Moving Beyond the US: #BlackLivesMatter and Decolonization

Syrian artists Aziz Asmar and Anis Hamdoun painted a memorial to George Floyd on the remainder of a destroyed wall in Binnish, Idlib (Syria’s northwest).
Source: RepublicWorld

George Floyd’s murder revived the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, but also the #AllLivesMatter hashtag and its various offshoots. Thus, when I saw a photo of a Lebanese protester holding a sign that said #LebaneseLivesMatter on Twitter, the first thing I thought was just how unaware of the global conversation this person is. In fact, I retweeted the photo with the caption: “READ THE ROOM.”

Given the conversation on the poor judgement of some people—many of whom are well-intentioned—in trying to advocate for all lives and not just Black lives, I had a negative knee-jerk reaction to the image. But it lingered in my memory. It is undeniable that such a poster in the U.S. would be out of tune; that said, thinking about #BlackLivesMatter, a primarily U.S. movement, concurrently with other global issues is essential to understanding and thus dismantling U.S./white hegemony — which in and of itself is a global and not a U.S.-only issue.

Since October 2019, Lebanon has been suffering from its worst financial crisis since the Civil War (1975–90), which has been now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With inflation soaring and nearly 50% of Lebanese living under the poverty line, people hit the streets to demand their rights. I tried putting myself in their shoes: they’re watching social media explode with overwhelming support for #BlackLivesMatter, triggered, in their eyes as people unaware of the U.S. context, by the murder of one man, while thousands and thousands of people starved in Lebanon without anyone flinching.

I do not say this to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement, or to dismiss that George Floyd’s murder is symptomatic of a larger systemic issue in the United States and around the world. Anti-Black racism exists in Lebanon too. Lebanon, and the Arab world at large, are notorious for their unjust, racist kafala system—amongst many other symptoms of deep-seated racism, such as Western beauty standards, lack of representation of people of color in the media, and the like. But the issue, for those who claim that “Lebanese Lives Matter”, is about the lack of media attention— they are not denying anti-Black racism.

Social media is dominated by U.S. voices and perspectives. For instance, the country with most Twitter users is the U.S. at 64 million, followed by Japan at 48 million, and Russia at 24 million, even though the U.S. clearly isn’t the most populated country in the world. Thus, what goes viral on social media and other media outlets is often dictated by trends in the U.S. As such, people in Lebanon, and elsewhere, may see the Black Lives Matter movement as hegemonic vis-à-vis their struggles: while the whole world is talking about George Floyd and Black lives, no one seems to care about Lebanon.

(responses against Lebanese Lives Matter)

Appropriating the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag or slogan for other social justice movements dilutes people’s attention; it is a sort of hijacking of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet it is important to note that the intention of the Lebanese people, or any oppressed group, is not malicious; their intentions are very different from those of racist Americans who advocate for #AllLivesMatter.

What we are witnessing—outside the U.S., in Lebanon and elsewhere—is a process by which the lives of minorities in the U.S. matter to the world more than non-U.S. lives, let alone lives of minorities outside the U.S. The reason the world cares about George Floyd now more than we ever did about Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Venezuela—the list can go on forever—is because of U.S. hegemony, a hegemony inextricable from the systemic hold of white superiority and supremacy on the entire globe.

What we have here, therefore, is white supremacy benefitting the U.S.-turned-global fight against Black racism and police brutality. This may not seem like a problem, but the fight against racism cannot happen without global solidarity against U.S. hegemony. In a recent interview, Black activist Angela Davis “hop[ed] that today’s young activists recognize how important Palestinian solidarity has been to the Black cause, and that they recognize that we have a profound responsibility to support Palestinian struggles, as well.” She also pointed in the direction of Brazil, saying “if we think we have a problem with racist police violence in the United States of America, look at Brazil. . . . I think 4,000 people were killed last year alone by the police in Brazil.”

Davis recognizes, in pointing to Palestine and Brazil even as the Black community in the U.S. and its allies are in revolt, the importance of solidarity in dismantling transnational systems of oppression that know no borders. She gestures to the reality that one cannot selectively fight against oppression, for these systems are massive, interconnected, and inertial, requiring large amounts of force to disassemble them.

In this vein, it is also my wish that those who have now garnered a platform due to these systemic structures that privilege Western voices over non-Western ones—especially on social media—shed light on injustices that inflict much of the world now, not just the U.S. and the West. I hope that those people with influence remind those who are now so passionately protesting racist legacies—from statues to names of places and institutions—also speak up against injustices in other parts of the world in the future, as they arise.

On June 23rd of this year, Ahmed Erekat, a 27-year-old Palestinian man, was murdered by the Israeli police; he was shot and left to bleed for one and a half hours. He was accused of attempting “to ram his car into border guards” despite it being the day of his sister’s wedding. Like George Floyd, Ahmed Erekat, an unarmed Palestinian man, was assumed to be violent and left to die. But unlike Floyd’s murder, Erekat’s murder didn’t elicit a global outcry. Why is that? Where are the reading suggestions about the Palestinian struggle? Where are the “go educate yourselves” posts? Where are the “check your privilege” articles? 

This plea to talk about all forms of injustice, not those only occurring in the West, should not be seen as a means of hijacking the Black moment or the Black cause (which, admittedly, is often the unintended consequence of hashtags like #LebaneseLivesMatter or #PalestinianLivesMatter). Rather, it should be seen as part of the struggle against white supremacy and U.S. imperialism. The white hegemonic structures killing Black people in the U.S. are the same structures allowing Israel to annex Palestine. From this standpoint, it becomes imperative that we engage in a more nuanced and dynamic form of solidarity, else we would be, in our struggle for justice, still perpetrating the structures we are fighting against. 

If we only talk about George Floyd and Black lives, we will not dismantle the system that murdered him.

Haiku Series: Body Parts

Mud on my bare back
An open secret I grew
to love: My birthmark

*

Faded permanence
Captured stories, frozen time
A road map of scars

*

Politics aside
Visa apps are hard because
I have sweaty hands

Artwork “Limbs” by Seth Alverson, 2012

The Historical is the Personal — Reflections on Postcolonial Guilt, Mi Koo Buns, and Writing History

I did not know that the Mi Koo [1] buns I used to eat for breakfast at my grandfather’s house on Sunday mornings have a history. Smack in the middle of their bright pink skin, there are five gashes radiating from the center, forming a clumsy floral design. I used to peel the skin and slice the freshly steamed bun in half. The next step was to slather butter on both pieces. It would melt immediately into the fluffy bread, leaving a golden patch that came back to taunt me in the cold mornings of my adulthood. Now, I am years and seas away from the simple anticipation of an eight-year-old waiting for the butter knife while swinging her legs underneath the antique table.

*

While watching the buns of my childhood, now on a computer screen in a university library in Abu Dhabi, I am unsettled. I am doing research on the communist guerrilla army in Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore) who fought against the Japanese and British imperialists during World War II and the Cold War. When the banned documentary first arrived via an email notification, I dropped everything to collect the DVD from an expressionless librarian.  He was stoically hunched over the reserves shelf, hovering his fingers over each title at a painfully slow pace until arriving finally at my order. Titled The Last Communist, this “semi-musical documentary” was made by Amir Muhammad in 2006. It was inspired by the memoir of Chin Peng, the leader of the Malayan Communist Party, who died in exile in 2013 in Thailand. His last wish was to be buried in his hometown of Setiawan, Perak, located an hour and a half away from my hometown. The Malaysian government denied his remains passage.

But what have Mi Koo buns got to do with communist insurgents? Everything, the film argues. It takes us chronologically through Chin Peng’s life by visiting the locations he travelled through in his political career. There is no narrator. The storytellers are the shopkeepers, bakers, plantation laborers, vegetable vendors, tour guides etc. who speak about their vocation and occasionally, their relationship with the past. Reading the captions on Chin Peng’s life in relation to the documentary of the mundane, the quotidian reality I am familiar with becomes imbued with history. I learn that the Mi Koo buns of my hometown are famous for their unique floral design. “Only in Taiping,” the long-faced baker declares in Mandarin. How this design came about is less famous. Decades ago, a young man who joined the Malayan Communist Party’s guerrilla army was caught by British soldiers and sent to prison, where he was tortured into a coma. His mother prayed for him every day at the River Goddess Temple on Temple Street, offering lotus flowers with incense sticks. One day, all the florists in town were out of lotus flowers. Desperate, the mother baked some Mi Koo buns, carved flowers on them, and presented these at the altar instead. The boy survived his coma.

Last summer, while interning at an Asian Studies institute in the Netherlands, I stumbled upon a book on the Malayan Emergency in the “free for all” bookshelf at the pantry. The Malayan Emergency: Essays On A Small, Distant War by Souchou Yao. Distant indeed. As a third-generation immigrant who grew up with middle class concerns, like how to get out of Malaysia, a failed revolutionary movement seemed completely incomprehensible, like the photographs and letters we found in my grandfather’s personal archive after he passed away. Bundles and bundles of relatives in China we know nothing of lay bound in rubber bands. A post-funeral gift from the dead. He left us no clues to make them legible.

*

“Where did your Malaysian accent go?” A close friend asked me after I came back from my first year at university. We were sitting at a café with sleek glass windows in Kuala Lumpur. “Give me a few days, it’ll come back.” Till then, he had to deal with speaking to a foreigner. I became very self-aware of my spoken English after that. Remember the lah’s, the meh’s the wan’s. Remember the Malay words, the Hokkien words, the Tamil words. In truth, I knew my Manglish had dissolved like salt in the sea. As I fill up my senior capstone proposal two years later, I bite down the anticipation of embarking on a journey to the juicy forbidden. I grew up learning that the communist insurgents were terrorists in an insignificant but unfortunate chapter of our national history. Like the methane of decomposing bodies, inherited memory somehow always finds its way to the surface. A trigger, like the subtle reproach of my friend, is the spark needed to start a forest fire. History is closing in on me, and no Western country can save me from my guilt.

*

“What is the archive for a memory that was decimated by colonial powers and actively suppressed to this day?” I asked my professor a few weeks ago. We had just read Arlette Farge’s Allure Of The Archives, in which Farge describes her experience of looking through police surveillance documents in 18th century France in the Paris Archives. They were incoherent transcriptions of splintered conversations and scattered observations. Farge notes with delight how these fragments capture what the archive itself rejects, and how this tension reveals “history as it was being constructed, when the outcome was never entirely clear”[2]. Enchanted as I was by Farge’s poetic prose, I could not help but be bitter. Fragmented as they were, at least the proletariat’s subjectivity was preserved. What about my grandfather’s? The historical has become the personal.

In The Combing of History, David Cohen writes that there are “multiple locations of historical knowledge”, and only by “recognizing the spacious and unchartered reservoirs of historical knowledge in present and past societies [can we] begin to think more clearly about the forms and directions of historical knowledge…”[3] As I start collecting the various fragments of a memory smashed by successful British and nationalist propaganda, I am finding that some of the richest locations of historical knowledge are situated within my memory. That surreptitious memorial plaque by the haunted waterfall my parents forbade us to swim in? It was actually built to honor the guerrillas who fought against the Japanese soldiers during the brutal occupation. The Chinese high school that was my mother’s alma mater? It was a school known for its communist sympathies, and where teachers would beat anti-imperialism consciousness into their students. The Chinese-concentrated area my mom and her siblings grew up in, and the constant subject of their nostalgic conversations? Just two generations ago, it was a concentration camp built by the British colonial government to isolate the communist guerrillas from their Chinese-majority support base. I am not recalling evidence or even anecdotes that are useful for my research topic. Rather, I am starting to look back and recognize the everyday of my reality as a product of a history that is worth paying attention to. In other words, I am an archive.

Like my parents, I was an inactive carrier of the memory of our civil war. Somehow, an alignment of random chance and privilege has caused a mutation in the gene of silence.  I find myself fervently gathering every insurgency-related fragment from libraries and archives around the world. The expressionless librarian might have caught on to my impatience. His fingers hover slower each time. But every time I open the book, or the document, or the DVD case, the ghosts rise howling. I hear the planes carpet bombing our tropical rainforests. I hear the wailing families forcefully removed from their ancestral homes. I hear the fading heartbeat of a husband bleeding to death at the fringe of the jungle, begging his wife to leave with their comrades before the enemy closes in.

But I have also been listening for the silences. I cannot force the mute Mi Koo bun to tell me its story, but the silence surrounding its incredible origin says something about how the censorship of the history it is associated with trickles down. The closed doors I keep encountering in my search for primary sources also speaks, albeit with bureaucratic language. “Special permission is required for materials related to the Malayan Communist Party at the Arkib Negara[4],” a Malaysian scholar writes to me. But if I stick my ear against the door, I hear fear. A fear inherited by the present government from the past government, who inherited it from the British colonial authorities, who shared it with their American counterparts across the ocean during the Cold War. A fear that was global in scale, local in its casualties. A fear that stretched across time, across subcontinents: evolving from the fear of a British ethnographer in India when confronted with identities he could not neatly categorize, to the fear of a contemporary Malaysian politician who cannot foresee how ethnic tensions will escalate should the narrative of our hard-won independence shifts. The fragments cannot be put back together, but writing about how they came to be hits back at power with the force of a million clenched fists, raised.

*

Sunday mornings at Grandpa’s were always a quiet affair. As a child, I revered and feared him. I would stare at him from across the table, Mi Koo bun in my tiny hands, while he cracked a raw egg into his rice. “That was how they did it in China,” mother explained, while peeling baked sweet potatoes, her favorite breakfast.

“You wasteful children,” he would growl from across the table when I turned away from my mother’s hand trying to feed me potatoes, “the sweet potatoes were all we had to eat in those camps.”

***

  • [1] A Malaysian-Chinese bread. “Mi Koo” roughly translates into Tortoise Bun.
  • [2] Arlette. Farge, The Allure of the Archives, Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 107, 113.
  • [3] David William. Cohen, The Combing of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 4-5.
  • [4] Malaysian National Archives.

Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “I Still Face You”, 2015.

absence of the latina intellectual: some abstract theory for your ass

there are several ideological lines,
the first being
there are three bodies to contend with:
mine
ours
theirs

my body is really heavy
with guilt, this leaking thing
charged with sex
and stifled

our body is really heavy
i am so crushed
by the burden of bodies belonging to me,
i must occupy space for our body
i must walk as these bodies,
these naked
and piling bodies,
these bodies thick
to stack and build upon,
these equally weak
and temporary bodies,
these bodies that are
simultaneously more and less

(i was holding my copy
of the women of brewster place
too tightly,
almost wrinkling
gloria’s name
when my white coworker
lifted her nose and said
she could only read books
she actually heard of and
that were well written)

finally their body is really heavy.
the body on
and outside my body
is rendered weak
in its own construction,

as it renders itself
during and only through
its relentless creation of my body
and their body
and whatever bodies
that birth themselves
in between, outside and aside
of this central body of work
which is itself a body

my body is really heavy.
our body is really heavy.
their body is really heavy.

this theory
comes up against
what I’ve identified
as three ideological lines
in their bodies of work:

my body is weak
against their body.
my body must relent
to their body of work.
my body is only here
because of their bodies
and body of work.

i disagree
with these lines
in their body of work.

precisely because
they are lines
and what lines
actually make up my body?

their bodies are all line
which is why
their body of work
consists of lines
and why my body
does not fit into these lines,
its form enjoys
everything but lines

(the chapin
I’ve been fucking
on and off for four years
makes it a point
to remind me
of his love for redheads
who burn easily)

walls are supported
by their body of work
walls are made by promises
written about in their bodies
they are losing their grip
on these promises

(old white women
point at my legs
when they are crossed
on the train and in their way.
and
on three occasions
in my adult life
white women have shoved
their chests in my face
non sexually)

my body is constant
and in the way
of their body of work
and it’s lines.

my form was here before
and birthed their bodies
my body will continue
to be a body of work
more than it is just my body

reading and writing
about the body
and their body
and their bodies of work
should render
all the bodies silent,
dead
it doesn’t, I learned

(my ex
still has my copy
of borderlands
i still have her copy
of beloved)

as i wrap myself
in the flesh
of my own body
— my own, meaning i own it,
this is a line
from their body of work
that i am now forcing
on my own created body
and body of work —
I’ve learned to tell you
it isn’t there
you become accustomed
to my body of work
which is more my body
than my actual body

you will ask yourself:
where is this bitch

Artwork by Paula Rego “Mermaid Drowning Wendy”

please see where the blood is darkest on my drawn brow

please see
where the blood is darkest
on my drawn brow
it turned my rose
gold
eyeshadow
a warm amber
and the flash
makes it shine
like the color was poured in a glass

the blood on my face diasporic
traveling down my cheek,
a bumpy continent
— like it knew where to walk
from the sharpest point
of my temple
down
not straight down
I guess I rolled a little
on the sidewalk after I fell
and I spread it some
it’s a map
complete with a steady flow,
a gushing and swollen source of life
a gash
giving birth

the only thing I own
is the sticky scar
after the blood turned brown
on my towel
hardened but the wash
took it off

I sent word that I was bleeding
that pain has started growing
on my head
like the only tiny flower
and the silence I received
told me to bury the sprouting thing

I lost the metaphor
along with some luggage
that I never carried
and children
I was never meant to bear

I mean to say that sometimes
I feel like a weak vessel
for the world’s crying
so
I fall onto the sidewalk
and into the stupor
into the fermented rye,
into a thick dimension of smoke  
And I lay on the sidewalk
and spread the blood
in my attempt to pose
for the maw of a snapping camera

Artwork by Paula Rego “dog woman”

Drag the Red

In a seventh grade classroom
a little white girl allows her
wandering mind to slip
onto the desk–
a fat wet sound
her fingers squeeze it absently
her eyes on the windowpane, soft
as fallen snow.

Public-school girl will not
(is not supposed to)
listen or remember teacher talk
“The bloody falls massacre…”
A river clinks with coppermine
Indians called Inuits
stealthy, slit, shot,
the pleasure of killing
a savage
the water runs red with copper
salty blood.

It is a history taught once
to twelve-year-olds turned
Canadians who call us
“Indigenous People”
Imagine us Pocahontasing
far away in time or
across more northern roads in
tee-pees
igloos
red places
I am a First Nations woman.

I only live
in history class.

Meanwhile, volunteers drag that
churning river for my bloated body.
I am blue lipped
skin, bubbles
trailing behind an orange raft
my hair waves tendrils of black ink in a
mirthful mud play
I lick the Winnipeg riverbed and
spout water when
Drag the Red Searchers Get
Grim Lesson on Finding, Identifying Bones
.

They drop hooks and chains into
water into history into news–
recorded as an overdose
all my fingernails were pulled out of
my body
was black and blue.

The cities are not safe for me either
in Canada in 2015, a quarter of
all women murdered
were Indigenous.

I play with the goldeye
it whiskers my cheeks fish kissing
nibbles my watery flesh from bone
leave me to my calcium
and collagen frame
scatter me so
I remain
mysterious.

So that I only die
in history class.

Artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Noxchi Eats Galnish

Today, we are having galnish. My dad, giddy like a child, teases my brother and I, while laughing at YouTube videos and simultaneously WhatsApping them to his friends, accompanying voice note explaining why exactly the video is funny. We all love galnish; I loved it more as a child, when I didn’t have to help clean up the kitchen afterwards. But I confess, there is something special about helping my mother out in the kitchen. Intuitively, I know what utensil to hand to her before she asks, or when to give her the salt or to check that the heat isn’t too low or high. I feel useful, and hungry.

Garlic, heavy salty bone broth, steaming pasta-like galnish and tender lamb: the way to any Chechen’s heart. Nothing feels more like home than galnish heaped high onto plates, with thick broth served in earthy mugs on the side. The galnish are skewered onto a fork, two or three at a time, and dipped into a garlic sauce which stays in the hollow center of the galnish. The slightly chewy texture of the galnish, the spice from the garlic and the hearty broth create a pleasant fullness and comfortable warmth in the stomach.

The meal is not even ready yet, but we are aware that for the next week, the garlic smell will linger. It will stain our hands, clothes, breaths. Just like a cloud of hotpot smoke stalks you home, or the stench of burnt popcorn persistently haunts dorm kitchens, anyone whose food demands submission to olfactory power knows there’s no point in trying to conceal the…fragrance. You learn to embrace the acridity, and possibly, love it in secret because it will mean you have eaten well.

Galnish, like its lingering smell, has followed Chechens around the world. I have had galnish in Grozny, Moscow, Zarqa, Los Angeles, Hamilton, and Abu Dhabi. I will find it in Paris during my semester abroad and wherever else I live after that. Galnish is delicious, yes, but it represents something deeper. Eating galnish and speaking Chechen are the two most consistent acts of rebellion that almost all Chechens incorporate into their daily lives. Holding on to such ancient traditions is open defiance against three centuries of attempted colonisation of the “free people” in the Caucasus, oppression that includes Joseph Stalin’s horrific mass deportation of Chechens to Kazakhstan from 1943-1957, which the European Parliament declared as a genocide in 2004. Speaking Chechen is becoming harder and harder with subsequent generations of diaspora dispersing across the globe. Thus, cooking galnish is the most powerful way for Chechens to reconnect with their homeland.

As my mother recounts her university days in the nineties, I peel the garlic. Apparently, all the residents in the Moscow State University dorms instantly knew when Chechens were cooking – when the smell of crushed garlic seemed to invade the entire city. But the Chechens did not shy away –  they owned it. This smell became a vital link to a home that, at the time, was being bombed and depleted of every source of sustenance.

Chechnya’s situation has changed but the largely unwelcome scent of garlic has not. And neither has our food, which is still trailed by a potent odour. This stubbornness mirrors our love for our shared identity, and how confidently Chechens identify themselves as such, especially as a minority in Russia, where garlic in cooking is used with much less gusto.

Living mainly in the mountains, Chechen tribes used to perceive snakes as a serious threat, and believed that smelling like garlic would help deter the slithering predators. The garlic represents our national pride in that it does not come from a place of arrogance, but rather self-preservation and communal protection. The Chechens at my mother’s university were a diaspora, one of many navigating  potentially hostile environments, such as their university or perhaps Moscow in general.

Unfazed by the ignorance or racism of outsiders, they focused instead on the beauty of their culture, despite it seeming dangerous, or unwarranted, or unbelievable to those around them. They played eshars on car radios at full blast, did the traditional dance, lezginka, in the metro, and they ate galnish. Many Chechens were forced to leave their home, but they refused to bow their heads or allow themselves to be belittled.

I turn the stove on as my mother kneads the dough with assured pride. Making galnish counts for me as a religious process, partly sanctified by childhood sentiment and partly due to the awe I feel when watching someone make dough. The biblical example of Jesus transforming water to wine does not seem so far-fetched after having witnessed someone take flour and water then miraculously make a wholesome meal out of it, seemingly from thin air. I let the dough set. My mother rolls every fat little finger of dough into a gal. I imagine how many generations of women have cooked this recipe with their daughters.

Dinner is ready –  after hours of preparation, when the chefs (read: women) are all but about to collapse. We begin by serving the eldest guests. Respect for our elders is a cultural cornerstone, which could also be gleaned from seeing me trying to watch television at a relative’s house. Every time someone older than me enters the room, I must jump to my feet and wait until they are seated or I have been told to sit down. Although resembling an unnecessary exercise to the untrained eye, it is actually a traditional exercise of memory. It demonstrates the value we place on respecting our elders.

Respect also extends to our ancestors and their struggles. One difficulty that we thankfully no longer face is famine. It was not that long ago, however, when a working man’s daily wage included a mere glass of milk and crust of bread, as my grandma recalls. Or when under Stalin, my great-uncle remembers working at a flour mill, no longer able to bear his neighbours’ starvation. He ended up stealing all the flour and bread he could, and distributed it in his community, for which he was imprisoned for twenty years. The struggle of our ancestors is given the utmost respect, which can be witnessed in our kitchen. The traces of dough that form on our wooden table are scraped off with a knife and added to the rest of the flour –  not a single speck is wasted.

Memory is important. Our language has been butchered, the books burned down and land-mines placed in our mountains; the construction of collective amnesia is centuries in the process. We hold on to whatever we can.  Such as the story of Chechenits, a Chechen painter who was raised by a Russian general after his family was killed, the boy who despite his bizarre upbringing and lack of memory about his roots, held onto the threads of his identity, renaming himself Pyotr Zakharov-Chechenits. Chechenits is the Russian word for the Chechen; my last name, Shishani, also has the same meaning in Arabic.

When I was little, I would wish off the fuzzy dandelion heads, before blowing away the seeds to scatter elsewhere. I often feel that my family and other waynakh are like those wispy white dragonflies, having been blown to different corners of the world. One way back to our roots is though our food.

I am finally seated. I look around the table and I am grateful for what my parents have taught me about what it means to be Noxchi. I dig my fork into the galnish and dip into the garlic sauce. The first bite is always the best; a wave of doughy goodness and warmth . We enjoy the taste, but there is also a sense of responsibility within –  to eat it often, and to always remember where we come from.