South Asian American Digital Archive Fellowship Project

During the course of nine months, I researched and created 10 oral histories of Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs in Metro Detroit for the South Asian American Digital Archive as a fellow in 2020-2021.

This project was to highlight the sense of entrepreneurship among women who celebrate tradition and culture while finding new ways to create businesses outside the brick-and-mortar business model in the Bangladeshi community.

It was important to do this project due to the lack of stories around minority women in business, who are largely invisible on physical maps due not having permanent business locations, or providing services on-site or online, and sometimes not being accessible for traditional newsmakers to interview.

Read more about my project here:

The oral histories were created into an online exhibit:

These oral histories were also created into a podcast series on Bengalis of New York. Listen to them here:

Bengalis of New York podcasts
Preview of stories

Muslim Stories

How Losing Her Job Led Bangladeshi Woman to Launch a Catering Business During the Pandemic

Explore the World with These Metro Detroit Pop-up Restaurants and Food Trucks

For American Muslims, 9/11 Changed Life in America

Metro Detroiters Share Their Citizenship Journey

Pharmacist Tania Begum serves Bengali community

State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud’s Dearborn Mayoral Primary ‘a Historic Victory’

Flooding a Major Issue in Aug. 3 Dearborn Mayoral Primary

How one Bangladeshi family’s lifeline of support was disrupted by the pandemic

Tag-team approach to health care reaches older adults in Bangladeshi community during COVID-19 pandemic

Metro Detroit Food Businesses Adapt to Ramadan Traditions During Pandemic

How women in Detroit’s Bangladeshi communities cope with mental health stigma — and fight it

Muslims Observe Ramadan During a Second Year of the Pandemic

Traditions New and Old Come to Life for Ramadan Celebrations Amid COVID

Authors of “A Place at the Table” Spread Allyship Through Food and Friendship

Engineer, cake artist pays homage to Bangladeshi roots

Mosques go virtual during a COVID-19 Ramadan

Muslim Center in Detroit keeps soup kitchen open during coronavirus

Metro Detroit’s Halal Restaurants Adjust to Ramadan Service in a Pandemic

Döner Kebab Restaurant Balkan House Struggles With Fewer Orders During the Pandemic

The Muslim Stories We Need to Hear – Talking with Precious Rasheeda Muhammad

Aisha Al Adawiya on Why We All Must Learn African American (Muslim) History

Detroit’s Bangladeshi Restaurants Sell Thousands of Iftar Boxes During Ramadan

The Halal Restaurant Helping Build Community in Suburban Detroit

Ramadan in Detroit: The Bangladeshi American fasting experience

Through The Craft of Cakes, a New Way To Bangladeshi Identity

Traveling exhibit explores the idea of a Halal Metropolis in Metro Detroit

Bangladeshi Stories

How Losing Her Job Led Bangladeshi Woman to Launch a Catering Business During the Pandemic

Opinion | How I Embraced My Muslim Identity After 9/11

Pharmacist Tania Begum serves Bengali community

Why understanding the impact of the pandemic in Detroit’s Bangladeshi community is more complicated than you think.

How one Bangladeshi family’s lifeline of support was disrupted by the pandemic

Tag-team approach to health care reaches older adults in Bangladeshi community during COVID-19 pandemic

Bangladeshi Third Spaces

Metro Detroit Food Businesses Adapt to Ramadan Traditions During Pandemic

How women in Detroit’s Bangladeshi communities cope with mental health stigma — and fight it

Engineer, cake artist pays homage to Bangladeshi roots

Turnout for pop-up Bangladeshi consulate fuels calls for a permanent office

Embassy of Bangladesh Brings Essential Consular Services To The Community

Redefining Entrepreneurship

These Metro Detroit sisters didn’t see businesses that catered to them, so they built their own

Bengali Ballots in Hamtramck: what’s at stake for Bengali voters during the election?

They do weddings for multicultural brides. COVID-19 is disrupting their plans.

Mosques go virtual during a COVID-19 Ramadan

Metro Detroit’s Halal Restaurants Adjust to Ramadan Service in a Pandemic

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit Bangladeshis, leaders combat misinformation in immigrant communities

A Bengali Refugee Makes a New Home at Detroit’s Best Chocolate Company

Detroit’s Bangladeshi Restaurants Sell Thousands of Iftar Boxes During Ramadan

The Halal Restaurant Helping Build Community in Suburban Detroit

Ramadan in Detroit: The Bangladeshi American fasting experience

Through The Craft of Cakes, a New Way To Bangladeshi Identity

A Food Crawl Through Banglatown on the Detroit-Hamtramck Border

Hamtramck Public Schools Alumna Lands Job at NASA

A Conversation with Summi Akther, Director of ICNA Relief Michigan

Domestic Violence Resources

Coping With Domestic Violence & What You Can Do To Help Victims: Part I

Surviving Domestic Violence & A Path To Healing: Part II

Growing Up with Domestic Abuse – Powerful Stories From Women Impacted as Children

Childhood Suicides in Muslim Communities – A Problem We Cannot Ignore (Part One)

Childhood Suicide Warning Signs and Seeking Help In Our Muslim Communities (Part Two)

How to Talk to Your Child About Domestic Violence: 5 Tips for Parents

2020 Highlights

A global pandemic, the #BLM movement, and figuring out create new traditions among the old ones, 2020 has been a roller coaster of emotions. However, like during any obstacle, this year came as an opportunity to create new norms. Here are a few things I’ve covered, participated in and experienced in 2020.

PEN America webinar on untangling misinformation.
  1. Misinformation about COVID: I covered a story about how misinformation travels within communities like Bangla communities for Tostada Magazine. The story showed how elders relied on the younger generation to translate information in real time, as well as depended on social media for information which was otherwise slow to be translated about COVID-19. The original story was reposted by Next Avenue, which is part of PBS news. I later spoke about this with other guest speakers during a PEN America webinar.
  2. Prioritizing Mental Health: Mental health was a trending topic throughout the year. As people changed their livelihoods to cope with the changes, I wrote this list to help myself and others keep themselves as a priority.
  3. A Ramadan like no other: With mosques, churches, synagogues, temples closed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus this year many people were trying to figure out how to celebrate holidays like Eid, Easter, and Hannakuh via Zoom. Similarly Ramadan, the month of fasting and doing good deeds, was quite different this year for Michigan Muslims and worldwide including my family. I wrote this ultimate Ramadan list on the many online festivities taking placed during the month.
  4. Learning must go on: In September parents geared up for virtual, hybrid, in-person learning or homeschooling. I spoke to a few parent teachers on how they planned to make adjustments for their careers and families. Meanwhile I made this tip list for parents who were doing virtual learning and working from home.
  5. Equitable architecture: The death of George Floyd in May, and the following #BlackLivesMatter protests created a ripple effect of changes throughout the U.S. One of those things was creating equitable architecture and development and opportunities in major cities for minority communities.
  6. Yemen Mural: Last year a petition spurred protest to halt potential construction in front of the renowned Yemen Mural in Hamtramck, Mich. Developers, the city and well wishers looked for possible solutions to preserve the iconic mural which depicts parts of Yemen.
  7. To Covid wedding or not? Small businesses scrambled to make ends meet while they changed formats to stay float the wedding market this year due to the pandemic. While some vendors took a huge financial hit, others moved services online or created new “wedding packages” to accommodate the pandemic restrictions.
  8. Election coverage: While it felt like Detroit vs. Everybody during the presidential elections in 2020, Hamtramck had its unique share of confusion over Bangla ballots for non-native English speakers due to a federal law which requires municipalities with a significant number of people from a single language to have access to translated ballots. While these ballots have been available for years, some people were not aware of them while others say the wording on the ballots are lost in translation.
  9. Food Writing #ftw: Turns out a lot of folks were cooking more at home, with restrictions on restaurants being open and eating out. Much like those of us who were eating, more people wanted to write about food too. This year I took part in the Detroit Writing Room panel of food writers on breaking into food writing, and another food writing workshop with the Arab American Museum as part of a month-long writing series.
  10. Fellowships: This year I took on two fellowships; one the South Asian American Digital Archive creators’ fellowship to record oral histories of Detroit’s Bangladeshi Women Entrepreneurs. The other is a Journalists in Aging fellowship where I will document the spread of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladeshi communities.

2020 out, 2021 in!

Detroit’s Own Co-Working Ecosystem

At the heart of midtown Detroit, Green Garage, a triple bottom line business incubator operating out of a former Model T showroom, is home to approximately 50 businesses and nonprofits. From sustainable food co-ops to nonprofits mobilizing Detroit’s immigrant population, the Green Garage community is diverse. But the businesses share one common thread — a love for the city and sustaining its future.  

Community lunch at the Green Garage is held on Fridays at noon. Picture by: Nargis Rahman

For nearly a decade now, Green Garage has been a place for entrepreneurs and organizations who meet at “the intersection of community and environment,” says co-founder Tom Brennan.  

Businesses within Green Garage are encouraged to leave behind as low of an environmental footprint as possible. Practical benefits that can cut business costs while making an impact include Wi-Fi, meeting room access, weekly triple bottom line business leadership opportunities, community lunches, and more. Membership options range from a shared table for $65 per month to “makerspaces” with varied pricing, featuring mail and package receipt, access to conference rooms, and Green Garage common areas.  

Brennan wants Green Garage to be a part of the next chapter of Detroit. People, planet, and profit drive for-profit businesses like Green Garage. 

“We built a lot of resilience into the model,” he says. Seventy-five percent of the wood, glass, and other materials that make up the garage were already in the building during its purchase in 2007. According to the company’s website, 200 volunteers worked for three years to remodel the space. Detroit’s first “green alley,” east of Green Garage, permeates 50% of rain water to avoid over-flooding the drain system and was created in partnership with Motor City Brewing Works. There are now seven alleys like this in Detroit.

With the money businesses save on energy and space, they can invest back into their businesses by taking courses, developing a product, and buying software, Brennan says. Businesses and nonprofits share resources to make the community what it is. 

“The people we have in these businesses…They are the heart of the Green Garage,” he says.

Learn about two businesses in residence within Green Garage: 


Mia Zavalij is co-founder of the sustainable food waste reduction business, Eatable. Zavalij is part of a three-person traveling team based in Washington, D.C. Eatable works with the Compass Group, a global corporate company, to identify institutions to reduce waste, donate food, and measure waste.

“Just by working at food reduction on all angles reduces the amount of greenhouse emissions,” Zavalij says.

She recently moved to Detroit to seek out partnerships. Eatable is an extension of her previous work as a college student for the national nonprofit Food Recovery Network, which encourages college students to donate and recover surplus food. She hopes future projects can be tailored for “smaller companies that may not have a big budget for sustainability but still want to make a difference,” such as food businesses.


El Moore Lodge & Residences is a business venture of Green Garage featuring space for 12 residents, 10 guests, and the new El Moore Garden. The bed-and-bath style inn provides residents and visitors an opportunity to connect during Tuesday night for dinners. While residency rates vary, rooms can be rented for $75 to $215 per night. Brennan says both Green Garage and El Moore became profitable organically within one-and-a-half to two years.

Nargis Hakim is a metro Detroit-based freelance writer.

Local Resources To Achieve The Triple Bottom Line:


Every Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., Green Garage invites community members for brown bag lunches featuring guests to discuss Detroit’s sustainable future. Learn from local small businesses and organizations and take a tour of the Green Garage facility.



A coalition of community and environmental justice organizations, Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD) aims to move toward recycling and materials recovery and away from waste incineration. Among its current priorities is to increase participation of its curbside recycling program and explore ways for the business community to increase recycling.



A collaborative effort between General Motors Co. and the Detroit Regional Chamber, the NeighborHUB grant program empowers residents to affect change in their neighborhoods. Nonprofits in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park can apply for grants of up to $30,000 and additional business support. The application cycle runs throughout July and August.


Originally published on:

Detroit’s Own Co-Working Ecosystem

Ingredients: Garlic, Ginger, Onion Pastes

Note: Summertime is all about grilling, cooking and enjoying time with family. For many Bangladeshi homes, it’s the time when people share homecooked meals called dawath, an invitation. I will be sharing some of my favorite foods, as well as highlight ingredients used in common Bangladeshi foods. 

Bangladeshi cuisine uses a lot of textured cooking, adding spices and ingredients in the various steps of the cooking process for unique flavor combinations. All curry recipes utilize spices but onions, garlic, and ginger steal the show in creating the bases for these curries. I create pastes out of these three ingredients to streamline my cooking process. Here is a basic recipe on how to make your own at home. 

Grab a family member, a friend, or even the kids to help peel and prepare the ginger, garlic, and onions. Then grab your blender and get to work. The process may take an hour or two, but it will save you about a month’s worth of time in the kitchen!

Garlic, ginger and onion pastes are used in Bangladeshi cuisine. (Picture Credit: Zayd Rahman)

What you need:

  •         1 lb. garlic
  •         1 lb. ginger
  •         4-5 medium onions
  •         2 cups of water
  •         3 empty jars
  •         Blender or food processor


  1.       Garlic: Take about a pound of garlic and peel them. Thoroughly rinse them. Set aside.
  2.       Ginger: Wash the ginger thoroughly. You may choose to scrub the ginger with a vegetable brush to get off extra dirt. Peel the ginger skin. (Optional: If you’re using organic ginger, you can leave the skin on.) Cut the ginger into rough slices.  Rinse again. Set aside.
  3.       Onions: Cut off the ends of about five medium onions. Cut the onion in half horizontally. Peel the skin off. Wash the onions. Cut each half, and then in half again. Cut each of those halves into halves. This will give you eight cubes per onion. Set aside.


  1.       Garlic Paste: Add about ¼ cup of water to the blender. Then add about half the garlic into the blender. Pulse on grate setting (use according to your blender’s settings) until the mixture looks like a smoothie. Add a few drops of water if the mix is not blending well. Then add the rest of the garlic. Pour into a jar and cover with a lid.
  1.       Ginger Paste: Add ¼ cup of water to blender. Add the ginger in two parts. Add a few drops of water if needed, as above. Pour into a jar and cover with a lid.
  2.       Onion Paste: Add ¼ cup of water to blender. Add the onion in two parts. Add a few drops of water if needed. Pour into a jar and cover with a lid.

All the pastes should last about a month in the fridge. You may also freeze the extra mixture in ziploc bags, and thaw for later use. The garlic paste will eventually turn green due to being in the fridge. Check the pastes weekly to see if they have a foul odor. 

How to use:

Add a tablespoon of garlic and ginger paste to curries. Use 3-4 tablespoons of onion paste to fish recipes in the base for an even texture.


Freeze any leftover garlic or ginger chunks. Thaw and blend for future pastes!

Collaboration: Burgers, Shakes and Entrepreneurship

Recently I met up with Tahura Holly, owner of Festive Essentials, a custom jewelry business, at California Burgerz in Hamtramck, Mich., where both of us grew up. Tahura and I have been in touch recently as I embarked on researching creating and building a social media presence professionally. We also discussed the need for collaboration in places like Hamtramck, where there are up-and-coming creative artists doing everything from henna art to event coordination.


Tahura of Festive Essentials said, “Collaboration is building on each other’s strengths while keeping a focus on how I can take the customer service to a new level. Collaboration is a great way to connect with others and build each other up.”


Here are some tips we discussed about collaboration and growing your business on social media.

  1. Research your career path. Find out what other people with your craft are doing. If you’re a writer like me, find out what other writers are posting, and what hashtags they use. For example,, has a guide for hashtags.
  2. Find ways to be inclusive. Plug people in when you have the opportunity. Tahura recently had a pop-up with other local creative artists. This is a growing trend, in which a larger business hosts the smaller businesses. Vendors can share the cost of the venue, or one business can host the others.
  3. Remember your roots. Tahura says people are often surprised to learn she’s from Hamtramck, a small town surrounded by Detroit. She finds it humbling to remember where she came from. For Tahura, keeping in mind the price point that’s comfortable for her community is responsible business, rather than simply profiting from people. Tahura travels throughout India to hand-pick custom jewelry, seeks out sets her customers request and also orders customized pieces upon request.
  4. Build your craft. Once you hone one aspect of your craft, start doing more.
  5. Connect with other entrepreneurs. Like-minded people rub off on each other. Hang out with your business minded crew to get more ideas on how to branch out.

If you’re looking for inspiration, or want to share your skills with your personal or professional community, collaboration is one step to achieving a longer lasting impact.

Brunch with a Purpose

Brunch, the art of having breakfast and lunch together while discussing goals, challenges and growth with women is an important part of my self-care. Finding time to do things you enjoy may help reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to adverse health effects. Brunch menus often have options that can accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, halal, and no pork.


My latest brunch adventure took place at The Apparatus Room, housed in an old fire station that was turned into the Detroit Foundation Hotel. The space has cozy leather seats and benches with a country homey feel, mixed with a modern touch. The restaurant’s website describes the space as a place to, “Step away from the Downtown bustle, enjoy a fine meal and the easy taste of an Old Foundation, and relax to the homely chatter of new friends.”


Indeed Carmen McIntosh, Chyrisha Rucker and I celebrated friendship and womanhood.

Brunch 1.jpg

Here are five things we discussed while having brunch:

  1. You matter. Women are often overwhelmed with commitments. We have to intentionally step outside, schedule and  engage in lighthearted activities. Make time for yourself and those who matter to you, or what Chyrisha calls being, “pleasantly selfish.
  2. Explore new places. Part of our brunch adventures is seeking out different places to eat and visit. Carmen says, “Re-explore the gems of your city.” We had our first group brunch at Folk Detroit, a women and minority owned restaurant on small business Saturday. Folk specializes in serving seasonal foods with culturally diverse menu items such as Turmeric Milk, the Vegan Bowl, or the Warm Rice Bowl. Naturally, we ordered almost everything and shared.FolkDetroit2.JPG
  3. Let toxic people go. We all go through fall-outs with people we care for – friends or relationships – which can feel challenging and heartbreaking. Hold onto relationships that honor you and help you grow. Carmen said her dad often reminds her that, “Not everyone is like you.” Carmen said, “If people treat you like you are their acquaintance (after a long friendship), maybe they ought to be just acquaintances.”
  4. Be open to new friendships. If you’re open to change, you may meet people who share your ideals and passions. Chyrisha was recently introduced to a person through a mutual friend, who she hit it off with due to their similarities. She said, sometimes you meet people and it feels like you’re old friends reuniting, while creating a new friendship. Cherish these moments which feel, “good for your soul.”
  5. Celebrate your changes: Every phase of life doesn’t have to be great. Appreciate where you came from, hug the old you, and let go. Move into the spaces that nurture and flourish your talents and aspirations.

Whether you brunch just for fun, or with a purpose, spending time for yourself can go a long way. You may even learn tools to navigate life over coffee, pancakes and berries.