“I’m so sorry, I don’t want to say those words out loud.”
Rusul Alrubail is the executive director of The Writing Project, a small but growing publishing platform that helps all kids, but particularly marginalized ones, accelerate their digital literacy and critical thinking skills through writing, sharing stories, and community. She’s also a former refugee who has known real fear. As a child in the 1990s, she escaped Iraq with her family, a harrowing journey that took her through an unwelcoming Jordan and ultimately, to Toronto, where she now lives.
The words she doesn’t want to say: Muslim registry. “I’m in a coffee shop,” she says. “Even though I’m in Toronto…I’m…I’m too afraid.”
Alrubail is exactly the kind of advocate and technologist the world needs, and she’s been doing all the right things to grow her organization.
She's becoming a regular at SXSWedu, and her TEDx talk has become her calling card. Her work has been publicly cited by Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, for her use of Skype and storytelling tools to help U.S. school children understand and connect with the lives of refugee kids around the world.
She works with a small team – “less than ten people,” she says, but more help will be coming, she hopes. “We’re bootstrapping, but almost ready to look for funding partners,” she says, putting on her start-up voice.
But now, she’s reconsidering giving keynotes in the U.S. and has already canceled an important event in Philadelphia after she was waved off by white American friends who are worried for her safety. “They know of women who have had their hijab yanked from their heads, threatened on the streets,” she says.
But giving speeches and networking at these events have helped her meet new potential partners and investors -- and get better at her work. “These meetings help me grow," she says.
The irony, of course, is that her work – teaching kids to share their stories - is predicated on her desire to scale empathy. “When we tell our story, people humanize us. When we are prevented from sharing who we are, we fail to see other people as fully human,” she says. For kids who are shut out of systemic power, that impact is devastating. “I know what it takes to function within a system of oppression,” she said in her TEDx talk. “In a system that is not built to create leaders from marginalized individuals… in a system that oppresses and silences those who are different.”
As she whispers to me over the phone, she considers how her own story is changing. “I am re-thinking my strategy, maybe focusing on Asia and the Middle East,” she says, trailing off. But she doesn’t like feeling so unsure. “I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.”
A care-package subscription for Muslim women includes safety instruction and pepper spray
Rusul Alrubail is part of a growing market of fearful, Muslim women who now have a new “beauty subscription” option to meet their self-care and safety needs. The content site MuslimGirl is offering a “post-election care package,” which, in addition to typical care package fare, also includes Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women, and a pepper spray keychain for safety.
Why Fortune 500 companies will save the world
Business writer Daniel Gross has penned the best rallying cry for inclusive leadership and sustainable institutions in the age of Trump: It’s all on the shoulders of big business now. “In Trump’s America, in many respects, Fortune 500 companies will be far more progressive, and far more significant forces for essential causes, than Washington,” he says, citing diversity, the environment, and women’s empowerment. He calls this “cold comfort” in his kicker, and that’s where we part company. I think it’s the best possible news.
A lot of people in Milwaukee didn’t vote, and they’re fine with it
About half of all registered voters didn’t bother to vote either, but in some of the poorer and blacker zip codes in Milwaukee, the reasons were personal. Obama did very little to improve the lives of black people, say many, and Clinton - well, her husband’s crime bill did quite a bit to ruin things. But the dream of a black president was a gift. “He did give black people something to aspire to. That’s a lot. I’m happy my son was able to see a black president,” said one resident.
Tension erupts between indigenous and non-indigenous Standing Rock protestors
Indigenous journalist Stephanie Cram reports on the growing tension between on-site protestors, many of whom are non-indigenous. Some are bringing a “burning man” vibe to the encampment; others are turning themselves into self-imposed defenders of native values. Either way, the indigenous protectors are getting fed up. "We are a prayer camp … not a social camp, where you come to meet people and have a festival," cautioned one indigenous organizer.
President-elect Trump’s war on sanctuary cities
By aggressively pledging to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the President-elect has also declared war on sanctuary cities, the many U.S. communities which have pledged to protect them. He’s already threatened to cut off federal dollars to jurisdictions that do not cooperate with deportation measures. CityLab has created a helpful interactive map showing where the sanctuary communities are, and how they might be preparing to face an angry president.
The Woke Leader
Why Trump terrifies Muslim Americans
John Robbins is the executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and a brand new dad. His joy has been dramatically curtailed by the fear that his small but growing Muslim family is now at risk, in a country that seems utterly dedicated to their eradication. The only thing more frightening than a registry is the silence of others. “Opposing such initiatives will require Americans from all backgrounds to stand up and loudly declare that they will not be slotted into categories, that either everyone in our country has the same rights and freedoms, or else ultimately no one does.”
Two very smart brothas are indeed, very very smart
Damon Young and D. Marcellus Wright created their social commentary website, Very Smart Brothas, to be the smart, provocative, trash-talking and brilliant sounding board on race that young, gifted and black professionals desperately needed after Trayvon Martin’s death. Since then, the two surprisingly shy guys have become the darling of Black Twitter, the bane of the All Lives Matter crowd, and have just earned a two-book deal. I link to them often, but it was great to finally "meet" them in this profile.
The future of The Movement For Black Lives
The Trump win is a setback, no doubt. Small numbers of White Lives Matter protesters have been popping up across the country, most recently at an unveiling of a monument to African Americans at the Texas State Capital. Message received: BLM is at a crossroads and will have to do some soul searching to make sure that they have a clear sense of how to engage on the issues that matter. "We’ve been thinking a lot about the work we need to do in our own communities,” said BLM co-founder Opal Tometi. In a candid interview with WNYC, “to make sure that people are safe in their communities.”