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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
Palestine. This is all that is on my mind. 

You may have already turned away, dismayed that The Aram, a newsletter that seeks stories of comfort and ease is speaking out about an atrocity happening in real-time but right now I have the bandwidth — actually I'm inspired by the Palestinian courage and tawakkul I see — to be able to look after myself and try to help others. 
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I am always thinking about what is it that brings us all ease and comfort. The sacrifices we make to maintain our peace of mind, the routes we all try to follow in order to live the lives we visualise and who we are without the noise of it all. 

But sometimes, tuning into the noise matters. In fact, I'd argue it would be tone-deaf and a privilege not to. You will have to have willingly made a home under a rock to ignore what's happening in Palestine. And though The Aram has been created because I believe Black and brown women especially should have a space on the internet where they get to zone out of trauma porn for a second, I've realised in this past week, that my comfort and what brings me ease is not mutually exclusive with raising the voices of the oppressed. 
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I already know that writing about this contentious topic (still confused as to what's so contentious about it) means losing followers and subscribers but honestly, who cares? Who cares about losing the ear of those who don't want to know when my job is to amplify the truths of those who are treated inhumanely and as though they do not matter? 

But let's go back a step. Since what's been happening in Palestine has escalated and news of deaths have skyrocketed, a parallel has also been formed on the internet.

Instantaneously, we had influencers and those with large followings immediately say that they will not be forced to speak out about something they do not know enough about. In short, 'we will not give in to this performative allyship'. Do you know what I'm doing behind the scenes?

I hear all of that. I understand that for many of us watching what's happening in Palestine and feeling helpless, that this is not an easy task to endure. Especially, when we ourselves have come from communities that may have been affected by racism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and so on. As someone who has Bangladeshi roots, watching a genocide play out is incredibly difficult for me and my older family members. This is some hard, human shit.

It is mentally exhausting to wake up afraid of what's happening on the other side of the world. However, what I have learned from watching children being bombed during the last and most holy days of Ramadan and celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr while Al-Aqsa mosque was being attacked is that I can hold joy in one hand while doing what I can for those who need our voices and freedoms right now in the other.

Boundaries are important, necessary even, as no one can (or should have to) absorb all of the terrible things happening at once around the world but boundaries are also a blessing and largely a privilege if you can afford the safety of them. If you have the ability and means to cultivate your own peace. But the thing is, I don't want to just water my own lawn if it means ignoring the drought elsewhere. 
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What else has been illuminated is that we need to see the intentions behind the demands people have with influencers and their platforms. If Palestinians are asking us to use our voices over even donations on this human rights issue, and if Israel has bombed a media tower that houses the likes of Al-Jazeera and other media outlets who are sharing news of what's happening in the region, who are we to deny solidarity through our democratic rights? Have we forgotten that our collective numbers count, because if they didn't why else would world leaders care about censoring this particular message? Why else would Palestine-related posts be shadow-banned on Instagram? (Note: Twitter and Instagram said it was a glitch.)

I have not written this newsletter to plead with your humanity or try to convince you to change your views otherwise. What I am saying, is that though we are still in a pandemic where we are witnessing and a part of so much of the chaos going around in the world, our self-care can go hand in hand with our communities. Be it local, online or globally.

When we think about looking after ourselves, what do we imagine? Yes, I see myself dunking into a hot bath with my favourite Neals Yard bath oil but I also know that my self-care has to be expansive in order for it not to be selfish.

If our dreams and ideals only include ourselves, then frankly, they're not big enough. Because for me, real-self care, the kind that dreams are made up of, is a world where there isn't any ethnic cleansing or where minors aren't being shot at and people are being illegally evicted out of their homes.

I'm not facetiously ignoring the complexity of these issues and this request for peace isn't my naive optimism speaking, this is hope. Because look around you: we live in the confines of man-made rules. I don't want the comfort of future hindsight, I want us to speak up, embody a united sense of empathy and seek change now. 

Because we all feel and know this deeply: if one of us isn't free then no one is. So how can we ever feel a real sense of ease without any of our freedoms?

May mercy, peace and understanding
reign as I stand in solidarity with my Palestinian siblings, 


Tahmina
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The Aram is a bi-monthly newsletter that explores our relationship with ease and joy. In "Getting Aram With...", I ask a woman of colour and/or Muslim woman I admire, three questions surrounding her comforts.

#13 is Aditi Mayer. Photojournalist and speaker on all things style, sustainability and social justice. I've been following Mayer's photography and work for a while: she is the epitome of broadening conversations and doing so, without reducing oneself. 
What's currently bringing you aram?

Green spaces. My garden. Seeing friends slowly and safely as folks get fully vaccinated. 

You explore decolonisation, sustainability and global politics in your work, what rituals do you have in place so you don't become jaded or disheartened?

I think it's really important to remind myself that this work is part of a larger community and so feeling like the onus is on one individual is ultimately ignoring all of the ancestors whose work we build upon. It's okay, and key, to pass the baton, to make space for others, and to reject the idea of gatekeeping spaces of environmental justice.

Spread the maya and tell me about a platform or person you'd like to bring light to.
 

I'd like to send big love to my sister and creative soulmate, photographer Simrah Farrukh
Information On What's Happening In Palestine & How To Help 

A guide on what you need to know

Subhi Taha's videos brilliantly breakdown what's going on

Read Alya Mooro's newsletter The Greater Conversation for a guest piece on belonging (plus great resources)

Donate to the Palestinian cause here (don't feel burdened by how much you can give. Something is better than nothing. If you can, think of it as buying a cup of coffee for someone you care about across the world).
Things That Have Bought Me Aram Lately 

Nominations 
I've been nominated by National Diversity Awards 2021 for the Positive Role Model award. Feel free to vote for me here and a big thank you if you do!

Articles I've Written 
Halaqah is the meditation app here to help Muslims with their mental health

India’s COVID-19 crisis is blatant proof of the Global North privilege. What can you do to help?

Library
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwait

Podcast

My episode on identity, writing, faith and so much more with Teh Time
Hola! I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, editor and creative consultant. The Aram is currently free to subscribers but it does take a labour of love to write and produce, so if you'd like to support, you can buy me a digital Ko-Fi. If you'd like to commission me for any work, feel free to check out my website

Images of Palestine via Cole Keister, Getty, @meera_adnan @aditimayer 


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