Month: September 2019

TueNight 10: Benish Shah

Age: 37 Quick bio: Benish has worked in almost every industry from law to baby food to tech, and kind of loves it. She’s currently the Chief Growth Officer for Loop and Tie. She is the author of the children’s book The Splendiferous Spillerella and has a new book for adults in the works. Beyond the Bio: “If 25 year old me saw my life right now, she would be both sad, confused, and incredibly proud. I’ve survived PTSD — some Lifetime-movie level life things — switched careers and industries, and live in an apartment with a view I could have only dreamed of.  My life has been nothing that I imagined it would be, good and bad. My only true unanswered question in life is: why did Mindy Kaling get famous before me? Because now everyone says I talk like her…but have they ever considered, she talks like me?” 1. On the nightstand: A book of poems by Nikita Gill, lavender balm by Eu Genia, and yes an obsidian stone that sits on my book of Muslim prayers. …

The Welcome Issue

Margit Note’s: We are so thrilled to have Sloane Davidson guest-curate TueNight’s Welcome issue. As the founder of Hello Neighbor, Sloane works tirelessly for the needs of refugee families, helping them acclimate to their everyday lives here in the U.S., by connecting them with neighbors and mentors in their new neighborhoods. So she is particularly apt to edit this edition all about the many paths and journeys to becoming an American citizen. Here’s Sloane: I have the immense privilege to spend a lot of time with refugee families. As the founder of a nonprofit that supports recently resettled refugees through mentorship, I can often find myself sitting on the floor playing with children, profusely thanking moms for their tea and hospitality, or shaking hands and showing my respect to elders.  But my life wasn’t always like this.  When I became pregnant with my first child, I felt a draw for my unborn child to be around extended family. And so after 16 years of living away, I moved back to Pittsburgh, my beloved hometown, and was …

The 5th Grade Mehndi Mishap

In the early 1990s, most people didn’t know what henna was, let alone the variation of the word “mehndi.” You see, Gwen Stefani had not happened at that time, and mainstream audiences hadn’t quite accepted that South Asia was “the land of colors and magic” just yet. During that time, my family lived in a town called Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. I say that as if the town does not exist anymore, but it does, and we still have extended family who love living there.  The Mechanicsburg of the early ‘90s was different than it is now. There weren’t many minorities. In fact, in my entire elementary school there was one African American kid. He was the adopted son of our wonderful and white Principal, Ms. Ingram. The other minorities in school consisted of: me, my younger sister, and an Asian girl named Chloe whom I tried, and failed, to befriend. She was cooler than me back then because the early ‘90s was also not the age of the smart-girl dominance. Despite the lack of diversity, Mechancisburg …

American Accent: Passing — and not Passing — as a Latina

(Carla and her parents. Photo courtesy of the author.) One of my favorite childhood memories is of me sitting with my mother on her bed, recording ourselves reading articles to one another. She would look at me and slowly say, acutely aware of her Argentine accent, “I am prac-tis-sing my ello-cue-shon en Eng-lish,” and I would fall into a peal of giggles. I didn’t know my mother thought she needed to change her accent until that moment. I don’t know that I was even aware she had an accent until I was around that age. To me, my mother’s accent was just my mother’s voice.  My family moved to New York City from Buenos Aires on the winter solstice of 1975. It was one of the two coldest winters of the century; my father and mother were 26 and 25. I was 16 months old and my twin brothers just 4 months.  I imagine my parents shivering in their light wool coats and thin leather gloves meant for a mild Argentininean winter as we were …

Make America Great Again: The Canadian Edition

When I was a kid, coming to “the States,” as we called it, was the shit. I mean, you guys had everything. I had never seen that many types of breakfast cereal in my short, Canadian life. The soda aisle alone blew my 9-year-old mind… PURPLE SODA? America the beautiful, indeed.  But other than those occasional Sunday family drives to Plattsburgh, New York—and the obligatory trip to Disney World, when I was 4—my primary exposure to the U.S. as I was growing up was via TV and the news. American presidents are so present and powerful when you live just next door. You almost feel as if they are your president, too. But mostly, the States was just fine—like an annoying older brother, always around, obligated to protect you, much stronger than you, and a little less refined. I certainly had no grand plans to live there.  But, life intervenes: 25-year-old girl meets boy, decides to find a job in a different country, and moves there to see if it will all work out. In …

Maid in the U.S.A.: The Invisible Helpers

My mother was raised in a wealthy household in Guyana. Somewhere in my files, there is a clipping from the Guyana Chronicle, a photo of a pretty girl in a hoop skirt, performing on the piano for Princess Margaret. Her father, Mayor of Georgetown, watches proudly. That girl is my mother. She went on to earn her degrees in music performance at a London conservatory, where she met a handsome British army officer from Barbados. My parents moved around Europe and then to a newly independent Barbados where the marriage swiftly disintegrated. One day she snatched up her children and brought them to Boston, forbidding us any contact with our dear father. In Boston, my mother, who performed on television in Barbados, disappeared into the crowd of invisible Black immigrants. When she met a Jamaican lady who cleaned houses for rich people, she became part of an underground network, scrubbing floors and doing laundry for a pittance.  One Saturday, I accompanied her when she worked in a large house on a leafy street in Brookline. …

Why the United States Remains a Beacon of Hope

I have been working really hard the last couple of months. I’m an attorney in New York City and one case has really consumed me. It is a pro bono asylum case, my first. The trial was today. Let me tell you about it. My client is a gay man from Uganda, a country that criminalizes homosexuality and makes consensual same-sex sex illegal. Violence and discrimination are routinely perpetrated by both state and non-state actors against the LGBTQIA population. The political and religious leaders actively stoke homophobia and violence, and are aided in this process by a vicious tabloid press that solicits tips to out people—those outed are often arrested and imprisoned, and/or attacked and shunned by their communities.  The general belief in Uganda is that homosexuality is like a disease, but also the product of poor parenting, and is contagious and often transmitted by people setting out to induce others, especially kids, into homosexuality. It is a huge taboo.  Mob justice is a form of extrajudicial killing prevalent in Uganda—mobs will form almost spontaneously …

TueNight 10: Sloane Davidson

Age: 39 (Almost in our demo!) Quick Bio: Sloane is the Founder and CEO of Hello Neighbor, a nonprofit that supports refugees and immigrants through mentorship. Next Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 she is co-hosting a TueNight Live #DayofAction and will be curating our new issue next week, “Welcome.” Beyond the bio: “I’m less than a month away from 40. Where did this decade go? As I near my birthday I keep thinking about the road I took to get here. The people that influenced me. How content I am now and how I never ever thought I would get here. There is a stillness to me, mixed in with my drive, because I finally feel like I’m doing something I was meant to do and everything led up to this moment. It’s dramatic but that’s where I am and I’m trying to sit in it and appreciate that because it was hard AF to get here and I don’t want to rush into looking ahead without appreciating the journey.” 1. On the nightstand: Fight Like A Mother by Shannon Watts, Memoirs of a Born …

TueNight 10: Taiia Smart Young

Age: 46 Basic bio: Taiia (Tee-eye-yah) is an award-winning author, content creator, writing coach and speaker. She loves connecting with teens about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Her book, Famous! How to Be the Star of Your Show: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Embracing Her Fabulous Self, reminds young women “to believe in their flyness.” Her favorite T-shirt says: “The dopest writers are from Brooklyn.” Beyond the Bio: “I finally feel super comfortable in my skin. I know who I am, and I’m not ashamed that I love me something fierce.” 1. On the nightstand: Prayers for Difficult Times, essential oils and a talisman my grandmother gave me. 2. Can’t stop/won’t stop: Wearing red lipstick, inserting classic movie lines into daily conversation, going to therapy, laughing at myself and talking about the importance of HBCUs 3. Jam of the minute: “Talk” by Khalid. 4. Thing I miss: The Golden Age of hip-hop, lyricists and brilliant flows. 5. 80s crush: Ralph Tresvant from New Edition. 6. Current crush: Lena Waithe, Ava DuVernay and Robin Thede. 7. Will whine about: Long lines. I will leave …

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While Writing a Book About Self Worth, I Had to Learn How to Practice It

Earlier this summer, after learning a writing teacher I wanted to study with in Cape Cod wasn’t available, I asked my literary coach and yoga instructor, Lisa Weinert, to help me put together a personalized writing retreat that I could enjoy at home in New York City. Instead of escaping to spend time writing in some remote bucolic place, I’d find peace in the chaos of Manhattan. I spend a lot of time focusing on fleeing where I live in order to get in touch with — or to reclaim — another part of myself. And although I love a good island or mountain vacation, all too many times I’ve come home and the sense of peace I enjoyed evaporates as I try to shove my suitcases onto the closing doors of the subway after a long flight home.  It was ironic. I spent so much time dreaming about visiting other places, but here I was, planning more time in the thick August heat of New York City while everyone else was dreaming of the …