Grimm Lynn
The Language - Drake
WUSYANAME - Tyler, The Creator featuring Ty Dolla $ign and YoungBoy Never Broke Again
All You Need - Neo Tempus
Nothing Else Matters - Miley Cyrus featuring Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujillo, Chad Smith, and watt
Fine Wine - R2Bees featuring King Promise and Joeboy
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
The Archivists of Lebanon’s Amnesia - Kareem Chehayeb, Newlines Magazine
Abbass Hadla and Dalia Khamissy are documenting Lebanon’s brutal civil war, a conflict the country’s leadership would sooner forget.
Cycling culture gains ground in Lebanon as fuel runs dry - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, Al Jazeera
Cyclists from lawyers in crisp suits to mums with kids take on Lebanon’s maddening traffic in the collapsing country.
Lebanon's migrant pump attendants feel the pain of fuel shortages - Timour Azhari, Thomson Reuters News Foundation
As shortages force drivers to wait in line for small amounts of fuel, many of Lebanon's mainly migrant petrol station attendants have been threatened, attacked and even shot at by angry motorists.
In times of crises, Lebanon’s old must fend for themselves - Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press
With virtually no national welfare system, Lebanon’s elderly are left to fend for themselves amid their country’s economic turmoil. In their prime years, they survived 15 years of civil war that started in 1975 and bouts of instability. Now, in their old age, many have been thrown into poverty by one of the world’s worst financial crises in the past 150 years.
Lebanese expatriates on the pull of home despite a better life abroad - Fatima Al Mahmoud, The National
Lebanon's young diaspora say they miss home but are not planning to return as economic crisis worsens.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
US Palestinian business owners speak up for Gaza amid swell of support - Nina Roberts, The Guardian
Some businesses owners have been reluctant to make political statements for fear of turning customers off – but perceptions are changing.
Incognito mode: Iraq's LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month virtually in fear of becoming a 'target' - Azhar Al-Rubaie, The New Arab
Azhar Al-Rubaie speaks with prominent Iraqi LGBTQ+ activists about their struggles and their hopes.
Yemen's famed beekeepers feel the sting of climate change - Maya Gebaily, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Yemen has had its troubles compounded in recent years by recurrent droughts, increasing numbers of extremely hot days and more volatile rainfall. That is hurting one of the country’s most precious commodities: Sidr honey, which is produced by bees feeding off the nectar of the ancient tree, also known as the jujube.
The Facebook page searching for Egypt’s missing children - Bahira Amin, Rest of World
Its members claim to have tracked down over 2,800 people, solving cases that no one else has been able to.
'The system hasn't changed': Anger grows in Tunisia over police brutality - Alessandra Bajec, The New Arab
Outrage over police violence has once again erupted into protests, with demonstrators claiming that no meaningful reforms to the security apparatus have taken place since Tunisia's revolution.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
We’ve Never Heard Britney Spears Like This - Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic
"The sad irony is that to try and attain the sort of privacy and quietude that most people take for granted, Spears had to give one of the most vulnerable public performances in celebrity history."
The controversial street music that won't be silenced - Adham Youssef, BBC
The underground genre known as Mahraganat is hugely popular in Egypt – but not with everyone. Adham Youssef explores the controversy.
‘All my work is Libya’: Five emerging Libyan artists to watch - Naima Morelli, Middle East Eye
Whether living at home or abroad, Libyan artists are forging new and bolder forms of expression.
At the Top of Mexico’s Rap Game, Gera MX Embraces His Roots - Felipe Maia, Remezcla
“My career evolved, and I changed my lyrics subjects; now I sing about being an independent artist and getting up in the top of the industry,” Gera MX’s says. “I feel that I’ve made a change of mind to many kids in this country and this will be important to Mexican music in the future.”
The low-key cool of ‘Jake, From State Farm’ has actor Kevin Miles superstarring - Lonnae O’Neal, The Undefeated
“In a popular culture conditioned to understand young Black men as athletes or entertainers, or on one side or another of the criminal justice system, Jake represents a departure. The character offers a window into the racial architecture of fame.”
📚 Other Reads 📚
Black Immigrants Are Still Fighting Racism In The U.S. Immigration System - Rowaida Abdelaziz, HuffPost
They are disproportionately detained, receive higher bond costs, and say they face unfair treatment within detention centers.
Experiencing the Magic of Disney World After Getting the Vaccine - Ola Salem, Newlines Magazine
A mother’s transformative experience with her children came at Disney World at the tail-end of the pandemic.
‘The apartments were gone.’ Survivors recount harrowing escape from collapsed condo - Allie Pitchon, Rob Wile, Samantha J. Gross, Joey Flechas, Miami Herald
“I thought to myself, the roof is caving. I turned to my wife and she wakes up startled. And she says no it can’t be. So I hug her. I give her a hug and say, ‘Listen, this is it. We’re gonna die.’ ”
Vaccine Hesitancy In The U.S. Is A Peculiar Privilege - Dr. Junaid Nabi, NPR
“As an immigrant in the U.S., I am in the uniquely painful position of witnessing two sides of this story: friends and family here who are unwilling to get vaccines and loved ones in other countries who are unable to get vaccines.”
Airbnb Is Spending Millions of Dollars to Make Nightmares Go Away - Olivia Carville, Bloomberg
When things go horribly wrong during a stay, the company’s secretive safety team jumps in to soothe guests and hosts, help families—and prevent PR disasters.