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Guest Feature: Reem Assil
This week has been particularly heavy and emotional (to say the least) with what’s happening in Afghanistan, Haiti, Lebanon, Palestine, Algeria, and so many other places. For Afghanistan and Haiti in particular, I want to share a few ways people can educate themselves and help (this is by no means exhaustive, just a start):
Children Without Borders organized a GoFundMe to assist displaced Afghan families
Donate to the Afghan Literacy Foundation, a grassroots organization in Afghanistan dedicated to keeping children in school
There’s this great resource that’s been making the rounds online with links to stories, research, and other places to learn and understand more about how we got to this point in Afghanistan
If you’re on Twitter, here is a list of Afghan voices and experts to check out
Hopital Bernard Mevs, the largest emergency hospital in Port-au-Prince, and Project Medishare created a GoFundMe to help families and those affected by the earthquake in Les Cayes and Jeremie
Prodev is a Haitian-led nonprofit organization that supports the education of impoverished children. You can donate directly to them here.
Hope for Haiti is a Florida-based nonprofit and they too are accepting donations directly.
If anyone has any Twitter lists to share, please reply and let me know!
I appreciate all of you. Let’s go ahead and get right into it. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature this week: Reem Assil!
Reem is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA and owner of Reem’s California, a nationally acclaimed restaurant in Oakland and Reem’s California Mission in San Francisco, inspired by Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them. Reem has garnered an array of top accolades in the culinary world, including back to back James Beard Semifinalist nods for Best Chef: West. She is a graduate of the competitive food business incubator program, La Cocina, business leadership program Centro Community Partners, and Oakland-based business accelerator program ICA: Fund Good Jobs. Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, building leadership in workers and residents to fight for living wages, affordable housing, and a voice in their jobs and their neighborhoods. Reem sits at the intersection of her three passions: food, community, and social justice. She uses food to invoke the central virtue of her Arab culture — hospitality — to build strong, resilient, and connected community.
Y’all, HOW COOL IS THIS! Reem Assil is truly one of the realest ones out here repping our culture and our people in such an incredibly meaningful way. I could gush about Reem for literal days. It’s an honor that she agreed to share some of her go-to songs:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“MILLIARDAT (ملياردات)” by DAM. It's an oldie but goodie. It's on our playlist at the restaurant and the founder of DAM is a Reem's regular :)
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones. It's what I sing to my kid Zain every night. Zain loves it. It reminds me of my dear friend Jane Lee who used to play it on acoustic. I kind of feel like a wild horse!
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Oumi (My Mother)” by Marcel Khalife. It's a ballad to the homeland and my Arab identity, and connects me to my mom and her generation. Home is my mom's bosom.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa. I've known this song since I was a little kid! My mom would love that I knew the entire rap.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“Formation” by Beyoncé. It's militant yet fun, you don't have to dance to it, and it has that coursing beat throughout the song. It's very empowering and about taking power back. I'd also say “Al Kufiyyeh 3Arabeyyeh” by Shadia Mansour featuring M1 of Dead Prez!
A major shout out to Reem for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Reem’s songs are included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. Definitely be sure to follow Reem on Twitter and Instagram. And hey, if you live in the Bay Area or are planning to visit, you OBVIOUSLY have to hit up both Reem’s California! I know I will!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Relax, Take It Easy - MIKA
Sawalif - Blvxb
Bos A Bombo - Wezza Montaser featuring Afroto
3al Tareek - The Synaptik featuring Abyusif
Twelve - Rotana
Mish Hon - Bu Kolthoum
Weino - Dana Salah
Khalass - Mocci
Space - SLVY
Al Kawkab - Rahma Riad
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Ella Y Yo - Aventura featuring Don Omar
COMO EH - Kiko el Crazy featuring Maffio
Cumbia de Orilla - El Arka featuring Un Tal Yupi
Se Siente Bien - Gitana Kamp featuring Nicole Horts and Leon Leiden
Uy K Raro - Mont
París - Ingratax
Viaje - Nibal
Rompe (Remix) - Daddy Yankee featuring Lloyd Banks and Young Buck
Burbujas de Amor - Juan Luis Guerra 4.40
Busamba - La Lupe
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Thursday (Original) - The Weeknd
My Sister - Shaybo featuring Jorja Smith
Ease My Mind - Nija
Nibolowa - Duncan Mighty featuring Burna Boy
Before You Gotta Go - Courtney Barnett
I Gotcha’ Back - Aaliyah
Soft Drink - Cherry Glazerr
Somebody’s Son - Tiwa Savage featuring Brandy
The Mission - Bakar
Double Tap - Fredo featuring Sus
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
‘I work in hell’: Public transit workers and riders live at the mercy of BDL’s fuel subsidy decisions - Rana Tabbara and Abby Sewell, L’Orient Today
The central bank’s announcement last Wednesday that it will no longer use its remaining stock of foreign currency to subsidize fuel imports has thrown the public transportation sector into chaos.
Behind the Crisis in Lebanon, a Vast Bank-Run Ponzi Scheme - Saree Makdisi, The Nation
From gas lines to medicine shortages, Lebanon is suffering the fallout of years of political and financial corruption.
'We die for fuel': Akkar explosion victims feel abandoned and humiliated after tragedy - Aya Iskandarani, The National
Blast which killed 28 has come to symbolise the human cost of Lebanon’s collapse.
What life has been like in Lebanon a year after the Beirut Blast - Aya Mouallem, Cosmopolitan Middle East
"This is not the time to ask the Lebanese people to hold onto their resilience."
Pressure builds for new Lebanon government as chaos deepens - Tom Perry and Nafisa Eltahir, L’Orient Today
Fears that Lebanon’s financial meltdown is tipping the country into anarchy have prompted renewed efforts to agree on a new government that can start addressing the 2-year-old crisis.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Classifying Middle East Americans as ‘White’ Undermines the Community’s Health - Dr. Deena Kishawi, Newlines Magazine
How a lack of federal funding to study Americans who hail from the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean Basin hinders the quality of care, especially during the pandemic.
Anti-Black Racism in Yemen: Manifestations and Responses - Mohammed Al-Mahfali, Arab Reform Initiative
This paper seeks to explore the dynamics of anti-Black racism in Yemen and how resistance against this is expressed, as well as the obstacles activists face and ways to overcome these in the future.
‘Palestinian art is a remarkable victory against those trying to erase us’ - Rami Younis, +972 Magazine
Hollywood director Hany Abu-Assad shares his thoughts on the difficulties of making Palestinian films, who gets to tell stories about the occupation, and why it is a 'miracle' that Palestinian art is thriving.
Heartbroken and homeless: Algerian villagers grapples with wildfire aftermath - Abdelaziz Boumzar, Reuters
"Like anyone else who saw those flames, it was impossible to do anything. We all gave up," said Khelaf Tazibt, 55, standing in one of their single-storey home's damaged rooms, its walls cracked and black with soot.
Singers in the dark: Syria 'power cut video' goes viral - Maher Al Mounes, Agence France-Presse
It's a typical Arabic song of forlorn love and heartache but it was power cuts that added low-lit romance to the music video of Syria's latest hit.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed's Arabic Jazz Fusion is a Beautiful Testament to the Power of Hybrid Identity - Dalia Al-Dujaili, Azeema
When Bahraini-British Yazz Ahmed was nine, she picked up the trumpet after being inspired by her grandfather, and hasn’t put it down since. Despite sexism in the industry and a struggle to come to terms with her hybrid identity, Ahmed is now a self-assured and powerful player who’s earned herself the title of Jazz FM’s Act of the Year 2020 and winner of the Ivors Innovation Award 2020.
The Soothing Sound of Silk Sonic - Jonah Weiner, Rolling Stone
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s "feel-good" music comes from hard times and real pain. Inside the duo’s deep friendship and quest for the perfect throwback jam.
American TV ignored Afghanistan. Until parachuting in to watch it fall - Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times
The media parachute in when our troops invade countries overseas or leave them in defeat, while remaining largely absent for the slog in between.
Sheryl Swoopes and the legacy of her signature shoe - Nick DePaula, The Undefeated
Twenty-five years ago, the launch opened the path for more WNBA players to receive this prestigious honor.
Saving Pop Punk? That’s Just Their Warm-Up Act. - Hanif Abdurraqib, The New York Times Magazine
Meet Me @ the Altar want to be household names — and that’s not a crazy notion.
📚 Other Reads 📚
My Taliban nightmare came true. I left, but my sister couldn’t. - Nasrin Nawa, The Washington Post
Afghans in Kabul are now drowning in a sea of chaos, fear and betrayal.
‘Saving’ Afghan Women, Now - Marya Hannun, The American Prospect
The status of Afghanistan’s women is a separate question from the presence of American troops.
I am an Afghan woman working for a western NGO in Kabul. I feel forgotten. - Anonymous, The Guardian
“In the past I thought that, if worst came to worst, the NGO would protect me. Now I think they have forgotten me.”
America Has Never Listened to the People of Afghanistan - Bilal Askaryar, Slate
It’s still not too late to start.
The Future of Afghan Women and Girls Depends on What We Do Next - Rona Akbari, Marie Claire
Between the U.S. occupation and the Taliban, supporting resettlement for Afghan women and vulnerable individuals is long overdue.