Starting a Non-Profit

Never in a million years did I think I would be starting a non-profit at the young age of 21. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a news anchor, not an entrepreneur. It comes with the territory, I guess. When you’re a person who loves helping other people, you will find a way to make a difference. I’ve been scheming over the past four years. I have had giant ideas with many excuses as to why they wouldn’t work: I don’t have time, I don’t have money, I don’t have motivation.

I don’t know why I waited so long to make my dreams come true. I firmly believe in God’s timing. Maybe these past let-downs and ideas with no traction just weren’t meant to be. But, with graduation quickly approaching, I am taking the steps to launch the Leola Foundation.

Leola happens to be my great-grandmother and was a force on this planet. Although I was not alive during her years at W.R.A.P., I remember her fondly. She was always wearing her Sunday best (big church hat included) and smelled strongly of perfume. She had gentle hands and the smoothest skin. I remember her kind hugs and laughter. Leola passed away in 2008 right after the win of President Elect (at that time) Barack Obama. Although her passing was a great loss, I was happy she was able to see the election of a black president. Leola herself was an advocate for the black community. In the 1960s, she was the host of a 25 minute homemaker’s radio show “Around the Town.” She provided a great outlet for black women to get involved. Leola rose in the ranks of W.R.A.P. even meeting President and First Lady Lyndon B. Johnson and President and First Lady John F. Kennedy.

Her work is what inspired me to formally start the Leola Foundation. The Leola Foundation is an empowerment platform encouraging minority women to be leaders within their communities. We fund and provide consultation to local projects meant to positively impact the community. Although we are in the planning stages and have a lot of work ahead of us, I am so excited to see what comes of Leola. This week I apply for non-profit status through the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Next comes 501(c)3 registration with the IRS and then with the state AGAIN for charitable solicitations. Everyone says how much work it takes to start a non-profit, but no one tells you how much of it is a waiting game. Keep checking back here for updates on the Leola Foundation. And check out the website to read more:




Forum on Democracy

Amid controversy about the travel ban by President Trump and then struck down by a Seattle court and later by two federal judges, the University of Okahoma hosted a “Forum on Democracy” which was headed by the College of International Studies. The Forum was a collection of individual academics and panelists speaking about a range of issues from corruption, populism, checks and balances, public schools, and many other topics. I was able to attend a talk by presenter Dr. Meta Carstarphen focusing on journalism and then the panel discussion afterwards. The journal consisted of Dr. Carstarphen, Rick Tepker (OU Law), Dr. Justin Wert (Political Science), and Dr. Waleed Mahdi (historian). What most interested me of all of the programming was the question and answer portion that was held directly after the panelists finished their talks. A nice young woman went up to the microphone and said, “I’m of the school of thought that there needs to be destruction before real change can be made…”

I’m not sure what she said after that because I tuned it out. I’m not one for anarchy, and this girl had already begun her sentence with a statement that was cause for concern. Apparently, the panelists felt the same way I did. Dr. Mahdi stepped up to answer her question. But then he began speaking about my generation of Americans. He spoke about growing up in Yemen surrounded by war. He talked about how, children that have grown into adults without having to experience conflicts, especially in places such as the United States that have a representative democracy, begin to forget the values of freedom and democracy because they do not know a time without it. They do not know real destruction. He spoke about how that ideology of destruction and then rebuilding is dangerous to the preservation of democracy. And, although what he said might have been hurtful to the girl brave enough to ask questions, I couldn’t help but side with him. There reason we learn about history in school is so that we will not repeat the atrocities of the past. However, there is a difference between reading about atrocities in a book and experiencing them first hand. If we do not emphasize the good that comes from our current system, then we will forget about what we have and long for destruction. This ideology is dangerous in the wrong hands. It can lead to civil wars and terrorism and pain. If we do not continue to educate people daily on why the United States runs on a democratic system (as flawed as it may be) then we will fall into the trap of allowing history to repeat itself.


Arabic Flagship Talent Show

I have been a member of the Arabic Flagship for about three years now. At this point, I have become acquainted with performing at the annual talent show. At the end of every spring semester, the talent show commemorates what each club has worked on throughout the year. Fortunately, I did not have to do a live singing or bellydance performance this year. My Egyptian colloquial class got together to create a wonderful rendition of “Arab’s Got Talent.” Attached is the video of our creation. For my talent portion, I sang “Akhbarak Eh.” I have performed this song before for a talent show, but never in this singing style. Watch the video to view my cringeworthy talent.

The College Girl’s Guide To: Radical Right Populism

Populism. It’s not the study of popularity or a famous pimple popping compilation. It’s not anything fun at all actually. Some would say it’s a political ideology. Some would say it’s a mobilization mechanism. Others might call it a political style. One thing that populism truly is? On the rise in the West.

I first gained insight on populism during my time studying Fascism in Italy. A portion of my studies was focused upon researching women in radical right populist parties. Something I noticed from my work was that there are really no ways to compare populist parties that are gaining political traction. Many of them have different ideologies and issues that bind them. However, the leaders of these parties all have one thing in common: they are loud, outspoken, and target the common working man, the “forgotten people.”

To brush up on my knowledge of populism in the year 2017, I decided to attend “Into the Mainstream” a lesson on the radical right populism sweeping over the world. The talk was given by Reinhard Heinisch, a professor from the University of Salzburg. Although he specialized in Austrian studies, Dr. Heinisch gave excellent perspectives on how to categorize and understand populism. His lessons are as follows:

In the early 2000s, populism concentrated in two or three European countries, namely France. It gradually spread to rest of Europe in different manifestations. These days populism takes on two main looks:

  1. Parties that call principles of liberal democracies into question (checks and balances, judiciary, media, etc)
  2. Parties that break taboos, discriminate against political minority, nativist/nationalist

These parties tend to draw in young, male, blue-collar voters. These voters are susceptible to populist ideology because of the potential economic losses they see from immigrants taking their blue collar jobs. Furthermore, women are less likely to support these parties because of the anti-feminist language that the parties boast. However, this does not mean they are not without leadership. There are many populist parties that have female leaders, people like Marine Le Pen who just recently lost the French Presidential Election. These parties tend to prioritize security, whether that means protecting their nation from immigrants (Western Europe) or protecting themselves from radical Western ideals (Eastern Europe). Even more interesting to note, is that Russia is funding many of these movements in ways that it cannot support mainstream parties. These mainstream parties are too afraid of the repercussions that come with having Russia back them. However, populist parties are all about breaking taboos, not only in speech, but also in behavior.

The talk by Heinisch gave an overall picture of what populism looks like in the West. But each party is unique in its views and thus takes lots of research to understand. Because of that, I have linked some articles below that give further insight into the political issue that is radical right populism:


Feminism: Why I will not be quiet

“Come stand by me. I don’t normally get to see people this pretty in the morning.”

It was six in the morning and all I wanted was gas, coffee and to hit the road.

Little did I know that the 50 year old man standing at the counter had something different in mind.

Many thoughts ran through my head:

“Who does this guy think he is?”

“Why is he talking to me?”

“I could be his daughter’s age.”


Before he even said a word to me, I knew the situation was trouble. I walked into the quick stop by myself to four men standing around the counter. It gave me an uneasy feeling. I made my way to the back of the line only to have a 50-year-old man in overalls stare at me for an awkward amount of time. When I made eye contact with him, I gave a smile to keep myself from being uncomfortable. But, even when I looked away, he kept staring.

That’s when he said IT:

“Come stand by me. I don’t normally get to see people this pretty in the morning.”

And I broke down. Not on the outside. But on the inside something caved. I wanted so desperately for the situation, which I knew would happen from the start, to be a dream. I wanted to believe that I was judging the men too harshly that morning when I walked in and thought, “one of them is going to say something inappropriate to me.”

I wanted to be wrong.

But, at that moment, I was too right.

So, inside of me was this battle. What was I supposed to say? What did he want from me? What was I supposed to do? I most certainly wasn’t going to stand by this man I barely knew. Why did he have to put me in this position of having to retort to his unnerving comment (command)?

I tried to come up with something that would get him to question why he felt the urge to talk to me that way. I might have asked him why or told him that I can’t deal with men this early in the morning. I just wanted to say something that would get him to see how sexist he was being and how his comment was unfair for me to endure.

But what, in that moment, came out of my mouth?

“You’re so sweet.”

But see, I’m the type of girl who notices when there are more men in a room than women or when a guy puts his hands on me without asking or when a female backs down from a conversation because the males have taken over.

I notice these things and speak against these things daily.

And yet all I could say was: you’re so sweet.

As soon as I said the words I regretted it. I hadn’t stood up for myself. I didn’t stand up for women everywhere who have to deal with random creepy comments from men every day.

you’re. so. sweet.

I had encouraged him.

He looked at me and smiled, “I just thought that if a beautiful girl like you stood by me, it might make me look a little better.”

I laughed.

It wasn’t funny.

As he turned around and paid for his things at the checkout counter, I couldn’t help but think about how he had ruined my morning. In fact, I began to think about all the times that sexist behavior had really affected me and how I had not fought back:

The one time at IHOP when men chased down my car and opened my door without my permission. That time a little boy ran through the streets groping me and my friends in NYC. That time a boy gave me a massage without asking if it was alright. The time boys made fun of me behind my back because my boobs are too small. And let’s not forget the constant catcalling.

Why? Why that morning did I back down? What made me so fearful to speak up that I gave that man a smile he so desperately wanted?

Because of the times I have spoken up only to receive criticism from the people closest to me, from women who should be on my side.

One time a man groped my butt on Bourbon Street, and, instead of brushing it off, I turned around and told (yelled at) him to keep his hands to himself. My friends told me to “calm down”.

One time a drunk man with his son (who couldn’t be more than ten years old) stopped us on the street to give his son a hug. I originally protested, but none of my other friends did. So we all gave the little boy a hug. Afterward I talked about how hyper-masculinity teaches young boys that it’s okay to touch random girls they barely know. My friends shrugged it off and laughed about how upset I was.

One time a person who shall not be named (he’s married) randomly sexted me (a minor at the time) about the disgusting things he wanted to do to me. I told family. I told friends. I found out that he had done it to other people. I was told that it would cause too much drama if I talked to his wife. So I kept it quiet.

That morning in the convenience store was just one of many and more moments yet to come. And I was a bystander, allowing the man to think it is okay to DEMAND random women stand next to him.

“The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”

There are plenty of times I have been a bystander. Sometimes I let someone get away with a sexist joke. Sometimes I don’t say anything to someone who makes a racist comment. And sometimes I am the one who perpetuates the negative behavior.

That morning at the convenience store, I was a bystander. And there will be other times when I choose to keep quiet instead of standing up for what is right.

But the thing about keeping quiet is that every time I stay silent, there is a woman who needs someone to speak up.

One in four college women will be sexually assaulted and one in five women will be raped.

I personally know at least ten women in my life who have been raped and more who have been sexually assaulted. Behind them are women who have almost been. And even larger are the number who experience some kind of verbal assault or sexual misconduct on almost a daily basis.

If I don’t stand up for these women, who will? If I allow men (and women) to think it’s okay to shame women or make unsolicited comments or touch them without permission (god forbid), then I am just as bad as they are.

The point of this story is not to shame those who may not always stand up for what they believe in or to bash on all men. The moral of this story is to encourage those of you like me, who may not always feel supported, to speak up. Don’t sit down and shut up. Stand up for what is right. Continue to give a voice to those people who may not have one. A simple word may make a small change in someone’s behavior.

But small changes can turn into big ones.





The Righteous Among the Nations With Eric Sundby

Two weeks ago the University of Oklahoma celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Week. For me, that meant attending a lecture about the Righteous Among the Nations.

I honestly had no idea what the Righteous Among the Nations were when I went into this lecture. I assumed they were Holocaust heroes. The Righteous Among the Nations are actually people honored by Israel for saving lives during the Holocaust.

To understand the risks these people took, we must first understand a little bit more about the Holocaust. The persecution of Jews really began in the 1930s but took a turn towards more overt violence on the Night of Broken Glass. That night in 1938, German officers burned and pillaged Jewish Synagogues and businesses.

Systematic genocide of Jews, the Holocaust, officially began in 1941. Jews and other “undesirable” people were deported East towards labor camps.

Something not talked about frequently is how many countries actually knew about the Holocaust. In 1941 Poland documented the Holocaust and it was known by the European and American governments.

At this time the United States has a noninterventionist policy and there were many anti-semitists in government. Though many Jews came to the United States on ships seeking refuge, FDR sent all ships away stating that he didn’t believe the Holocaust existed and thought it was a plot by the Polish government in exile.

So, without government help, the only way for Jews to survive was to hide. The people helping them were often diplomats, party members and military because they needed to have clean identities. These people stood up for what was right risking their own lives and the lives of their families.

There are 25,685 Righteous from 38 different countries (most of them European). They are still being decided upon today.


Schindler’s List

Dead Week at the University of Oklahoma brought tears, life realizations but also Holocaust Remembrance Week.

I have low key been obsessed with the Holocaust since I was in middle school when I did a report on Hitler’s rise to power. It is always amazing to me how something so atrocious could have openly happened and how no one really did anything to stop it. At the end of the war 11 million people were brutally murdered and countries around the world pretended to be surprised. They knew. They knew and did nothing.

For so long I have put off watching Schindler’s List because I was afraid of how much it would hurt. But, if I have learned anything from college, it’s that uncomfortable is the best thing I can be if it means that I am learning.

For Holocaust Remembrance Week, OU held a whole week of educational events. One of them just so happened to be a showing of Schindler’s List.

So, on Tuesday, May 3rd of Dead Week I got my butt out of bed, showered for the first time in forever, and made my way over to Meacham Auditorium to endure (what I thought would be) the worst three hours of my life.

I won’t bore you with the details of Schindler’s List, but I will tell you:

What Schindler’s List taught me about 2016

Oskar Schindler was not the typical person you would expect to be saving Jews. He was a high ranking officer of the Nazi Party. The real reason he began saving Jews during the Holocaust was because he needed to employ Jewish workers in his factory. When he began seeing the atrocities of the Holocaust, he started saving them under the guise that he needed factory workers, but in reality he realized that what the Nazis were doing was wrong.

I could go on and on about how sad the movie was and how great Schindler was, but I want to talk about what Schindler’s List means for 2016.

It is currently 2016 and there is a civil war going on in Syria. There are people being killed by ISIS, Assad’s regime and rebels. As of February, 470,000 people had died in the war. Syrians are forced to flee their homes in the dead of night, risking their lives in the hopes of finding a better place and not becoming another statistic.

Besides accepting refugees with open arms, there’s not much people like you and me have been doing to help Syrians. When you’re halfway around the world, what can you do?

However, there are some people risking their lives everyday to make sure that Syrians survive. Just like Oskar Schindler, these people are doing what they can in the face of adversity, even when helping may mean putting their own life on the line.

Nawal Soufy is a 28 year old woman who rescues sinking refugee ships for no pay. Syrian civilians band together as “White Helmets” and rescue the hurt and buried after missile strikes. Doctors Without Borders sends their own ships to save those fleeing Syria in the night. Maya Terro feeds hungry refugees in Lebanon. Souriyat Across Borders offers free medical assistance to Syrians in Jordan. Hala Abu provides art therapy for refugee children in Amman. These people are not anything special. They are not stopping the war or stopping deaths of thousands of people. But they are using the gifts God gave them to make a small difference. They are the hands and feet of Jesus in action. Schindler was one of these people and we can each be that person too.

2016 is the year of a Syrian refugee crisis. It is a year where politicians hand out hate like it’s candy. It is a year of choices. We can choose to be like Oskar Schindler or Nawal Soufy or Maya Terro or Hala Abu. Or we can choose the wrong side of history and pretend that we are oblivious to the atrocities happening around the world just like our president did when he turned back Jewish refugee ships 75 years ago.

What’s it going to be for you?

Global Engagement Fellowship: What is it?

As many of you know, I am a fan of anything international (especially if it’s food and if it’s Indian but I digress).

Something you may not know is that next semester I will be studying abroad in Arezzo, Italy. Arezzo is a town in Tuscany about the size of Norman. The University of Oklahoma has a campus there where I will take classes on Renaissance Art, Women’s Studies, Italian Culture and Fascism. Unfortunately, Arezzo is not cheap. The semester there will cost me (*cough my parents) about $10,000. However, I know how to get what I want. So how am I paying for this semester that most college student could only dream of? Scholarships.

One of my bigger scholarships is the Global Engagement Fellowship stipend. As the inaugural class of Fellows, it has been interesting to be guinea pigs for such a cool program. This year I was selected to serve as an Ambassador for the Global Engagement Fellowship. Basically my job is to educate high school students and college students as to what GEF is and how they can get involved. Thus, I give to you:

Global Engagement Fellowship: What is it?

The Goal of the Global Engagement Fellowship is to encourage college students to learn more about the global community. But how do we do that?

GEF is a four year program. Starting freshman year, Fellows are required to become part of one international club, take an international class, become moderately proficient in a foreign language, start a blog about international issues and attend international events.

What do these students get in return?

$5,000 smackeroonies. $5,000 that can be split into a summer and semester study abroad experience or the full stipend for a year long study abroad experience.

The benefits of the program are far beyond money, though. Being a Global Engagement Fellow has taught me so much about the world beyond Oklahoma.

Without GEF I wouldn’t have learned how to bellydance or how to do henna or meditate at a Buddhist temple or dress up like the Desi queen that I am or bring my BFF from Namibia home for Christmas. I wouldn’t care as much as I do about the world around me. I wouldn’t know about the rich, diverse community that attends the University of Oklahoma. Most of all, I would not have friends that share that same passion for the global community.

I encourage anyone reading this to talk to high school students who would benefit from the program to APPLY. It is life changing and, at the end of it all, their diploma will show a Certificate of Global Engagement. What could be cooler?


The other day I was watching a documentary about drug addiction. There was a man on skid row who was working to pull drug addicts off the street and into rehab. He was not the typical aid worker. He himself had previously been a drug addict. It was not easy for him to get clean. He went to rehab 13 times until he finally decided to break the habit.

As a college student, I have never had much exposure to drugs. I went to a public high school where I knew many people sold them, bought them or did them. It never meant much to me. The students around me just had alternative lifestyles that I was to busy to have myself.

But as my high school career progressed, I slowly began to see changes in these people. They would skip out on school work and do things high school students shouldn’t do. I didn’t know if it was drugs or bad choices, but I couldn’t help but worry about how such great people could fall into the trap that is drug addiction.

Things only got worse. The freedom that comes with going to college can be too much for anyone, especially freshman year. The choices that come with adulthood are difficult, and sometimes we make mistakes. I saw these people deteriorate. Drugs had taken over what was left of their lives. Some of them got help. Some of them are still struggling. Some of them have disappeared.

This is far from a personal story. No one close to me has ever been affected by drug addiction. But there are many people out there who are fighting for those addicted. People have lost friends, family and mentors. I cannot describe what it’s like to be addicted.

Something I do know is that addiction is an evil that can tear even the best people down. I know that it is easier to let addiction consume than it is to fight. I also know that overcoming addiction takes perseverance.

Hell, it could take going to rehab thirteen times.

What matters is that addiction is recognized and that those who are fighting continue to do so no matter the costs.

Inside each of us, there is the seed of both good and evil. It’s a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other. – Eric Burdon


History Repeats Itself

Some people may say that we’re far gone from an era that would create discriminatory propaganda against a specific group of people based upon false ideals. Some people may say that we have learned from the past, that we will never let a holocaust color the pages of our history books again.

What if I told you that, while we sleep comfortably in our homes every night, millions of people are fleeing their home countries seeking asylum in a world where they are called “terrorists” because of the way the look or the accent they bear.

I’m talking about the refugee crisis.

Two weeks ago I sat in an auditorium with some of my closest friends watching a documentary called Salam Neighbor.

I didn’t expect to get emotional watching this documentary. I just thought I would learn more about the logistics of the refugee crisis and how it is affecting the stability of the EU and other Arab countries.

What I learned, however, is that there are children who are irreparably damaged by war. There are families who have lost brothers, wives, daughters and cousins. These people risk their lives fleeing miles in the middle of the night with bags and children in tow, only to find that they are unwelcome.

I have heard people say:

“We need to protect our own children.”

“We need to keep out terrorists.”

“Refugees are unsafe.”

We talk about terrorism like it popped up out of the blue, and yet our ignorance of this “lost generation” of Syrian children who do not have an education and only know violence is what is building ISIS. ISIS looks for people lost and and in need of protection and education. If these children grow up only knowing hate, they will continue to push extremism. When we alienate refugees, we are playing into terrorist hands.

Furthermore, the rhetoric that is lumping together millions of refugees under the terrorist label is how anti-semitism took hold of Germany after World War I. No, there are not currently forced labor camps and mass killings of Arabs in the EU, but already 250,000 people have died in the Syrian Civil War. Those relocating to places like Jordan are paid pennies for work that Jordanians would normally be paid a sustainable wage for. Sometimes the UN peacekeeping refugee camps are where these refugees are most comfortable. In the EU, protests and microaggressions against these people can be disconcerting.


If we allow fear of these people to build, the brainwashed hate will only grow stronger creating more anti-Arab and anti-Muslim thought processes.

We must remember who the real enemy is: those who would rather see children die than have freedom. Those are the people we should fear and fight back with love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.