Year in Review 2019

This year has been about finding stories in unsuspected spaces and places. In 2019 I covered stories about food, identity and women. I wrote profile and feature pieces of women of color, including a CNN top 10 hero, a computer scientist who got a job at NASA and a local chocolatier who is a Bengali refugee seeking asylum. I became a contributor to the Yemeni American News, Model D, Tostada Magazine, and Detroiter Magazine. 

Read my list of top 10 stories and subjects below.

  1. Community Center: Bismillah Kabob – In the midst of Macomb County, a group of Bangladeshis came together to open a restaurant to serve halal burgers. Bismillah Kabob N Curry Cafe later added Bangladeshi foods to the menu. The business started as a hole-in-the wall restaurant and later bloomed into a community space, becoming a pitstop for the Bangladesh Embassy’s mobile consular services in Michigan. Bismillah Kabob is central in Warren to surrounding Bangladeshi businesses, a mosque and housing development (WDET/Feet in Two Worlds). The story aired on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 
Bismillah Kabob is a restaurant in Warren, Mich. which has become a community staple in Macomb County.
  1. CNN Top 10 Hero: Najah Bazzy – Zaman International is a community nonprofit organization which has been helping marginalized women and children since 1996. The humanitarian organization began out of founder Najah Bazzy’s van and has since moved to a 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse, with a skill-building center and thrift store. Zaman served over 400,000 people last year with a team of 2,000 volunteers. Najah was featured as a CNN top 10 hero (Haute Hijab).
  1. Islamic Female Led Scholarship: Anse Tamara Gray – Rabata Founder Anse Tamara Gray is all about female-led Islamic scholarship through female empowerment and providing women with the tools to lead in their own spaces – whether that’s in the home or local mosque. Part of her mission is to celebrate faith with joy and build Muslim authors. She has a podcast called Joy Jots, where she shares reflections each week with action items to integrate them into your life. Rabata offers certification for Islamic scholarship and has a publishing house, Daybreak Press. The organization is for women, by women. Read my Q&A with her here (Haute Hijab).
  2. Ramadan Coverage: During Ramadan I covered a range of topics: my sehri routine prior to beginning the day-long fast (Tostada Magazine), Bangladeshi Ramadan staple foods only found in Bangladeshi restaurants during the holy month (Eater), and the challenges of praying the night prayer Tarawih at the mosque during Ramadan as a mother of young children (Haute Hijab). Ramadan is a unique experience for each family, however I wanted to shine a light on observing the month of fasting as a mother of young children.
  3. Detroit’s Chocolatier Seeks Asylum: Adwity Borna is a production supervisor at the nationally acclaimed sweet shop, Bon Bon Bon in Hamtramck, Mich. A native of Bangladesh, Borna came to the U.S. to begin a new life with her daughter Nee (Eater). She’s seeking asylum due to fear of religious persecution.
  4. Family Matters: When it comes to creating a family, there is not one way to do it. For some a family is living in a single mother household, while others have found love again in blended families. I highlighted different family styles for the the Multifaceted Families series (Haute Hijab). 
  5. Mental Health Coverage: Discussing mental health is taboo in many minority communities. The first Bangladeshi mental health workshop was hosted in Hamtramck in October. The discussion was led by six speakers in a storytelling format. The event aimed to dispel myths about mental health and break the stigma around getting help. 
  6. Child Suicide Prevention: (Trigger Warning: Suicide) With the rise of children facing mental health challenges, suicide follows rates are on the rise in children – especially boys. I delved deep into the causes of suicide and ways parents can proactively work with their children and professionals to address concerns. Early intervention is key. Read my part 1 about recognizing suicidal thoughts and part 2 of the warning signs and resources for help here. 
  1. Halal Metropolis: As the Michigan Muslim community grows, the marks of growth and permanence become prevalent in landmarks. For Model D I wrote about the Halal Metropolis, a traveling art exhibition, aimed to showcase Muslim art, talent and community members in major Muslim cities from Dearborn to Hamtramck. 
  2. Bangladeshi coverage for the Yemeni American News: I became a contributor to the Yemeni American News, a monthly publication. I write profile stories about Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs who attended Hamtramck Public Schools. My first story was about Mahjabin Haque, a computer scientist who landed a job at NASA, who made international headlines for being one of the few Bangladeshis to be hired by NASA. 
Mahjabin Haque made international headlines after she was hired by NASA as one of the few Bangladeshis to work there. Source: Yemeni American News

Leave a comment with your favorite story! 

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.

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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.”

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

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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.