USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Politics The World

The Democratic Party owes its Presidential election victory to BIPOC organizers

This is it, folks. After a nerve-wracking and close race, Joe Biden has won the presidency, with Kamala Harris as the Vice President-elect. Biden also received the most votes ever cast for a U.S. presidential candidate, in a race that saw a historically high voter turnout. As we look back upon a polarizing election season and the bitter years that preceded it, it is important to acknowledge the hard work of grassroots organizers, youth leaders, and volunteers who ultimately flipped the vote in critical swing states. In particular, Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) played a key role in mobilizing communities and countering disinformation and voter suppression to make every vote count.

Grassroots BIPOC Organizers made a huge difference 

Key electoral gains in states like Arizona – which hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1996 – Michigan, and Pennsylvania can be largely attributed to meticulous grassroots organizing at the county-level, challenging the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to delegitimize votes, declare premature victory, and cast doubt even as ballots were being counted.

Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) played a key role in mobilizing communities and countering disinformation and voter suppression to make every vote count.

Across southern states, organizers and community leaders worked hard for years to build power in marginalized communities. Biden’s win in Georgia is significant – the state hasn’t supported a Democrat since 1992 – many credited his lead to Democratic Party’s Stacey Abrams and her lifelong work to address voter suppression. In 2018, Abrams became the first Black woman chosen as a major political party’s nominee for a state gubernatorial election in the country. Abrams lost the election to Republican opponent but her campaign then founded Fair Fight Action to empower marginalized voters in the state. Abrams worked alongside a host of other groups like the New Georgia Project who registered thousands of BIPOC voters and empowered them to exercise their political rights in and beyond the electoral cycle. 

Stereotypes about Republican-leaning southern states undermine how Black organizers – especially women – have fought for and engaged historically overlooked communities. The political and cultural shifts due to the hard work of these organizers may or may not translate into statewide electoral wins for the Democrats, but a blue wave in the elections cannot be the only indicators of progressivism in a state – community-level changes are just as important as national elections.

Reflecting on the importance of community organizing in southern states, Yasmine, 23, a volunteer with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) said,  “Historically, the South is ignored and written off because of stereotypes. But it’s important to realize that the racist white people don’t define what the South is. It’s the BIPOC communities that have created environments for themselves where they care for one another, dismantle barriers to civic engagement, and advocate for everyone’s liberation.”

It’s the BIPOC communities that have created environments for themselves where they care for one another, dismantle barriers to civic engagement, and advocate for everyone’s liberation.

Progressive BIPOC-led organizing invested long-term in community coalitions and young voters, foregrounding critical issues like criminal justice reforms, mass incarceration, ICE detentions, climate change, and COVID-19 relief. Dream Defenders, a BIPOC youth-led power-building organization that was formed in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, are one of the many groups in Florida that worked to increase voter turnout, championing causes like defunding the police and minimum wage reform. In counties across Arizona, BIPOC groups helped Biden gain a lead in the state, despite being historically marginalized by the Democratic Party and the GOP. This was made possible by the advocacy of member-led grassroots organizations like Living United for Change in Arizona which have consistently mobilized working-class families and fought for social, economic, and racial justice. Mi Familia Vota engaged Latinx and immigrant communities in different states and advocated for stronger infrastructures for civic participation. 

In Arizona, Indigenous women community leaders fought to challenge years of voter suppression. Leaders like Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, ran to be the county recorder and co-founded Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots organizing group which made the voting process more accessible. 

lhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who were re-elected to Congress in Minnesota and Michigan respectively, tirelessly rallied voters at the local level and ensuring Biden’s victory in their states. Community activist and nurse Cori Bush – who became the first Black woman elected to Congress from Missouri – was endorsed by the Sunrise Movement progressive political action committee Justice Democrats who previously endorsed Congress members Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others. Run for Something, a political organization recruiting young progressives running for down-ballot offices, endorsed young progressive candidates like Mauree Turner who became the first Black Muslim nonbinary state legislator from Oklahoma. 

The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests should be credited for sparking conversations about structural injustices, and the importance of showing up to vote.

Black Lives Matter protests politicized the electorate

The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests should be credited for sparking conversations about structural injustices, and the importance of showing up to vote. Some studies even suggested that the protests were responsible for an increase in voter registrations. The protests also politicized many, particularly young BIPOC first-time voters, empowering them to understand the interconnected nature of oppressions that maintain the status quo in an unjust society. 

In Philadelphia during election week, protesters took to denounce Trump’s premature declaration of victory in the state. The protests converged with simultaneous BLM protests in response to the murder of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., by the Philadelphia police. Other protest organizers also called for the release of Philly for REAL Justice activist Anthony Smith. In this context, the demand to count all votes was framed as one of the means to the greater ends of protecting civil rights, challenging police brutality, and authoritarianism, and holding a racist criminal justice system accountable.

Volunteers and poll workers saved the day

In between social distancing laws and divisive political struggles, thousands of volunteers for the Democrats utilized digital resources and low-risk physical outreach methods to connect with voters. For Laura, an organizer working with the Chicago chapter of NAPAWF, information access for diverse communities was critical: “We put a lot of emphasis on making information accessible in multiple languages and canvassing. In Georgia specifically, we were able to get older South Asian women to help us phone-bank within their community. This was effective since most of them don’t speak English.” In many swing states, almost 200 NAPAWF volunteers for the Get Out the Vote campaign reached out to AAPI women voters in more than 15 languages, made over 40,000 calls and sent out over 12,000 texts. 

Elsewhere, during and after election day, poll workers risked their lives to count every vote. In Maricopa County, Arizona, poll workers were harassed by Pro-Trump supporters spurred by conspiracy theories of voter fraud and stolen votes, driven by merit-less claims peddled by Trump. Nonetheless, the workers persisted, and the county voted blue. 

It is undeniable that the bulk of progressive organizing was led by BIPOC leaders, but this labor, which is typically not compensated proportionally, should not be romanticized.

Organizers put in the work, what about the Democratic Party?

One of the most significant victories of this election cycle belongs to Kamala Harris, who became the first woman and Black and South Asian-American person to be elected Vice President. However, as many have noted, representation does not guarantee transformational justice. She has been critiqued at length for her controversial track record as district attorney. It is also ironic, that she was elected alongside Biden who, as a Senator, actively caused harm to poor Black communities through legislation.

All of this is to say that despite the impending end of the Trump presidency, the Democratic Party must address its own conservatism and how it continues to uphold oppressive structures through governance. If the Party wants to honor those who won them the election, it must take the voices of BIPOC communities seriously and commit to radically progressive agendas in policy-making. It is undeniable that the bulk of progressive organizing was led by BIPOC leaders, but this labor, which is typically not compensated proportionally, should not be romanticized.

Martha, 23, a volunteer with Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Sunrise Movement, stressed that political leaders and white voters should dismantle white supremacy: “Young organizers turned out the huge number of young Democrat voters in this election. But we also saw that more young white voters voted for Trump than any other young demographic. White people must reflect and actively work against our own roles that uphold white supremacy… Organizing without challenging this will only reproduce the racist systems of the past.”

A Biden Presidency is just the start of a long and difficult road towards such liberation. Perhaps the movement will pause and take a break to celebrate, perhaps it will shift and manifest in new and more powerful forms. Perhaps a better future is indeed closer than it seems. In the meantime, organizers will continue to hold space for the most vulnerable, reminding us that the fight goes beyond one election cycle.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
The Internet Aww Nostalgia Love + Sex Books Pop Culture

What I learned on changed my entire childhood

I was always afraid to ask questions about sex.

As a teenager, it seemed that girls that dared to explore their sexuality, no matter how tame, were always punished. I didn’t want that for myself so I never asked questions. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have them. In the recesses of my mind, they would push up against ‘cleaner’ and more acceptable thoughts. They were always there.

To satisfy my curiosity, I started reading my mother’s romance novels.

Those books by Harlequin lined every bookshelf of my childhood. Three solid blocks of older red books and newer, slimmer blue books. I never had any interest in those books as a kid. The painted pictures of a muscled, stoic man embracing a slim-hipped heroine seemed silly to me.

I never had any interest in those books as a kid. The painted pictures of a muscled, stoic man embracing a slim-hipped heroine seemed silly to me.

Occasionally, glancing at the (always) white couple staring at each other did absolutely nothing to garner my attention. However, a changing body led to a changing mind.

Before  I knew it, I had devoured entire shelves of different Harlequin series. While I look back on that time with fondness, it still didn’t answer the questions that I had. The more I read romance novels, the more I realized it wasn’t romance I wanted to learn about. I wanted to learn about sex.

So my search began.

I scoured the web for my education. Porn didn’t do it for me, although I learned a lot about how flexible the body can be.

I also read a lot of bad erotica. I’d lie belly down on my bed and marvel at how some of these stories get published. Once, while scrolling through another bad story I came across an ad for a website. ‘Literotica? That’s quite catchy’ I thought to myself. I clicked that link and in doing so my relationship with my sexuality was forever altered.

The more I read romance novels, the more I realized it wasn’t romance I wanted to learn about. I wanted to learn about sex.

The front page of the site doesn’t look like anything special.

Even ten years ago, when I first discovered it for myself, it looked retro, to say the least. Looking at the discovery page, viewers are welcomed in by a woman glancing over at us coyly, I assume. It’s impossible to tell because the photo is extremely blurry. I had never seen so many options for erotica. From horror to non-human and everything in between.

My head spun at the possibilities and also the creativity.

My favorite author was a writer under the pseudonym sush_taco. Her stories which reimagined the marriage of the Hades and Persephone was a revelation. It married the tender and sometimes introspective nature of traditional romance novels while being sexually explicit.

I also came across another author, silkstockinglover, whose stories were shockingly explicit and ran the gamut of just about every single fetish known to mankind. Although these stories and fetishes could be problematic, they also taught me my desires weren’t ‘deviant’ or wrong.

It married the tender and sometimes introspective nature of traditional romance novels while being sexually explicit.

My favorite section was the Illustrated stories. I loved not only reading about sex but the drawings.

In the Humor and Satire section, I learned about how funny sex and stories about sexual pleasure can be. About how to relax and enjoy yourself and not worry so much about weird sounds or awkward positions.

Many stories on taught me about myself and how intricate and interesting sex can be. This website taught me about how to be vocal but what I want and to embrace being adventurous before I had ever entered into a sexual relationship. I still have so much to learn about sex and I suspect I will never stop learning about it.

But Literotica was the first time I immersed myself in my sexuality. Where I didn’t push it to the back of my mind or read things that were of no interest to me. I still read stories from the website, partly from nostalgia but mainly because so many of the stories are engaging.

Through this website, I learned to destigmatize the ‘bad’ words used to describe women who enjoy sex. Literotica celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year. I can’t help but think of all the people who not only write the stories and create a community around those stories but the people who read them.

The people who fantasize over them, who learn from them, share them with their friends.

The people like me.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Mind Love

Why the best crushes are the ones that can’t be anything more

The three stages of a standard crush are as follows: attraction, awareness, and decision to pursue. Attraction is self-explanatory – you see something you like in someone and it makes you pay a little more attention to them. Awareness requires you to be slightly more invested – noticing which one of your celebrity impressions makes them laugh the most, making sure they always see you from your good side, wondering what their favorite salad dressing is (balsamic vinaigrette implies understated sophistication, anything involving mayonnaise is a red flag).

The decision to pursue is where things tend to get a bit more complicated. You have decided you’re compatible with this person and are taking active steps to begin a relationship with them. Your thoughts become consumed by whether or not they reciprocate, and to what degree they return your interest. Every gesture, every word of theirs is a clue. Every gesture, every word of yours is an attempt to extract some more of these clues. In short, it’s agony – agony that may pay off, but agony nonetheless.

And that is precisely why the greatest crushes are the ones that cannot become anything more: your best friend’s brother, your happily married 19th-century poetry professor, cashier number eight at the grocery store on Tuesday evenings. The crushes that, due to some obstacle, impracticality or inconvenience, you can never, ever act on. You can observe, you can fantasize, and you can make sure your hair is always freshly washed and smelling of tropical fruit on a Tuesday, but that’s it.

The crush remains private and passive until you lose interest, lose touch, or both.

This is just as, if not more, agonizing, you say? Isn’t wanting something you can’t have worse than pursuing something you can? Allow me to plead my case. You say or do something crushingly embarrassing in front of your Nowhere Crush (henceforth used to refer to a crush that can’t go anywhere beyond distant attraction)? Who cares! Your crush has a peanut allergy but you can never give up peanut butter? Not an issue! Their singular (but inexcusable) flaw is that they clap when the plane lands? Doesn’t matter, you’re not going anywhere with them!

The pressure to pursue is killing our ability to crush for the joy of crushing. We are in such fear of missing fateful connections and overlooking big opportunities that we are blind to the quiet, consistent connections and opportunities we encounter every day. Not every feeling, every instance of subtle magnetism, requires us to do something about it. Some things can be enjoyed passively and carelessly, with no thought of consequences or commitment.

It is in the process of trying to do something about everything that we forget to take pleasure in all the best parts of having a crush. Eye contact that feels electric, careless banter, a single butterfly in your stomach. Crushes make us feel young and excited and alive; they remind us that we are always on the lookout for connection and feeling, no matter how small or inconsequential. Crush often, and crush without care.

Science Now + Beyond

What if we could slow down ageing?

We’ve all seen it – the immortal magician trope. The thousand-year-old superhero storyline. The entertainment industry has seriously milked this idea for all it’s worth. But wouldn’t this be way cooler if immortality or living for hundreds of years was a real thing?

Well… science may have found something to give us just that.

Throughout the ages, there have been people who have lived for 100 or more years. But there have also been those who have lived for only a few months in the same time period. Lifespan comes down to your genes, the environment you’re born into, or in simple words, the overall situation of your life. Take for example an average human being, one who was set to live a perfectly normal life up to 80 or more years of age.

What if you could slow down their ageing process? What if you could give them the option to live another few years?

To even fathom such a thing we have to understand the science behind ageing to start with.

The continuation of our lives depends largely on the continuation of our cells dividing. This is because new cells replace old cells which may have died, and also allow damaged cells of ours to be consistently repaired. The idea is that the genetic material in our cells is what dictates many of the processes in our body, and keep our bodies functioning without any hiccups. It is absolutely vital that with every cell division, all the genetic material is copied into the new cell, for it to continue complete functioning.

At the ends of chromosomes (the genetic parts in our cells), there are structures called “telomeres”. These act as protective caps on the end of our DNA genetic material, which allow all of our genetic material to be copied without any being left behind. However, with every cell division, our telomeres grow shorter and shorter. This means, that all our DNA material may not be copied into new cells.

As our old cells die, and we are left behind with only new cells with incomplete DNA information, our body no longer functions with the same completeness as before. As our cell divisions become more and more pointless, we age, and our lives slow down.

Soon after, we pass away.

So here is the secret weapon scientists could use to reverse engineer the ageing process and possibly figure out how to let us live longer! So what’s the secret weapon? Telomerase.

Telomerase is basically an enzyme which slows down the shortening of telomeres by adding back the lost DNA pieces.

It uniquely holds the key to delaying or even reversing the cellular aging process. Telomerase lengthens telomeres by repeatedly synthesizing 6 building blocks of DNA and adding them onto the ends of the chromosome (telomeres). The extra pieces allow all the important information to be copied during cell division without any being lost when the telomeres shorten.

However, the activity of the telomerase enzyme is insufficient to completely restore the lost telomere pieces, nor to stop cellular aging.

If scientists could somehow tap into unlimited control over this enzyme, there is a possibility of increasing the average human lifespan drastically. This possibility opens the door to so many more questions. Would this discovery, if possible, cause too much disruption to the natural order of life? In a world where overpopulation is already causing adverse effects, is this really a discovery we should encourage?

Wherever science chooses to go with, it’s cool to know that living for longer may not just be a thing for the movies.

World News The Internet Music The World BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Here’s how BTS made history at the United Nations General Assembly – and encourage you to #SpeakYourself

I’m sure that by now, the K-Pop band BTS needs no elaborate introduction. Even if you haven’t heard their music or seen their faces, you’ve heard the name. And whether or not you’re an ARMY or you understand why they’re so popular, you have to admit how that shows the strength of their global impact.

The band of seven young men from South Korea, who quite literally started from the bottom, are now in the midst of their world tour after having released their latest album “Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer'” to conclude their Love Yourself era. They have now made history as the first K-Pop group to attend and give a speech at the 73rd UN General Assembly as part of the #Youth2030 campaign. 

[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook Source: AllKPop]
[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin. Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook – Source: AllKPop]
BTS have previously partnered with UNICEF to launch their Love Myself campaign last year, which aimed to end violence and to protect children and the youth from its disastrous effects. For people who still question their relevance, you might want to rethink your battle strategies the next time you have shit to say.

Yesterday, the seven men took center stage yet again, albeit it was a stage of a different kind. Their leader, 24 year old Kim Namjoon (also known as RM) delivered a six minute speech in fluent English to the numerous world leaders, ambassadors and royalty present at the event.

Namjoon talked about how, being an ordinary boy growing up in the city of Ilsan, he had extraordinary dreams of saving the world.

However, those dreams began to dull due to the fear of what others thought of him. Fear that was caused by people, including themselves at times, doubting their chances of success.

“No one called my name, and neither did I.

My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut.

So, like this, I, we all lost our names

We became like ghosts…”

He then talked about how all of the members, individually and collectively, have battled numerous hurdles in order to get to where they are now. He also insisted that they will continue to do so, only this time, with help of ever-growing faith and love for themselves and that their fans (the ARMY) give them. 

There is no doubt that ARMY have been inspired by the boys to love themselves and use that to overcome their hardships and conquer their own peaks. Namjoon acknowledged that and concluded his speech by encouraging us to “Speak Yourself”. He urges young people to find and own our names and voices, to embrace our passions and faults alike, and to be love ourselves in all our imperfectly perfect glory and tell our stories.

You can view the speech here:

A few hours later, #SpeakYourself is now one of the top trends on social media, with ARMYs from all over the world sharing their hearts, fears, flaws and dreams to the world with pride.

[Description: Kim Namjoon (RM) saying “No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, your gender identity, just speak yourself.” at the UN Assembly with Jung Hoseok (J-Hope) and Jin standing behind him. – Source: Giphy]
Aside from their success story, BTS have won over millions of hearts because despite their celebrity status as idols, they never hid or suppressed their humanity. They never fail to remind us that they, too, are just as human as the rest of us. They have individual and collective flaws, they make mistakes, stumble from time to time, and have dealt with mental health issues (a subject still considered taboo in South Korea). They can be unabashedly goofy and silly and do not lead perfect lives.

They’ve all come from different cities, financial and educational backgrounds. Instead, of shunning their differences, they’ve treated them as bits of the uniqueness that collectively created the magic that is BTS.

Most importantly, they acknowledge that the process of loving themselves was just as tedious and taxing for them as it is for everyone of us. It won’t always be easy and mistakes (both big and small) will be inevitable, but that’s okay. The key is to accept that, learn from that, and continue.

Knowing all that and knowing their influence, they use it to encourage us to take that rocky road to personal well being in a dog-eat-dog world. It’s as if to say “We know what you feel because we’ve felt it too, but this is what helped us to be happy and can help you. It may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. We believe in you.”

BTS have proven time and time again how they are not just your everyday run-of-the-mill boyband, but an actual force to be reckoned with. They’ve shown that pop culture, depending on how it’s used, has the power to affect even international politics. That just through spreading self-love and positivity, once we own our voices and ‘our names’, we will have the power to change the world.

So…what is your name?

[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They're all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga - Source: Ticketmaster]
[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They’re all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga – Source: Ticketmaster]
Science Now + Beyond

I’d rather grow old and save money, not spend thousands on that perfect anti-aging cream

A few years ago, I caught myself buying an expensive anti-aging cream. You see, I wrongly thought that starting on anti-aging creams earlier in my life would somehow save me from the effects of wrinkle as I grew older. I did not realize at that time that I was letting a combination of faulty (or rather lack of) science and celebrity culture already shape my ideas about aging.

These days, I really begin to take a look at myself. I see the white hairs sprouting throughout my head. My metabolism is not exactly the same as it was at 21 and that I have to work even harder to stay healthy now.  I am a complete mess if I sleep less than 7 hours (goodbye forever, all-nighters). I do not enjoy being out past midnight anymore and would much rather be in the comfort of my own” bed.

“You are getting old,” they tell me.

I am still relatively young.  I have not seen my first wrinkle yet, nor even had a baby yet to understand what pregnancy does to a woman’s body. There’s still time for menopause: those hot flashes, the sagging breasts, and the vaginal dryness. “Wait until then”, I’m told  – then it will all go downhill. Apparently, I should be scared and seek ways to make myself not visibly age by using varieties of creams, serums, and masks. Maybe they can be complemented wonderfully with a few cosmetic surgeries, while I am at it!

Then I realize, what probably scares me more than aging itself is a society that tells me that one day I will need to be ashamed of these changes.

Frankly, I have no desire to infuse my hair with nasty chemicals to cover up those white hairs. I would much rather work towards my own sexy version of the salt and pepper look. As for my skin, not smoking, a decent diet and de-stressing techniques may certainly help too.  Embracing my orthopedic-friendly shoes and denouncing heels for the remainder of my life may be a good idea too if I want to avoid musculoskeletal pain  (despite how good they may look).

All jokes aside,  if I do happen to still be living till I am 80 years old, do I really want to spend the next 30 to 40 years trying to reverse time? Is that really a productive use of my worry space in my brain? Do I really want to spend more hard-earned money trying to drink teas and put on creams that promise me the vitality of youth?

I would rather spend the next years of my life trying to make aging less painful. I would much rather invest in ways to make menopause easier and do what I can to prevent aging-associated diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimers Disease,  other dementias, and Parkinson’s Disease).

For example, it excites me to learn about what telomerase enzymes can do for prolonging the life of our telomeres (short little chromosomes attached to our Tetrahymena cells). Having our telomeres extended this enzyme helps enhance feelings of youthfulness as we age. More importantly, these enzymes are not something we even need to buy from a store. We can abundantly create them within ourselves by managing the stress that spikes our cortisol levels through meditation or even reframing how we see challenges.

Science also reminds us that we need social relationships and ways to manage loneliness to help the aging processes.  This is especially true because another difficult part of the aging process is seeing people around us die. Whether we like it or not, we are living longer (at least in high-income countries), and that means more old people than ever before in history. Technically, beating aging is mathematically impossible, but unfortunately, it does not stop many people from somehow thinking they will stop it – even scientists. And that speaks to a very important point: we have got to stop with the ageism that’s been heavily wired into our brains.

After all, unless we do not live to see old age, it is our future.

Tech Now + Beyond

My Playstation 3 saw me through love and heartbreak – and it healed my life

Dear Playstation 3,

Hello, it’s me. I know this is kind of awkward considering how long it’s been, but I want you to know that I’m still here thinking about you. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t remember the fun times we’ve had together and how much they meant to me.

I wanted to write to you to tell you how much I appreciate everything we’ve been through. You’ve given me so much and I never really took the time to tell you that I am grateful.

I know we got off to a rocky start. I didn’t want you at first, I would have rather received an iPhone that Christmas. It was selfish, really. My mom was just trying to give us all a good year, a different year. We’d been struggling for so long and all she wanted was to see us happy.

But when I opened you I felt hesitant. How could I, a quiet Indian girl, ever be comfortable with something like you?

So I gave it a few days, you remember. We glared at each other across the room, knowing that the time had to come where I’d plug you in and discover what you had to offer. Do you remember the first game we played? It was God of War III, right? Damn, that feels like so long ago. Do you remember how I couldn’t get past the first boss? I’m sure you were cringing, wondering exactly what you were in for.

You know, it took us a while but I think I got the hang of it pretty fast. I’d never even played a Playstation before that, but there was something about it that felt so natural. I remember leaning back and forth on the couch, moving my head in the direction of the camera. I must have looked so ridiculous; not much has changed.

I remember the first time I introduced you to Wade.

You remember him, right? Well, we’re getting married now and it’s pretty surreal. I’m only 21 years old, Playstation 3, but I know I’ve found the right person for me. They’re beautiful in every way possible, and I think I owe a lot of our relationship to you.

I never told you but the first presents we ever bought one another were Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time. It’s six years later and we still talk about how much that game meant to us. In between turns, we’d sneak kisses (sorry), hoping it would lead to something more (sorry, again).

And you were there when things weren’t so perfect.

I remember crying, putting you on and watching the blue screen flicker on the wall. I was just coming to terms with my sexuality at the same time that I thought I would lose Wade forever. We were both so young, I don’t think we knew what we were doing.

And you remember her, don’t you? The girl I fell in love with. She was everything to me and when it was over I felt broken. I’d only introduced you to her once or twice, but I know you liked her just as much as I did.

But through all the confusion and heartbreak you were always there. It sounds so dramatic but when I had no one I always knew that I could come home to you. There were days when I would sit in a bathroom stall in school and cry till my eyes felt raw, but I kept the thought of you in mind. I knew that when I got home we could laugh together. I knew you could take me somewhere other than here.

Then university came and, well, so did the Playstation 4.

I know we don’t talk anymore. We don’t go on adventures like we used to. I know you might feel like I just tossed you out but I never forgot what it was like when it was just you and me.

I remember the way it felt playing my first game. I remember showing my mom and dad how to play The Last of Us. I remember looking up articles written by white, cis-heterosexual men and smiling because I knew they could never understand what it was like to be someone like me with something like you.

The truth is you taught me how to love myself. You gave me that sweet childlike innocence and fun that I can only remember experiencing before that man touched me.

You taught me to forget about the world and just be me.

I’ll always appreciate you, Playstation 3. Thank you for showing me that a girl like me with skin like mine and experiences like those can still be happy.



Gender & Identity Life

8 tips on how to make time for activism in college

If you are a college student, chances are that you are somewhat idealistic. As we age, we tend to become bogged down in responsibilities and lose our political fervor. College is the perfect time to begin organizing, but busy schedules can prevent students from doing almost anything outside of studying.

I’m here to tell you that yes, you do have time to go to that protest. Or even to organize that protest. You can, in fact, make time for activism. Here is how.

1. Start early in the semester

Student GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

We all have more time early on before the midterms hit us full force. Take advantage of the first few weeks to join two or three activist groups, on or off campus. Starting early also allows you to know exactly what roles you will set for yourself early on, so that you can get involved in exciting projects as soon as the planning process begins.

2. Organize with other students

BBC comedy bbc bored students GIF

Don’t set your sights on exclusively off-campus organizations. They will naturally take up more time because of commuting. Student activist groups are great because all members will be just as busy as you are, and will be more understanding of slip ups.

3. Don’t take on too many tasks at once

 keeping up with the kardashians khloe kardashian kuwtk jenner kardashians GIF

You have your own skillset, connections, and resources. Take on tasks that allow you to make use of what you have. Avoid overloading yourself with projects that have nothing to do with what you, in particular, are good at.

Sometimes a busy schedule can make you feel like you’re being left out the real action. But remember, you can always build an organizing reputation on the little help you add here and there, which is better than taking on something huge and failing.

4. You won’t be able to go to every protest, but go to a couple

 politics protest occupy wall street corporate greed GIF

I get it, you have to study and can’t be out in the streets every day, or even every week. But big actions, and ones that you are personally passionate about, are important formative experiences. Mark your calendar with two or three protests per semester that you can try your best to attend.

5. Find a support group

A24 friends best friends a24 elle fanning GIF

Organizing is so much easier when you have a tight knit group that you can rely on for resources, and also for fun. This will be easy once you’ve joined a couple groups on campus.

Also, activist types make the most supportive friends.

6. You can take breaks—and jump right back in

 abc season 12 jordan spa facial GIF

Once you have your support group filled with like-minded college students, you now have several people who can pick up your slack if you need to drop off the radar for a sec. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back from the next project: College is hard, and we all need to, at some point.

When you’re ready, don’t ever think it’s too late to jump right back in.

7. Expect to be disappointed

 tv sad doctor who sadness pout GIF

When “fighting the power,” sometimes the power fights back (or just refuses to do what you want them to). This is super expected but still difficult to deal with, especially if you’ve expended time and energy organizing around an issue.

Have a game plan to quickly pivot to the next issue, or apply more pressure if needed. You can be idealistic, but never idealize the institutions that you are trying to change.

8. Be sure that you can always make time to help others

 girl baby friendship child kindness GIF

Extracurricular activities are a normal part of any student’s life. It may not seem like you have anytime to organize, but if you treat activism like an extracurricular, it suddenly makes sense to fit it into your life.

It’s important to take a break from student life, something that demands a tireless devotion to your own ambition and future pursuits. Everyone needs a healthy balance of selfishness and selflessness, especially in a society that prioritizes the former.

Put your books down, and make some time to stick up for others.

BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Don’t give white people extra points for repeating what we’ve been saying forever

Now, I am all for white people making their fellow Caucasians realize the role their privilege plays in their lives. Great! But it’s possible to give privileged people too much credit for basic human decency. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I’ve done it myself without noticing.

But we have got to stop.

Recently, my friend, Joshua Welch, had a tweet of his go viral. If you can’t tell, he’s using Culture Day at his school to dress like thief because white people steal other cultures (and he’s not lying, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here).

Let it be known that this isn’t the first time Josh has talk about culture appropriation or other issues that involve people of color.

Let it be also known that for those you don’t know him personally, this is a huge difference from when he was stuck in a different mindset when we were eight….I mean…..(yes that’s me in the picture)

And I’m proud of Josh for not deleting it, standing by it, and having no regrets. He’s gotten a lot of support on Twitter as well as hate (I guess you can tell who those people are). I was even telling all my friends as school (Josh and I go to different schools so it was more people for me to tell). Before you know it, he was getting contacted from Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Mashable, and other publications who were loving his fun costume idea. Just recently, one of our local news stations invited him to be on TV.

Has anyone noticed the problem yet? If not, don’t feel bad, because it took me a little bit, too. It’s the fact that a white person bringing awareness gets more attention than the people who are affected by the problem.

I deal with cultural appropriation in a way that Josh does not have to. However, if it was me who dressed in that same “culture thief” costume to make a point about culture appropriation no one would care. I wouldn’t see Buzzfeed coming for miles and the local TV stations wouldn’t rush towards me. Even my classmates would just shrug it off and someone from administration might pull me to the side if they heard why I dressed like a thief. No one would find me funny in the same way people found Josh funny.  Overall, people would just label it as “another black problem” and file it away in between “angry black girl” and “ugh, this again.”

White people who claim to be our “allies” are probably ready to throw some sweet messages at me about how “Oh! society would too care! You know people like you are keeping more white people from liking you!1!1!!!1!!”. Sit down Jan. I don’t think I want them as “allies” yet if they still get offended over nothing that easily. Plus, I know what I’m talking about. Here we have a local TV news station wanting a white person to explain the issues people of color face. When do we get to provide input on the issues we face?

I’ve been learning that there is a line between agreeing with the person and overpraising the person you’re agreeing with. That’s why I’m bringing this up. Are you unknowingly crossing that line at times too?

A funny thing about this is when a black girl like me, or almost any person of color really, wants to point this out some of us feel like we have to be polite about it. Did you notice how I started this article?

Part of me is all like “Screw what others think! It’s my opinion after all!” while the other half of me is like “Well….maybe I shouldn’t be harsh. Am I harsh?” Some of us think that we need to “kiss the king’s feet” before bestowing what is art thou wrong with the picture―even to our closest “white allies” (how was my Shakespeare, by the way?).

I don’t really care if Josh gets his 15 minutes of fame: the tweet is funny and true. What matters to me is the fact that I and other people of color are continuously ignored when we are screaming at the top of our lungs. Why can’t we work on these issues instead of rewarding privileged people who acknowledge them?

Dear United States of America and Media,

Please stop putting white boys on a huge stage for repeating what we say and turn on our mics for once. Just because you’ve turned them off doesn’t mean that we’ve haven’t been using them all along.



Love Life Stories

Here’s how I hurt myself with music

There’s this song called “Fortyfive” by Bootstraps that I played a lot during high school, especially senior year. Whenever I hear it, I feel this sort of painful out-of-body experience where the past version of myself is looking at me, shaking her head in disbelief. “It’s been three years and you have somehow gotten worse,” she thinks.

I know I haven’t gotten better because I still use songs to describe my different phases and states-of-being. I still sit on Tumblr, letting that dull blue screen stare back at me for hours on end. I still feel like the world owes me something ‒ I still feel like I’m 16.

[bctt tweet=”I still sit on Tumblr, letting that dull blue screen stare back at me for hours on end. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

But when I was 16, I thought I was just around the corner to making it. I had all this passion that was revving up in my bloodstream, and I remember listening to these same songs with a future me in my mind. This future me was always a lot prettier, a lot smarter, a lot funnier, and a lot happier. She was the kind of accomplished my dad would brag about, the kind of accomplished that could buy my mom safety from any sadness she might encounter.

Now, I can’t really explain myself without explaining how I feel when I listen to “Fortyfive.” It’s that first beat, and the way the song croons words I still can’t understand, and how I feel like I have to shut my eyes tight enough to forget that I’m three years too late, three years away from what once was, three years here.

[bctt tweet=”I’m a masochist that way. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I’m a masochist that way. A look at my Spotify will reveal playlists for every month of the year, dating as far back into 2013. I like to save the songs I’m listening to in that particular month so months later I can self-inflict with nostalgia. Sometimes, it’s unbearable like the months of November 2014 or December 2013. Others, like Summer 2015, bring me a sad happiness that sometimes feels worse than all the others. It’s the warm nights my sister and I overstocked on junk food and watched Shameless episodes for hours, it’s the image of my mother and my five- and three-year-old cousins dancing religiously to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, it’s the smell of the apartment elevator I grew to relish ‒ it’s these memories that leave a warm, almost nauseating feeling in my chest when I listen to this playlist. Because I was happy, and remembering happy as something that can only exist in the past is heartbreaking.    

But this one, the one “Fortyfive” is in, this playlist hurts me the most. It was right after I got rejected from all my dream schools, and I was being pushed away from everything I had grown to love. It was filled with songs dedicated to me from my older brother and songs I felt were written for all my uncertainties and failures. It was full of the songs I listened to during every ride going and coming back from school.

[bctt tweet=” I was being pushed away from everything I had grown to love.” username=”wearethetempest”]

So I hear “Fortyfive”, and I see this blurred vision of the streets rushing back during the early morning as I’m heading to school. I see this kind of childish love. I can almost feel exactly what it felt like to be me, right then, at that moment. And I know, more than anything, that I would give anything to slip into the feeling this song creates.

That’s who I am now. I am the me who listens to old songs and romanticizes how it felt to exist in the past because I have no idea how to exist now. I feel I will always be stuck, right here, right in this space between the song and the memory, and I don’t know how to tell myself how to get out. But I’m trying.

Love Life Stories

I grew up thinking I was Japanese, but I’m actually Egyptian

I was really confused about race as a child. How confused? I thought I was Asian. Which as an Egyptian, I’m really, really not.

Okay, that may be a bit hyperbolic. It’s not that I literally thought Japanese and Egyptian people were the same. It’s that I was growing up in a world where people were either black or white, and everyone else in the middle, so-to-speak, was kind of lumped together in my five-year-old mind. Arab, Asian, Hispanic – they weren’t the same, but they were close enough.

I remember watching these beautiful, graceful Japanese girls perform in ice skating competitions on television, and being so fascinated by them. I actually went around telling my first-grade classmates that I was a professional figure skater, a lie that was immediately exposed when one of my friends asked my mother about it.

[bctt tweet=”I just wish I didn’t have to learn what I am from September 11.”]

When I think about it now, I feel that it was a very disassociative experience for my child self, because I knew that on an individual, personalized level I was Arab and Egyptian and Muslim, but that identity had no place, no real meaning, in the context of the wider society I lived in. As a child I related to anyone who had dark hair and a fair-to-medium skin tone: Snow White, Sailor Saturn, Ramona Quimby. I looked for myself in each one of these girls, trying to figure out who and what I was supposed to be.

The truly upsetting part is that it was the events of September 11 that gave me an identity and anchored me to Muslims and Arabs in America as distinct, knowable groups. I was nine at the time, old enough to understand the idea of a wider Muslim or Egyptian or Arab community of which I was a part, but it was still just a vague theoretical concept that didn’t really have any applicability in my day-to-day life – until we were consumed in discussions of terrorism and hate crimes and racism and solidarity.

[bctt tweet=”I looked for myself in each one of these girls, trying to figure out who and what I was.”]

It would be many years after 9/11 before I would come to fully appreciate the validity of my identity and its many facets: Arab, African, Egyptian, American, Muslim. It would be a few more years after that before I reconciled the disadvantages I face as a women of color with the privileges my socioeconomic and educational background give me access to.

When we talk about the need for diversity in the media, this is what we’re talking about. A lot of work has been done to create characters that certainly look more diverse, but there has to be some kind of space for children’s programming to discuss that diversity in the language of race and identity in a positive, age-appropriate way. In her book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” African-American scholar Beverly Tatum talks about how children absorb the silent societal message that it’s wrong to talk about identity or skin color or to ask questions about it. They’re observing racial issues every day, but they’re actively denied the language and tools to ask questions about those issues or discuss them.

[bctt tweet=”Children observe racial issues every day.”]

Children are not color-blind, just like adults aren’t color-blind. They see the spectrum of skin colors that surround us in this wonderfully diverse country and learn how that color connects to a fundamental understanding about who and what we are. They know that we are not all the same, but we as a society are so committed to the illusion of fairness that we don’t allow children to question those differences in a positive way.

I learned so much from television growing up. I learned that you should love your siblings (I’m working on it!). I learned that girls are made of sugar and spice and and chemical X. I learned that everyone is special in his or her own way. I learned what on oxymoron is.

I just wish I didn’t have to learn what I am from September 11.