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One Month Later, Still No Answers in Beirut
What a year this week has been (the theme for 2020, really). The sudden passing of both Chadwick Boseman and John Thompson Jr. left large voids in our collective humanity. Lebanon nominated another prime minister as French President Macron met with Fairuz and others. Joe Biden unveiled his agenda for Arab Americans. And President Trump continued to stoke racial tension as violence in Kenosha and Portland escalates.
But I want to focus on Lebanon. Today marks one month since the tragic explosion took place in Beirut. There are still people missing, still people dying, and thousands more dealing with the aftermath in some way. Even with Macron’s plan for Lebanon’s recovery, it remains highly unclear how quickly any reforms will be implemented and whether or not a newly-formed government will actually have the political will to act.
Once again, the people are the ones stepping in where the state seemingly doesn’t care to. The people are the ones cleaning up the city and distributing aid. The people are the ones who, all through the night last night, demanded that the Lebanese Armed Forces secure a crane to lift rubble from a building damaged by the blast and help a Chilean rescue team locate a potential survivor underneath the damage (*as of this writing, the team is still searching).
All of this is exhausting and it weighs heavily. “Resilience” is an overrated myth. While we may never know how this explosion happened, how ammonium nitrate was set off in this way, or who was truly responsible, please don’t forget the people because the people are the most important component of all of this.
P.S. Chadwick Boseman’s death is a reminder that Black communities are disproportionately impacted by cancer, disease, and illness because of systemic racism in U.S. healthcare. With colon cancer specifically, Black Americans are “40% more likely to die” from this horrible disease.
His death is also a wake-up call for all of us to go to our doctors or health care providers and start cancer screenings early. In his honor, here are 12 colon cancer charities to consider donating to.
What I’m Reading
Desperate to Leave Beirut, Young Lebanese Are Also the Ones Fixing It - Vivian Yee, The New York Times
The young people leading the huge volunteer effort after the recent blast are bringing hope, but have lost it themselves. “I want to at least have Beirut on its feet before I go,” one said.
‘They Called Me ‘Slave’: Beirut Blast Exposes Migrant Workers’ Plight in Mideast - Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Wall Street Journal
Lebanon’s economic collapse after the deadly explosion and COVID-19 reveal labor-system inequities at the heart of Mideast economies.
Writing in Crisis: A Conversation Between Beirut and New York- Lina Mounzer and Mirene Arsanios, Literary Hub
Lina and Mirene exchange letters on what it means to bear witness.
Inside Beirut’s Broken Heart - Nasri Atallah, GQ Middle East
After the catastrophic blast of August 4, Beirut was coming to terms with an unbearable trauma. In the days that followed, Nasri Atallah grappled with his country’s past, present and future.
Doyenne of Lebanese philanthropy dies at 98 - Luke FitzHerbert, The Daily Star Lebanon
Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane, philanthropist, longstanding defender of Lebanon’s architectural heritage and tireless promoter of the arts, has died at the age of 98.
Arabs and the Diaspora
Yemeni National Granted Asylum After HuffPost Report - Rowaida Abdelaziz, HuffPost
Osamah Mahyoub was granted asylum after Rowaida’s stunning in-depth report on his arduous journey not only leaving Yemen but navigating the U.S. immigration system. Highly recommend Rowaida’s original report too.
The civil war is threatening an ancient way of life in Syria - Dawn Chatty and Haian Dukhan, Al Jazeera
The Syrian Bedouin community has been displaced and has lost much of its livelihood due to the conflict.
How The Justice System Shuts Women Out - Hadeer El-Mahdawy, Mada Masr
Although Egypt’s Constitution contains multiple provisions extending equal protection for women in public office, the numbers tell a different story.
Recruited by Ford a century ago, Michigan’s Yemeni community has come into its own - Olive Scott, Michigan Radio
Southeast Michigan – specifically cities like Hamtramck and Dearborn – is known as a hub of Arab American culture. That includes the more than 30,000 Yemeni Americans living in the region.
Virus lockdown brings new misery to long-suffering Gaza - Fares Akram, Associated Press
The restrictions are aimed at averting what many fear would be an even bigger catastrophe: a wide-scale outbreak in a population of 2 million people confined to a territory where the health care system has been devastated by years of war and isolation.
Music, Culture, and the Arts
How Chadwick Boseman Embodies Black Male Dignity - Reggie Ugwu, The New York Times
In 2019, the New York Times profiled Chadwick Boseman about his legacy, acting career, and his life outside of film. It’s worth revisiting this story now in the wake of his passing.
Meet the ‘polarizing’ new medical drama that comes for anti-vaxxers and racists - Ashley Lee, Los Angeles Times
“Transplant” — which debuted on Tuesday on NBC — is as unconventional as the aforementioned procedure it depicts: It puts Bashir “Bash” Hamed, a Syrian immigrant doctor of emergency medicine, and his largely underrepresented perspective as a person of color, front and center
Latin Music Needs a Black Lives Matter Movement- Suzy Exposito, Rolling Stone
The Conciencia Collective, whose members include artists such as Becky G and ChocQuibTown’s Goyo along with music industry insiders, aims to address longstanding inequities in the Latin music business
John Boyega: 'I’m the only cast member whose experience of Star Wars was based on their race' - Jimi Famurewa, British GQ
During Britain’s Black Lives Matter rallies in June, John Boyega wrote his name in the history of racial justice. And here, in his first interview since finishing Star Wars and that unguarded address from a Hyde Park stage, he explains how both platforms inspired him to make a stand, but for very different reasons.
A Black radio host calls on South Asian Americans to reject racism - Deepa Fernandes, PRI The World
Khafre Jay taught himself Hindi so he could call out acts of racism by Indian Americans on his radio show. He touched on a subject many Indian Americans don't talk about: the prevalence of anti-Black attitudes in the South Asian community
‘It’s a Joy for Me to Bury Them’: A Quest to Honor Migrant Dead - Aida Alami, The New York Times
Boubacar Wann Diallo is devoted to determining the names and origins of corpses that wash up on Morocco’s shores and to giving them a decent final resting place.
In Puerto Rico, an Epidemic of Domestic Violence Hides in Plain Sight - Andrea González-Ramírez, Medium
After Hurricane Maria, the number of women killed by their partners doubled. Survivors say the government’s misguided response has put more lives in danger.
The Great NBA Awakening - Tyler Tynes, The Ringer
NBA players realized the power of protest with last week’s strike. We’ve reached a new point in player activism. Where does it go from here?
How a quarantine matchmaking project for Muslims found itself navigating anti-Blackness - Aysha Khan, Religion News Service
Through Eye Meets Soul, a virtual blind matchmaking experience for Muslim millennials, founders hoped personal appearance, race and ethnicity would fade into the background. Easier said than done.
“Perfect on Paper” Allows Us to Ignore the Red Flags - Alya Mooro, Restless Network
Alya Mooro (author of a phenomenal book) reflects on her own prerequisites for dating
What I’m Listening To
Arab Flows (Arab + diaspora artists)
Las Vibras (Latinx artists)
Your Weekly Sample
Aaliyah’s More Than A Woman samples Alouli Ansa by Mayada El Hennawy. Check it out here!