Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
About 5 years ago, I received an online message from my biological half sister Sabrina. Social media is rife with issues, but I will always be grateful for it. And for better or worse, you can find nearly anyone. There was a time not long ago when this kind of reunion would be near impossible, but thanks to Twitter, we were but a click away from one another. She was experiencing a very difficult time of transition, and I was too. This was one of the most pivotal moments of my life. Over the years we developed a true bond, which was a gateway for me to then connect with the rest of my blood family. This past Thanksgiving I had the chance to spend the holiday with not just Sabrina, but my sister Rania, my brother Shaddy, and my biological mother, all pictured above (along with my mothers husband Sabir, a family friend Jocelyn, and Ginger, the cat).
My New Years resolution of 2019 was to get to know myself through my ancestry. I've taken the opportunity to read everything possible about my North African heritage, the indigenous people I come from, the crafts they work to maintain and the culture that now exists, stemming from the one that once was. It's been a journey into cultivating a sense of purpose. Now as I learn who I am through the connection of blood, a sudden awareness has blossomed: I am not without roots. I am not floating here in this life. I exist for a reason, and am part of a culture that I cannot rightly watch evaporate from my awareness. I will not steal it away from my descendants. There are forces that exist within my blood, given to me from the land I was born on, and from the countless generations that came before me which I must honor, learn from, and pass down when the time comes.
A decade ago, I had the great honor of acting as the Moroccan Cultural Liaison for an entire student body of more than 500 people aboard the MV Explorer during the 2010 voyage of Semester at Sea.
I also guided ten college students to my hometown for a truly traditional Moroccan village homestay like none other. 10 years later I'm answering the call to return; humbled and ready to be led rather than to lead.
Pictured in the image below is the man I've been blessed to call Dad my entire life, standing with his students in 1981. Five years later I was to be born. From Mississippi, he was stationed in El Gara (the village of my birth) with the Peace Corps. My biological mother is in this photo as well.
I'm humbly and gratefully asking for your support to help me actualize this next chapter. This February, my goal is to take a solo trip to Morocco to explore who I am through the means of traditional hand crafts, herbal medicines, folk remedies, and moments determined by fate. To me, these native crafts such as basket and loom weaving, cooking, pottery, plant medicine, natural dyes, perfumery and woodworking are not just there as voyeuristic opportunities - they are to be revered and embodied. So many of them are at risk of dying out (as many have vanished entirely), competing and losing against the grip of modern culture. But with the help of conscious creativity, I believe that both can exist at once and prosper.
So much of my focus on craft as a source of empowerment, reclamation and magic has to do directly with my experience at Wildcraft Studio School in Portland Oregon. I was fortunate to spend 2 years with Wildcraft as Studio Manager, Social Media Coordinator, and Public Programming Director. This experience offered me hands on experience, as well as dedicated time in the field discovering what it means to live and grow with what's around you. Through the robust craft-focused community that Wildcraft has helped establish, I met and learned from some truly incredible individuals dedicated to enacting creativity and upholding traditional crafts too. This time afforded me personal insight into the history and relevance of craft, specifically as a critical aspect of heritage. It also woke me up to the harsh reality that as these crafts disappear, so do their cultures. I had always known craft to be an essential part of sustainability, but I hadn't delved into the paramount nature of crafts as a bridge between cultures, ancestries, and traditions. My years with Wildcraft will always be looked back on as an important gateway for me on this path, without which I may have never come to fully realize.
If I'm being completely honest, this opportunity has been something I've kept myself from accepting as possible. There is a substantial dose of social shame in asking for support in this endeavor. For years I've asked myself, "why do I need to do this?" The news has been infected with chaos and heartbreak. The news has perhaps always been this way, but seems to be especially collectively painful in recent years. Even now the world is burning, animals perish, humans continue to damage themselves, others, and the planet at large. Why in the world should I need to take a trip like this when there are so many issues to tackle? The guilt is real.
But the deeper truth is that I must do this. The more I openly acknowledge my desire, and the more outpouring of support (particularly from people who share my heritage), the braver I become. It has become understood as a need - not just a simple desire. I must find out who I am, and I feel a true calling. The further I lean into the studies and ways of my culture, the more I understand where so much of my desire and intuitive understanding has come from. In doing this, I'll be capable of educating myself through hands-on and lands-on experience, meeting my dream to act as a bridge between worlds as I embody the wisdom of my ancestry. For my complicated life, this is the ultimate healing work. There is real magic there.
I was born on a land richly seeded with brilliance, beauty and unique creativity. I feel in my blood the responsibility to grasp and uphold these skills and traditions, especially as they struggle to stay alive. But first I must learn them, and do so with patience, and respect. This is but a first step towards a lifelong journey.
Thank you so very much for your help!
It truly means everything to have your support.
Your contributions will go towards:
Magic Bus Morocco 10 Day Guided Tour:
The Magic Bus is co-owned by indigenous Amazigh, fairly benefitting the craftspeople of Morocco. Their trip is meant to teach and promote the longevity of North African heritage crafts.
This trip spans from February 28th - March 9th.
Roundtrip airfare from PDX to RAK:
3 weeks car rental for solo experience during the weeks after guided travel:
3 weeks of accommodations (split between paid BnB as well as compensated homestay):
FOR THOSE WHO DONATE:
I'll be sending a postcard to every person who donates, no matter the amount! I'd love to write a thank you, as well as send out a personal reflection that will be just for the recipient. I would also love to offer all donors the first online viewing of a short documentary I'll be making while on this trip.
For a donation of $20
I will mail a gift of a small zine-style journal made after the trip containing insight and lessons about the craft and cultural traditions of Morocco.
For a donation of $60
I'll gladly mail you an organic soy wax candle hand poured in glass and made with a blend of essential oils. **Only 10 of these left!!**
For a donation of $120
I will mail you a lovely bundle of handmade goods, made from responsibly sourced and harvested ingredients and made with care:
- hand poured candle
- herbal bath salt blend
- Moroccan clay facial mask
- Moroccan body oil
For a donation of $250
- This will secure you a seat at the table! In June I will be hosting a 4 course Moroccan Dinner, complete with some very special gifts from Morocco (crafts, wellness goods and decor) which those in attendance will all take home. This will also be an opportunity to see a screening of my short documentary.
If you're unable to make it in person, you will be mailed a bundle of goodies plus some extra treats.
**only 8 available**
For a donation of $500+
You'll get a handmade pouf sent to you from Morocco, as well as some small crafts! Included will be a handwritten note about each item - what they are meant for, what they are made of, and why they are special.
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