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Guest Feature: Tala Ramadan
I want to share a profoundly beautiful, personal, and vulnerable essay that I read in The New Yorker this week written by Dr. Rachael Bedard, who is trained in helping people prepare for death, and how that knowledge and skillset hit differently for her as she prepared her grandmother, who died three weeks prior to publication of this piece. It’s incredibly moving that puts so much in perspective.
There continues to be so much happening in the world adding to our anxieties and stresses. I hope you all are finding ways to take time for yourselves, to recharge, to step away from everything as much as you can to focus on your own balance.
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Tala Ramadan!
Tala is a Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent in Beirut. She covers social issues and humanitarian crises. Prior to her current role, Tala wrote and reported for L’Orient Today and Al Arabiya English.
I cannot put a quantitative value on Tala’s reporting because it is invaluable. I truly mean that. The stories that Tala is able to tell about different facets of life — particularly her work on Lebanon because I’m biased like that — helps shed light on a variety of issues and how a singular event impacts so many other things as well. I was extremely curious to know what her taste in music looked like, and am incredibly grateful that Tala took the time to share some insight into her go-to songs:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“I Drink Wine” by Adele. In this song, Adele says she has a plan: She’s going to get over herself in a way that allows her to not take life or her loved ones for granted. She wants to ignore criticism, too, whether it’s from other people or herself. I think that this is such a universally appealing sentiment, cutting deep as she finds there are no easy solutions to the existential issues she’s raised.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Black Mambo” by Glass Animals. This song is absolutely gorgeous on all counts; the rhythm, instruments, vocals, etc. are all beautifully on point. Also, it makes me reminisce about an old friend who was my source for new music.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Ila Beirut el ontha” by Nancy Ajram. I LOVE THIS SONG. It is based on a 1981 poem by late Syrian writer Nizar Qabbani, where he describes the city as a vibrant and resilient woman whose personality is all her own.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Britney Spears’ discography. Guilty! I am a huge fan of Britney ever since I was not a girl and not yet a woman (get it?)
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“I want to break free” by Queen. I love the energy this song gives me, so much liberation. Also, I’VE FALLEN IN LOVE…with this song 😏
Big shout out to Tala for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Tala’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And be sure to follow Tala on Twitter to stay updated on all of her amazing work!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Halwa Shwaiter - Flipperachi
El Sa3a Tes3a - Perrie
Jack - Skorap
Ya Binti - Rasha Nahas
Yemkn Kheera - Lil Eazy
Yaba - MCM featuring Nayomi
Dabkeh - Bedouin Burger
Hyati Ana - Douaa Lahyaoui
Mentality - WalGz featuring Soulja
Chouchou - Lyna Mayhem featuring Thabiti
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Close Friends - KAVVO
Pensando En Ti - Jay Wheeler
Cara Dura - Acid Coco
PROVOCAR - Gonzy
Te Supe Amar - Chavi Leons
Casita - Domingo Ondiz
Acapella - La Gabi
La Junta - Sara Castro featuring I Nesta and RD Maravilla
Penas con Pan - La Doña
Tu Traicion - Adassa
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Away - J’Dess
Ego - Lucky Daye
FYN - Rema featuring AJ Tracey
Best I Ever Had - Drake
All Around The World - Lisa Stansfield
Daughter of the Sun - Naomi Sharon
SWEET N FINE - WurID featuring Sarz
Hello - Yuna
Feel - Philou Louzolo featuring DJ Kwamzy and ginius
Still Here - Morray featuring Cordae
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Lebanese women in Parliament: So many barriers and very little progress - Anne-Marie El-Hage, L’Orient Le Jour
The general political context in 2022 is definitely different from that of 2018. But will the new Lebanese Parliament consist of more than six women following the May 15 elections?
When no still doesn't mean no: There's still a long way to go to combat sexual harassment in Lebanon - Maghie Ghali, The New Arab
Lebanese activists took to the streets to denounce the country's apathy to victims of sexual harassment after a 16-year-old girl was assaulted in Tripoli. The case has reignited a long-running battle to claim justice for victims of abuse.
How a Lebanese Instagram page is helping thousands flee Russia-Ukraine war - Finbar Anderson and Jamie Goodwin, The National
The Lawyard is working to connect people displaced by the conflict with NGOs and volunteers.
Rising water and falling snow: A tented settlement’s annual battle against the elements - Abby Sewell, L’Orient Today
“We’ve been in the camp for seven years, and we never had the tent collapse before. It’s gotten flooded, and when the water went down we would come back and sort ourselves out.”
Lebanese fearful as fuel and wheat shortage deepens - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
The war in Ukraine has left cash-strapped Lebanon scrambling for alternative sources of fuel and wheat.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Sentenced for a selfie: Middle East police target LGBTQ+ phones - Maya Gebeily and Avi Asher-Schapiro, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
WhatsApp, Grindr and Facebook were once a place that gay, bisexual and trans Arabs could find freedom. Now, their digital footprints could land them behind bars.
Boston hospitals recoup millions in debt from Kuwaiti government - Jessica Bartlett, The Boston Globe
By 2020, “US congressional officials said that Kuwait owed 45 US hospitals $677 million, dating back to 2018. Dana-Farber was owed $20 million. Mass General Brigham said it had a $45 million outstanding balance.”
Tunisian questionnaire on constitution is met with a nationwide shrug - Tarek Amara and Angus McDowell, Reuters
"I think Tunisia is going to one-man politics, so I'm not enthusiastic about any participation in the consultation," said Karim Saqaa, a law student in the capital Tunis.
The 11-year-old boy who fled Ukraine alone was displaced by war before — he fled Syria as a baby - Ellen Francis and Rachel Pannett, The Washington Post
“He was very small and doesn’t remember. I was glad for it and I hoped he would never see such war.”
“The deficit leaves countries like Egypt heading defenseless toward a future that could see more frequent droughts, rising sea levels, flooding and agricultural damage if the average global temperature crosses the threshold of a 2 degrees Celsius increase.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
How Arab women are breaking into the world of NFTs through art and design - Fatima Al Mahmoud, The National
“In this space, I can create my art without the fear of being silenced,” says Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin as we mark International Women's Day.
When Prince Did the Batdance - Alan Siegel, The Ringer
Batman is an eccentric hero with a cape, so when it came time to pick an artist to make the soundtrack for Tim Burton’s 1989 film, the choice was obvious.
Dive into the Syrian Stamp Archive for some bite-sized insights into Syria’s design history - Elfie Thomas, It’s Nice That
It’s Nice That caught up with the talented team behind The Syrian Design Archive to take a closer look at their collection of stamps dating back 100 years.
Stevie Wonder and His Dream Machines - Jayson Greene, Pitchfork
The pop icon’s technological breakthroughs have reverberated across music for the last 50 years.
Disney’s Queer Characters Won’t Hide Its Funding of Real Villains - Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge
“One of the ironic things about The Walt Disney Company contributing just under $200,000 to the Florida Republicans behind HB 1557 — better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — is the very real possibility that same bill could soon make it all but illegal for teachers to talk to their students about any of Disney’s handful of movies and shows that happen to feature queer characters.”
📚 Other Reads 📚
Why it’s more difficult to flee Ukraine if you’re not from Ukraine - Rajaa Elidrissi and Nicole Narea, Vox
Non-Ukrainian refugees are trapped between racism and Cold War geopolitics.
Does My Son Know You? - Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer
Fatherhood, cancer, and what matters most.
‘Hypocrisy’: Lawmakers fighting Israel boycott now all-in for Russia sanctions - Joseph Gedeon, Politico
While U.S. politicians have jumped over themselves to sanction Russia back to the Stone Age, widespread anti-BDS sentiment among politicians has advocates iced out of public debate
American journalism’s “racial reckoning” still has lots of reckoning to do - Hanaa’ Tameez, Nieman Lab
The news industry was quick to hire for diversity-focused roles after George Floyd’s murder in 2020 — but sustaining that change has proven slow and challenging.
Brittney Griner’s Impact Is Clear as W.N.B.A. Fans Await Word From Russia - Alanis Thames and Jonathan Abrams, The New York Times
Griner, one of the world’s best basketball players, was detained in Russia on what customs officials described as drug charges. Fans are worried.