Interview in Expresso (Portugal) – June 25, 2016

Thank you to Margarida Santos Lopes for once again conducting an informed, respectful and excellent interview with me on current events.

This was published in Expresso, a major weekly paper in Portugal. FYI: Margarida did not select this title, nor did she choose to include the photo of Omar Mateen. I’m including a closer-crop of the article text too for those who can read it.

Margarida has decided to publish our entire interview (in English) and with all the questions she’d asked me as well as her original title. Stay tuned!

Raquel Evita-Saraswati-gay-orlandoraquel-saraswati-gay-orlando

International Business Times – June 16, 2016

Click here for the original article.

By Elizabeth Whitman

The Twitter account Garrett Fugate created under the pseudonym Hanif Kiriakos in September 2012 gave him the chance to finally speak freely and openly about his frustrations. Reassured by an online safe haven that included Muslims like him, Fugate, then a 24-year-old college student, began the process, little by little, of coming out as gay.

First, Fugate told his local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) group. Next, he told his family, whose members were very accepting. And then, he told his roommate. A year passed before he had the hardest conversation of all, with his close-knit group of Muslim friends. The news spread with shocking speed through the local mosque in Lawrence, Kansas, where he lived. Soon, some members responded with stony silences when Fugate offered the standard Islamic greeting of peace, “Assalamu alaikum.”

Fugate’s experiences and those of other LGBTQ Muslims were catapulted into the public spotlight this week after reports that Omar Mateen, an American Muslim who allegedly killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, might have been gay himself. Prompted by one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, this sudden scrutiny both bolsters and imperils recent, painstaking progress by LGBTQ Muslims to gain recognition and acceptance by their communities and the broader American public.

“Right now, we’re at this very difficult and painful nexus in American and global history,” said Raquel Evita Saraswati, an American and Muslim on the steering committee of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD). Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S., LGBTQ Muslims have found themselves grappling with thorny questions of political identity, instead of focusing primarily on shoring up emotional or theological support for their community while countering anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ bigotry, Saraswati said.

With the mass shooting in Orlando, “now you have a terrorist to talk about,” Saraswati said.

The motives of Mateen, the alleged shooter who was slain by police, are unclear, but, in the midst of the carnage, he called 911 and declared his allegiance to the Islamic State group, as he also reportedly did in a Facebook message posted before the rampage got under way. Meanwhile, Mateen’s father suggested that hatred of gays inspired the attack, even though Mateen himself may have been gay or bisexual.

The mass shooting highlighted how, in a country where homophobia is alive and well — almost 21 percentof about 6,000 hate crimes in 2013 were associated with sexual orientation — the LGBTQ community remains a target. And the religion of the alleged killer left Muslims once again defending their faith from being painted as the source of such violent extremism, even while fearing potential backlash.

In the U.S., to be either LGBTQ or Muslim is to be a member of a minority group that regularly faces discrimination. To be both is to exist even further on the margins.

“I’ve actually never met an openly gay Muslim,” said Jim Sues, executive director of the New Jersey branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Many Muslim societies reject homosexuality for reasons of culture, religion or both, even though the question about what Islam actually says about homosexuality has no single answer. With the Sunni sect alone having four schools of jurisprudence, Islam is not monolithic, and even the term homosexuality encompasses a spectrum of behaviors, feelings and identities. Still, those who identify as queer risk being shunned by families or communities that hold on to traditional views, including those in the U.S.

In response, various organizations have striven for decades to foster solidarity and support among LGBTQ Muslims.

For example, the Lavender Crescent Society served queer Muslims in San Francisco in the late 1970s. Al-Fatiha Foundation originated as a listserv in 1997, but quickly blossomed into a full-fledged support group, hosting events and providing other resources to LGBTQ Muslims. It disbanded in 2008, but not before amassing 800 members across four countries.

In 2013, MASGD took up Al-Fatiha’s national mantle. Every May, it holds a retreat in the Philadelphia area, at a location that it does not publicize for security reasons. Meanwhile, local groups such as the Queer Muslims of Boston organize gatherings, prayers and readings, as well as iftars, meals to break the Ramadan fast.

By now, these groups have learned to operate carefully, out of caution not just for personal security but also to protect members who otherwise remain closeted.

With so much at stake, the locations of events for LGBTQ Muslims are frequently kept under wraps, Saraswati said. When Al-Fatiha hosted a retreat about a decade ago, she recalled, some attendees were afraid that the event was not initiated by other LGBTQ Muslims, but in fact by extremists bent on killing them.

Such fears were not unfounded. In 2000, the group almost canceled a retreat in London after a conservative Muslim group issued a threat.

But at the most recent MASGD retreat in May, attendees felt safe, as if they knew they were with family, Saraswati said, adding, “That’s a pretty remarkable shift.”

The internet has been central to these precious gains, from the early years of the Al-Fatiha listserv to the current private Facebook groups and other online initiatives, such as a Tumblr showcasing photographs of queer Muslims.

“A lot of the support networks for me — and a lot of queer Muslims — are online. That’s how a lot of us find each other,” said Fugate, who is now 28 and seeking a doctorate in Islamic studies at Boston University. “So many of us are closeted in our own communities,” he said.

However, the massacre Sunday shone a light on this community that has long hidden in plain sight. This invisibility has served to protect its members, but it does not necessarily help facilitate recognition or foster tolerance and acceptance.“I’ve actually never met an openly gay Muslim,” said Jim Sues, executive director of the New Jersey branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group.

As Fawzia Mirza, a child of Pakistani parents, explained it, “You have never met a queer Muslim — that you know of.”

When Mirza was first grappling with reconciling her identities as a queer Muslim, she initially felt she would have to sacrifice one or the other. “They don’t always necessarily play nice with each other,” she said of being LGBTQ and Muslim.

For her and for others, the fear of stigma and rejection can inhibit a willingness to come out to family, friends and the Muslim community at large. But Mirza also encountered questions from the broader LGBTQ community and sensed that there, too, she was different.

“When I was first going to gay bars, people wanted to know where my name was from, what it meant,” Mirza said. “So many people in the gay community had never met a gay Pakistani or a gay Muslim before.”

Mirza, an actor, producer and writer in Chicago whose work very publicly tackles very private questions of identity, eventually came out to her mother through the Google instant-messaging service some call Gchat.

She was fresh out of a breakup, sitting in an airport and feeling wretchedly alone and sad. So she told her mother about the relationship. “You’re so broken, and you just want unconditional love,” Mirza said, describing herself.

Her mother was shocked, Mirza recalled. For a while, they stopped talking. Even after many years and conversations, they still don’t see eye to eye — what mothers and daughters do? Mirza asked — although now they speak regularly, and Mirza said she is “living openly and authentically in a way I feel very good about.”

Fugate, at Boston University, said he felt privileged because, as a convert to Islam, he did not have family ties to one particular mosque or Muslim community. Yet since moving from Lawrence to Boston last year, he has kept quiet about his sexuality, at least at his local mosque.

“It’s like a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy,” he said. After he came out in Kansas, he lost the Muslim community there. In Massachusetts, he was not so much afraid that he would be ostracized. Rather, he was focused on being part of the other community of other queer Muslims he has worked so hard to find, online and off.

As a student, Fugate focuses on gender issues and sexuality in Islam, a religion built on centuries of scholarly interpretation and reinterpretation of the Quran and other texts. He mentioned at least one modern-day scholar who has already begun tackling theological questions about homosexuality’s place in Islam.

For Fugate, such study fuels hopes that perceived conflicts between being gay and Muslim might someday be fully reconciled.

“Sometimes, I feel like it’s a contradiction. In other ways, I don’t,” he said, before repeating, quietly, “It’s just who I am.”

The Root – June 13, 2016

Click here for the original article.

By Allison Keyes

“All I could do was cry,” says Sadiya Abjani. “Cry for my dead community members, cry for the future of my Muslim community, cry for my friends and chosen family who are about to live the next few months constantly looking over their shoulders.”

Abjani, a queer Ismaili Muslim in New York, is describing her reaction when she heard about the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead. The shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, had been twice investigated by the FBI before carrying out the worst mass shooting in American history. He pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call before opening fire at the Pulse club, killing 49 people and wounding 53.

Abjani says she woke up at 6 in the morning on Sunday, saw that her phone had 23 messages on it and then thought how such a horrific act shouldn’t be happening during Gay Pride Month.

“This was quickly followed by a very selfish thought. I really hoped the killer wasn’t Muslim. Then it turned out he was, and my ability to function crumbled for about 30 minutes,” Abjani writes in an email to The Root. Now she worries and prays that her community is spared from the hate she believes is headed its way.

“Our community is hurt and scared, and still struggling to process,” Abjani says. “A majority of us are queer and trans people of color. That could have been any one of us in that club. But in the same breath we take to mourn our lost queer family, we’re scared for the backlash that’s about to come.”

Abjani was chair of programming for the 2016 Retreat for LGBTQ Muslims and their partners, held at the end of May in Philadelphia. There was a major backlash against the Muslim community in New York City and many other cities around the nation in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. She says that though the imams in New York have been supportive in the wake of this tragedy, as a recent New Yorker who has lived in both Washington, D.C., and Texas, she felt safer in the Lone Star State than she does in the Big Apple.

“Whenever one of Hijabi Muslim sisters is on a train platform, even if I don’t know her and have never met her before, I’ll stand close to her, because I’ve seen and heard the hate that gets tossed at openly identifiable Muslims,” Abjani says, referring to Muslim women who wear hijab, or a Muslim headscarf. “At the mayor’s office vigil for Orlando, someone walked by screaming, ‘Arrest all the Muslims, get rid of them; that’ll solve the problem.’”

Abjani is on the steering committee for the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, which was among several Muslim advocacy groups that put out statements denouncing the attack and the shooter. The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press conference Sunday to condemn the shooting, saying it “violates our principles as Americans and Muslims.” The Los Angeles-based Muslims for Progressive Values issued a statement calling on imams across the country to address the mass shooting in Orlando at their upcoming Friday sermon during this holy month of Ramadan.

‘While we understand that every community struggles with homophobia, today it is abundantly clear why the American Muslim community needs to address homophobia in our community and institutions,” MPV’s statement reads. “We must challenge divisive interpretations of Islam that may encourage those like the gunman in Orlando.”

Raquel Evita Saraswati, also on the steering committee for MASGD, says many in the Muslim LGBTQ community are dealing with the effects of both anti-Muslim bigotry and homophobia, both inside and outside of the faith community.

“Still others are dealing with sectarianism, oppression due to their dissent with mainstream interpretations of the faith, colorism, anti-blackness, transphobia and more,” Saraswati says in an email to The Root. “We are not single-issue people, and those burdens are heavy.”

Saraswati identifies as an American Muslim and says many in the LGBTQ Muslim community find themselves in a painful and contentious nexus of this tragedy: “Members of our community were slaughtered in cold blood by a person who proclaimed our faith. This act of terror occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, when it is said the ‘devil is in chains.’ As we saw this past weekend, though, evil knows no restraint.”

She notes that Mateen also carried out this evil act at a time when LGBTQ people are most open about their identities because it is Gay Pride Month. Saraswati adds that the shooter fits a profile that’s been seen before, i.e., a person with a history of violence against women who has been permitted to roam freely, a person who is known not to be especially religious but becomes radicalized “by those who promise salvation through misogyny, hate and violence.”

President Barack Obama spoke out in support of the LGBTQ community in statements following the attack, but Saraswati says she is unimpressed.

“While President Obama and other politicians have said some of the right things, the fact remains that our government, including both major political parties, continues to ally and exchange favors with the very theocrats and fascists responsible for censorship, criminalization, repression, torture and murder of my people,” she says.

Saraswati says that many in the LGBTQ Muslim community are afraid, though she thinks that fear is exactly what terrorists seek to instill in people.

“They wish to strike fear into our hearts, fix a muzzle over our mouths and to tell us that we have no sanctuaries,” Saraswati says. “We must fight this with every cell in our bodies, and every breath in our lungs.”

 

Allison Keyes is an award-winning correspondent, host and author. She can be heard on CBS Radio News and WTOP News Radio, among other outlets. Keyes, a former national desk reporter for NPR, has written extensively on race, culture, politics and the arts.

Update on #RaifBadawi – please keep up the pressure to #FreeRaif

#FreeRaif
#FreeRaif

An update on ‪#‎RaifBadawi‬ and a request for action NOW:

1) Raif Badawi was not lashed today. His lashing was once again postponed. Reasons have not been fully confirmed but most reports are citing “health reasons.”

2) Reports are coming in that Raif’s friend and associate, liberal Saudi activist Souad al-Shammary, has been released from prison and that all charges against her have been dropped. This is huge.

Time is of the essence. I need you all to get both online and on the phone:

1) Call ‪#‎Saudi‬ consulates, embassies and ministries in your city. (For a listing of Saudi offices in the USA, see this link). People in Europe and elsewhere, please feel free to leave numbers and email addresses in the comments. Ask them to free Raif Badawi, and to drop all charges against him. We want an unconditional release.

DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT make disparaging comments about Saudi Arabia, Saudi policy, Saudi people, the King, or Islam when you call. That will not help Raif – on the contrary. Ask for Raif’s release, keep your words sincere but simple.

2) GET ONLINE. DIGITAL ACTIVISM IS WORKING. Tweet ‪#‎FreeRaif‬ and #RaifBadawi. If you like and have space, also add #IAmRaifBadawi.  Find activists for Raif via these hashtags and connect. I am at @RaquelEvita. Raif’s wife Ensaf Haidar is @Miss9afi. Their family spokesperson, Elham Manea, is at @ElhamManea.

Thank you! Be hopeful, but do not relent.

(P.S.: while I haven’t kept up with this blog, I have been working continuously on this issue for a long time – catch my posts here and here.)

Yaser Said: Abuser, Murderer, Extremist #CatchYaserNow

A photo of Yaser Abdel Said, age-progressed by the FBI in 2014
A photo of Yaser Abdel Said, age-progressed by the FBI in 2014

If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you know that the FBI has added Yaser Said (a.k.a. Yaser Abdel Said and Yaser Abdel Fattah Mohammad Said) to its list of the top ten most wanted fugitives, increasing the award for information leading to his capture from $20,000 to $100,000. Oak Farms Dairy has added another $10,000 to this reward through the Irving, Texas police department, making the total reward to date $110,000.

Background: Yaser Said murdered his daughters, Sarah and Amina, on January 1, 2008, in Texas. He has been at large since, and it is not unlikely that he remains in the United States. The murders are the subject of a new documentary, The Price of Honor, which I wrote about here.

Yesterday, I heard from one of the filmmakers behind The Price of Honor, who has uncovered photos of Yaser’s son (and brother of Sarah and Amina), Islam Said, as well as photos of at least some of Yaser Said’s weapons.

After his two sisters were murdered for being “too Westernized” and for having male friends, Islam Said said that they “got what they deserved,” because “they knew the rules.” Those of us familiar with the case continue to call for the indictment of Sarah and Amina’s mother, Patricia “Tissie” Said, and their brother Islam.

How does a brother support the brutal murder of his own sisters?

We have repeatedly been told that the Said family was and is not “extremist,” but all signs point to the contrary. Yaser and Patricia Said raised their children in a culture of abuse, violence, and disregard for human life and dignity. Yaser Said sexually, emotionally and physically abused his daughters with the full knowledge of their mother. Islam Said was taught that this was within Yaser’s rights as a man. This image of Islam Said will be released to the media soon, but is appearing here first courtesy of The Price of Honor:

Islam Said - Raquel Evita Saraswati
Islam Said

 

The above goes well beyond the bounds of good and innocent fun. Who poses their child like this, with a weapon?

This image shows Yaser Said’s early gun collection. He shot his daughters in the back of his taxi cab 7 years ago:

Yaser Said Weapons - Raquel Evita Saraswati
Yaser Said owns at least 4 guns

 

Yaser Said remains at large only because he has had help in hiding – and because of community ambivalence.

Please see Yaser Said’s listing on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list here ( and the poster here).

Yaser Said should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. He is said to carry a weapon with him at all times. Do not approach him.

If you believe you have seen Yaser Said, or if you have any information that might lead to his arrest, submit a tip online here, or call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

Raquel Evita Saraswati Yaser Abdel Said Arabic

The Price of Honor: documentary on the killings of Sarah and Amina Said

With filmmaker Xoel Pamos
With filmmaker Xoel Pamos

Sarah and Amina Said were murdered by their father, Yaser Abdel Said, in Texas on January 1, 2008. Yaser Said is still at large, and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

If you’ve followed my work or heard me speak, you know that I care very much about this case and have done everything in my power to bring Yaser Said to justice.

I am immensely proud, then, to share with you what I believe to be the product of the most important work on this case to date: filmmakers Neena Nejad and Xoel Pamos have produced a stunning documentary, “The Price of Honor,” which brings to light the truth about the murder of Sarah and Amina Said – and the details will rattle you to your core.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Neena and Xoel, and sharing with them a deep a commitment to keeping the memory of Sarah and Amina alive as well as to finding Yaser Said. Their tireless, brave, and incredible work has done more to resolve this case than anyone or any entity has.

Their film, The Price of Honor, will be released next month. Here is the trailer, which I encourage you to watch:

Below is the press release for the film, as well as the synopsis. Please feel free to distribute widely, and join us on Twitter using #CatchYaserNow.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Documentary on “Honor Killings” of Lewisville’s

Amina & Sarah Said Premieres Sept. 7 in Dallas

 

THE PRICE OF HONOR Film Aims to Bring the Alleged Murderer/Father to Justice

 

DALLAS, TEXAS – August 6, 2014 – The world premiere for “The Price of Honor” documentary film will take place at the Lakewood Theater in Dallas on Sunday, September 7, 2014, at 6:00 pm.

The film tells the story of Amina and Sarah Said, two teenage sisters from Lewisville, Texas, who were murdered by their own father Yaser Said in a so-called “honor killing” in Irving, Texas in 2008.

Directed by Neena Nejad and Xoel Pamos, “The Price of Honor” reveals new details and evidence about the case that have never before been made public, including a secret plan that Amina had to protect the love of her life, and a previous murder Yaser committed overseas that was covered up and never punished.

“Amina left behind a treasure trove of secrets critical to convicting her father of her murder that no one had explored until we started investigating,” says Pamos. “In her own words, through letters, emails and diary entries, she answered almost every question we had about this disturbing case.”

Yaser Said, who fled the crime scene, is still at large and remains on the FBI Most Wanted List. The film analyzes and discredits the theory of Yaser having fled to his native Egypt. “Our findings lead us to believe he is hiding in plain sight in the U.S.,” says Nejad.

The film is instrumental in a movement to bring this cold case back to the spotlight, increase the $30,000 reward that is currently being offered for tips leading to Yaser’s conviction, and bring awareness that “honor violence” has spread to the United States. The filmmakers also hope the exposure of law enforcement’s mismanagement of this case will raise the bar for how honor violence is handled by police in the U.S. henceforth.

An “honor killing” is the act in which a family member, usually a female, is murdered by another member, usually a male, for disobedience, promiscuity, being raped or other transgressions of cultural norms in the traditional societies of the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, North Africa and immigrant communities worldwide. They are called “honor killings” because the murder is an attempt to salvage the family honor that has been supposedly disgraced by the offending family member. An estimated 20,000 women and girls are victims of this practice every year. Many perpetrators get away with their crimes because of weak laws and strong traditions where these happen.

The world premiere event for “The Price of Honor” will feature the almost two-hour documentary film, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers, including Consulting Producer and Dallas native Amy Logan, and the appearance of some special guests who will discuss the film and honor violence in depth. Unlike other film premieres, the producers have decided to make it a public event, in consideration of friends of the sisters who would like to attend.

“We wanted to make sure that anybody who knew and cared about Amina and Sarah have the opportunity to be part of this event, said Producer Sogol Tehranizadeh. “I know it is painful to go back and remember, but we hope our film will bring them some closure.”

The film is anticipated to have distribution nationwide and will hit the most important film festivals.

Smart Lips Productions strives to create intimate films that leave viewers with a renewed sense of self, an increased awareness of important issues, and most of all, the inspiration to take action.

Tickets to the world premiere in Dallas may be purchased at: http://www.thepriceofhonorfilm.com

Press passes available under request: info@smartlipsproductions.com

For more information about this film visit:

Official website: http://www.thepriceofhonorfilm.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thepriceofhonor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tpohfilm

 

PRESS-KIT: Download a full press kit here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/q3kdp3lk8d4x2dg/TPOH%20Media%20Kit.zip

 

SYNOPSIS: The Price of Honor is a documentary film about the murders of Amina and Sarah Said, teenage sisters from Lewisville, Texas, who were killed in a premeditated “honor killing” in 2008. The film shows the lives of the sisters and the path to their eventual murders by their own father, Yaser Said, who fled the crime scene and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

 

The film reveals new details and uncovers evidence about the case that has never before been made public, including a previous murder committed by Yaser, and the ultimate sacrifice of Amina Said, who had a secret plan to protect the love of her life. Her words, through emails, letters and diary entries, become the voice of the film and change much of what has heretofore been assumed about this case. Despite the tragedy, viewers will learn of an incredible love story that still has life after death.

 

Friends, family members, experts and activists against “honor violence” emotionally guide viewers through the girls’ lives and deaths, in the process launching a movement to bring Yaser Said to justice. The Price of Honor discredits the prevailing theory that Yaser fled to his native Egypt after shooting his daughters, instead proposing that he is in hiding in the U.S.

 

The film’s additional mission is to bring awareness to this international issue of honor violence, expose law enforcement’s mismanagement of the Said case, and raise the bar for how honor violence is handled by police in the U.S. henceforth.

 

Eradicating Polio: Saving Lives Drop by Drop (by Tooba Masood for The Express Tribune)

We do not hear enough about those individuals, especially women, who do all they can to help others despite the fact that their work puts them at great personal risk. Thus, I thought it worthwhile to share this story about Farzana Begum, who works to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan. She and other women are part of a crucial, if dangerous, effort to eradicate polio in the country.

“According to Farzana, there are times when the responsibilities of being a lady health worker scare her. There are times she has come home to find that one of her colleagues was threatened, or worse attacked and in the hospital.  ‘It is scary but what can we do?’ she said. ‘You have to gather some strength and start all over again because you know your work is still not done.'”

Read the full story here.

Image
Farzana Begum (photo: Muhammad Iqbal)

Leyla Hussein, champion against FGM and for women and girls

Remember 17-year old Fahma Mohamed, mentioned here, who has organized some 100 youth to fight FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) in the UK through rap and education?

 

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Leyla Hussein (photo: Washington Post)

Also hailing from the UK is Leyla Hussein, who is spearheading efforts to raise awareness about the practice and work against it in the United Kingdom. Another amazing hero of our time. Learn more about Leyla’s work here.

“FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, usually with a knife or razor blade and often without anaesthetic. In its most severe form — Type 3 — the vaginal opening is sewn almost entirely shut. In addition to the psychological trauma, women can experience urinary infections, menstrual problems, infertility and even death.”

Lupita Nyong’o on beauty, color and compassion

Raquel-Evita-Saraswati_Lupita-Nyongo_Oscars
Lupita Nyong’o accepting her Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards

I don’t watch the Oscars, and haven’t seen a movie in ages.

But I know who Lupita Nyong’o is – who doesn’t? So when I stumbled across this I watched…and encourage you to as well.

Take less than five minutes to watch the incredibly gracious, brilliant and yes, beautiful Ms. Nyong’o talk about the intersection of race and beauty at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon by clicking here.

Quote:

“I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty, but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me, ‘You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.’ And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.

And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

Love it.