I'll be performing my new one-woman show, There is a Portal, in Philly and NYC November 9 and November 29th. I'd love to see all your beautiful faces in the house! Please invite friends and family.
We have one week left for you to support the healing and transformational work that telling our stories can accomplish.
The Muslim Women’s Story Lab is working to keep all of us human and to have our humanity recognized through storytelling, community engagement, and the arts.
As media personalities and political candidates spread divisive messages of fear and misinformation, this is an important time to reflect on how we choose to recognize and uphold the humanity within ourselves and each other.
With one week left in our fundraising campaign we need you more than ever.
In today's climate, story and art are more necessary than ever. We need these important tools. The Muslim Women's Story Lab is a unique and hopeful approach to mobilizing Muslim women around issues that they face using storytelling, theater and art-making.
I’m asking if you will direct some of your power to back this project which has brought tremendous hope and light to me in these troubled times.
It is winter for the forces of oppression … the spring belongs to us!
Join me to sow seeds of peace, unity, women’s power, and creativity!
You are invited to a community info session to launch
the Muslim Women's Story Lab!
September 19, 2015
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard @135th Street
The Story Lab is a collaborative project using narrative tools and the arts for Muslim women's self-exploration and community engagement. The Lab will build participants' capacity to lead culturally resonant community engagement projects using strategies that harness and reclaim Islam's empowerment of women. More information here!
We hope you will join us and help us spread the word about this exciting new project.
In this day and age, the words "story", "community", and "movement" have become buzzwords being used to sell products and to give a sheen of do-good-iness (like Colbert's "truthiness") to all kinds of things. I'm writing more about how to create and build story and art-baseed projects for social justice and what that really looks like from conception to execution, (my book has great examples) but ultimately it has to involve bringing human beings closer together, into close, connected relationships, to build their own power. Art and story can do that extremely well if the project is well thought of and the strategy is clear.
Speaking of everything old becoming new again, my father came over today and brought two large folders stuffed with memories and writings and poems from my childhood. Among them, two items stood out:
1. A certificate for Storytelling from 1987!
2. A certificate for participating in the racial & ethnic harmony poetry contest. It isn't dated but I'm sure it's from the 80s as well.
So there you have it folks, I am a natural born ARTIVIST and have the papers to prove I've been doing this work for almost 30 years! I'd love to hear your thinking on making story and art-based interventions meaningful, concrete, and in the service of human-kind.
3 exciting things below! My writing, an event at the NYC Municipal Archives, and the Muslim Women's Story Lab moves forward!
Here's a little excerpt to get you interested:
"So I look down at my feet. My sandals are touching ground where Diego Rivera once stood, or sat, or walked by. I’m pulled into a world which, when he was creating it, was all but banned subject matter. Poor people’s lives, indigenous lives, didn’t matter. He made space, literally, by painting giant public murals that projected the sound and color, history and memory of poor and working class people in Mexico. And he showed not only what he knew to be true, and beautiful, but what he knew had power to change the world." Read on ...
And here in New York, I'm making the final preparations for a discussion at the NYC Municipal Archives on the history of sterilization abuse in NYC and the struggle for change.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Please RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org
31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007
We have a terrific panel and will be displaying archival materials from the women's own collections. Here is one example of what you'll see:
Last but not least, I got great news that the Muslim Women's Story Lab is going to move forward this fall! Stay tuned for updates.
Have a wonderful Independence Day. It's time to get free!
As spring turns to summer, students and teachers look forward to some free time and head space. I look forward to expanding and deepening my knowledge base. Outside of a formal school structure, we can learn and grow through all types of engagement with the world. My summer plans are all about that kind of life learning.
Since my last post in April, I've been consulting with the NYC Municipal Archives to help them develop educational and community engagement programming. I've been working to dynamize the archives as a space for dialogue, a place to engage, to connect the city with the world, as well as a educational space. I'd love to connect with people re-imagining archive spaces and doing similar work.
Coming up next on July 9, 2015: Resisting Reproductive Coercion -- a discussion on efforts to reform abusive sterilization practices in New York City in the late '70s and the impact of that campaign on the reproductive justice movement then, and now. I invite everyone to come and hear about a little known, but massively important, piece of the struggle for women's rights in NYC. We will also highlight innovative and powerful work happening today. Free and open to all. 5:30pm - 7:30pm.
RSVP to email@example.com
We also are offering a mini-grant for NYC teachers! Get access to exciting primary source documents from the Archives to use in your classroom! Send us an email by June 26th to participate. (see below)
Just so I don't forget that teaching and learning go hand in hand, I am part of two exciting fellowships this summer.
One as facilitator and the other as participant!
I am co-facilitating an Immigrant Women's Leadership Fellowship with The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. The brilliant Director of Language Access, Azi Khalili, has started this initiative to forward the U.N.'s Beijing +20 Platform for Women. We have gathered 15 visionary women leaders who will grow their thinking, develop their connections to each other, and build their power to make change on behalf of immigrant women and girls in NYC. I'll keep you posted on what happens, but email me if you have specific questions.
I am participating in the "Innovative Cultural Advocate" fellowship organized by the Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute. We had our introductory session last week and I am excited to engage with issues of equity and true cultural diversity in all levels of decision-making around arts and culture in NYC. We have some great readings and I'm getting to deepen my work around decolonizing culture and imagination.
As always, I want to hear from you. Send feedback, collaboration ideas, your news, anything!
Yes, Father's Day is coming up and that's my dad. He's been my champion my entire life. Thanks dad, I love you!
I went to a wonderful talk last night organized by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance on reclaiming feminisms at the grassroots. The inspirational speaker, Sandra Moran, spoke about planting. The first part of creating something new is developing an idea, planting a seed. To do that, you must reclaim what is yours and decide that territory will be where something new can grow.
Standing on the foundation created by the wonderful readings in London this past December, I am pleased to report that my play, Tree of Seeds, will have a reading in NYC next week!! Please come out to hear it, I’d love to connect with people interested in producing new voices, new stories, and non-traditional formats. Please come out to hear it, I’d love to connect with people interested in producing new voices, new stories, and non-traditional formats.
After co-leading a wonderful weekend workshop looking at the ways we internalize our defeats and let oppressive messages stop us from going after our deepest desires, I am still asking myself “do I have the courage to be happy?” That depends. Do I know what makes me most happy and am I able to see it and feel it clearly? By clearly I mean am I able to see past the layers; the media images of happiness, the broken record of social messages about happiness, the fear that covers any impulse to disbelieve the imposed voices. While the U.S. is meditating on thanks and having (we talk about giving thanks but isn’t it always focused on what we have — a series of things on a checklist — like a Christmas list?) I’m walking away from the deeply held notion that I need more money to do what I most want.
Sometimes I wonder if everything I’ve thought of, everything I’m thinking of, has been thought before. Often, it’s in bouts of depression and my conclusion is that I’m probably useless and unoriginal. (Yes, I am being a bit dramatic but that’s me!) These last few months, however, when I reflect on the originality of my being (how embarrassing) I have been grateful for all the thinking that has come before me. Millions of people, doing the best they could, have lived lives and laid the groundwork for me to do what I do. Being immersed in the world of craft, it is starting to make more and more sense that originality isn’t highly prized. It’s nice, but it isn’t the point.
What is the experience of time? Sun up to sun down; the phases of the moon; an 8-hour workday; the passing of a birthday; the harvest; the sowing; the completion of a thought? The time for group remembering, the communal gatherings and the personal, internal time; we live between the two. My time in India so far has been a weaving between the two forms – personal and collective.
As I prepare to return to Kabul for a short project with the US Institute for Peace, I wanted to take the time to wish everyone a very happy Eid. May it be filled with closeness, kindness and a renewed hope for human liberation. May the best and brightest parts of your spirit shine. The end of Ramadan (marked by Eid) this year coincides with the Zoroastrian time of prayer and reflection for our dearly departed. The prayers we held at my parent’s home fell one week after the death anniversary of my maternal grandmother. As a girl growing up in India when she did, Dina Arjani was not to be educated past middle school, but her family relented after her insistence.
The burka. It is such an emotionally charged, unique piece of clothing. For me, focusing on a thing rather than the real issues of sexism and women’s oppression doesn’t make sense, and foreign obsession fn the burka often stinks of exoticism and othering. So I’ve never commented on it nor have I spent much attention on it … until my last night in Kabul.
Today is the holy day of Ashura where, in Islam, believers mourn the death of Imam Hussein, the prophet Mohammed’s grandson. Imam Hussein was fighting a great oppressor and on this day he and his entire family and followers were massacred and left in the desert of Karbala. This story is most important to Shi’ia Muslims a they believe Imam Hussein to be the rightful successor to the prophet Mohammed. Sunnis also believe this day to be sacred and attribute other reasons to the observance like the day god forgave Adam.
Hello Kabul! Hello mountains. Hello kindness. Hello community. Hello learning. Hello growing. Hello change. I feel so full of joy and gratitude to be here and do what I love. It’s been such a busy week and I can’t believe that already I am half way done! I am finding out that being the sole facilitator and workshop coordinator is pretty time consuming but I promise to send more updates.
There’s no way around it. I can’t hide, pretend it’s not happening, close my eyes. I have to have to face it -the project has come to an end. Well, my part of it has come to an end and now the young students are tasked with carrying on the work and moving it forward. I have learned a great deal by spending these 6 weeks in Kabul, listening to people, observing life, understanding daily struggles, seeing entrenched attitudes and thinking about all of this in light of how art and culture can be used to educate, build community, and inspire change.
This last week has been filled with performances for NGOs and community spaces throughout Kabul. We often have 2-3 per day which makes for hectic and fun times. So far we’ve performed at schools, orphanages, for the National Police force, a community center for widows and orphans, the Kabul women’s prison, and in the garden of a women’s rights organization.