Culture

What It Really Feels Like When Your Terminally Ill Child Dies

By Sheryl Steines

That Moment in Time – When it felt time to have my first child, I knew it, and approached it as inevitable.

But my next steps in life didn’t follow a straight path, it jerked sideways and turned out nothing like I imagined it would.

I define my life as the before and the after; before the birth of my twins and the single moment when I thought I had reached the end of a long struggle with infertility, hoping that the girls’ birth would minimize the sadness of the time it took to get pregnant with them.

That single moment when I realized it was far from over, and I felt myself being wrenched down an unfamiliar abyss.

While I was elated to give birth to a perfectly healthy little girl named Kayla, I also gave birth to her twin, a perfectly imperfect daughter named Stephanie, born with an undiagnosed neuromuscular disorder that in the end, would take her from us within the first year of her life.

What should have been the happiest of days could best be described as bittersweet.

For months, I was lost in that single moment, and how everything changed.

Living with a Terminally Ill Child – Emotions and senses are heightened when living with a terminally ill child.

Her muscles were weak, which affected her breathing, eating, digestion, and bowels.

She couldn’t sit or roll over.

She would never be able to eat, stand or sit without assistance.

Nothing in her life was normal, which meant that our lives became un-normal too.

Milestones, accomplishments, and even simple things like laughter were infrequent or just never happened.

Days and nights were consumed keeping Stephanie’s tiny, broken body stable and at peace.

For eleven months we had been successful and looking back now, the days flash by me in a blur, and yet, I can still relive them as if they were yesterday.

My daughter’s care routine involved round-the-clock nurses, feeding tubes, oxygen tanks, and medical equipment that beeped.

It was difficult to obtain medicines; and oxygen tanks ran empty on weekends.

Unfortunately, many times we were forced to wait for care because services and goods were not available until after a holiday or weekend.

These stressors tied me to a single moment in time, it is like I went through the motions.

The world was moving, but I felt stuck.

Unable to let it go, I couldn’t help but wish things had been different, normal, familiar.

I was angry, I was hurt and I was jealous.

In fact, the angst, anger, and sadness was compounded as one child thrived normally and hit her milestones with ease.

It became so obvious that Stephanie lagged far behind.

She would never roll over, sit up, drink from a sippy cup, crawl or walk.

I was forced to come to very difficult terms and make some very hard decisions.

Joy in the Darkness – From the start, we knew there was no cure for Stephanie’s disease because there was no real diagnosis.

The only truth we understood–Stephanie would die.

So I worked hard to find joy in a hopeless situation.

There might not be joy in the traditional sense of caring for a terminal patient, but what you come to understand is that there are good, kind people who give you a glimmer of help and hope.

Volunteers filled my life for 11 months.

Whether they held my child in the ICU when I couldn’t be there to do it myself or came to my house to run errands so I could have just a few moments of down time.

There are no words for the care and comfort from strangers who ask for nothing in return.

Nurses taught me how to be a mommy to a terminally ill child, encouraging me to hold my child without fear.

They offered suggestions on how to bond, by taping myself reading a book and leaving the tape at the hospital so my child would know my voice.

Stephanie did know my voice and it made her happy when she heard it.

I will never forget a very grim and private conversation with the hospice nurse, who allowed me to speak freely, without shame as I dealt with the most difficult of situations.

At the worst of times, when I could no longer travel with Stephanie, because she outgrew the only car seat that could protect her in her condition, her pediatrician came to the house to examine her.

I liked him before he did this and I would forever appreciate his kindness, long after she died.

It all Stopped the Day She Died – Life moved slowly, sluggish and tight; what I imagine walking through quicksand would feel like.

That is until a new moment jerked me from what finally felt familiar, and a new moment chased me down.

I will never forget my new single moment when I watched my baby die.

The end of caring for a terminally ill child came to me in two stages.

The first was relief that I no longer had to live in the midst of the stress nor the need to care so intensely.

Though the relief was filled with great sadness, I had little time to dwell on it.

There was still so much we had to do for the funeral, and for my surviving twin who still needed care and love.

At least for the time being, I had no medicine, beeping equipment, nurses, or that stress that comes with survival.

The second stage was the overwhelming sense of loss that finally hit me.

All of the stress and the feelings that had been tightly kept inside, bubbled to the surface.

Four months after my daughter died, I came face to face with the raw grief.

I’m part of a club that I would prefer not to be a member of.

I don’t look for a greater meaning or purpose in my daughter’s disease and death.

I simply survived it and came through to the other side with a realization that so many in this world have great struggles.

Sadness will never leave me and though I will always have a missing piece from my heart, I came out stronger, more compassionate and empathetic to others and the struggles they try to overcome.

Stephanie’s short life and eventual death inspires me to continue living, creating, growing and accomplishing; to leave behind a legacy.

I have a strong desire for my children to be proud of me, and for me, proud of myself.

I live, not because my daughter died, but because I am here.

Learn more about Sheryl Steines at www.sherylsteines.com and connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinked In and Goodreads. Her new book, Black Market is available on Amazon.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Paulius Malinovskis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Oscars And The Politicization Of Everything

Critics and film journalists are expecting “La La Land” to walk away with Best Picture and Best Director tomorrow night at the Academy Awards.

Since the film premiered in Venice last fall, the film has been praised left and right for it’s charm, visual extravagance, passionate music, emotional impact, and joyous energy in an anxiety-ridden post-Trump America.

Now, on the eve of the Oscars, the film has somehow been bastardized into some sort of a win for Trump’s America.

There’s always a backlash. 

And it makes no sense.

“Moonlight”, a great film, is considered the movie that should win by many because of its powerful resonance in today’s times.

Although it’s a great thing for art to be analyzed, I feel the politicizing and tearing apart of nearly everything in our culture is getting out of hand.  

If you didn’t like “La La Land”, no problem.

To each his or her own.

Taste is subjective.

However, the idea that La La Land is racist or sexist is totally absurd and stupid.

As someone who is to the left politically, I think this is indicative of the shallow, hyper-political correctness that has permeated American culture.

It’s gone too far.

The series of clickbait articles about whether or not it is racist that Ryan Gosling’s character, as a white male, wants to save jazz is unbelievably stupid.

Yes, jazz originated as a black art form in New Orleans, where I’m from, but white people like jazz, too.

Shocking, right?

And many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time were white, and made major contributions to this type of music.

Photo Credit: PROThe Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, Herbie Mann, Gerry Mulligan, just to name a few.

Gosling’s character is not a “white savior”.

He just has such an appreciation for traditional jazz, he wants to open up a club that honors it. 

I won’t even engage the articles that claim Gosling “mansplains” too much or that Emma Stone’s character isn’t enough of a feminist, because it’s just not worth it. 

Read More: Meet Daniela Núñez, The 23 Year Old Mexican Who Wants To Change The Way We Bury People

This year has seen an improvement in regards to diversity in film.

Films nominated for Oscars this year include “Moonlight”, “Fences”, “Hidden Figures”, “Loving”.

All of these films deal somehow with race in America.

Other documentaries nominated are “O.J. Made in America”, “13th”, and “I am Not Your Negro”.

These docs also deal with race issues in America, and one of them will win best documentary on Oscar night.

So what if “La La Land” has two white leads?

So what?

As Jerry Seinfeld puts it when speaking out against political-correctness in comedy: “People think it’s the census or something…this has gotta represent the actual pie chart of America?”

The same can be applied to film.

Does every race and ethnicity need to be present in every film?

Does every ethnic box need to be checked off when telling a story? 

Liberals needs to stop crying wolf.

Not everything is racist.

Not everything is sexist.

Use discernment.

Political correctness is diluting the impact of the equality movement that currently needs to be more powerful and dignified than ever. 

This is not to say that there is not a problem of diversity in Hollywood.

There is a well documented lack of minority directors and behind the scene staffers and that is a real systemic problem.

But while that is a problem, does that mean that we can’t enjoy anything until there is total parity?

“Moonlight” is a very good film, but should not be considered the better film simply because it is about identity politics.

This is “ideology trumping aesthetics”, as writer Bret Easton Ellis would call it.

This is the message of a movie, or what it portrays socio-politically, being held in higher regard than the actual craft of the filmmaking.

Just because a film has a good message or has political resonance doesn’t mean it’s a good film.

Luckily, “Moonlight” is also excellent, but that’s what it should be judged on.

The craft.

Giving the Best Picture Oscar to “Moonlight” to spite Trumpism shouldn’t be the goal here.

If it does win, that’s great, and I’d be happy.

But the message that the win would send to America is a byproduct, not the primary reason it should be voted for. 

This Oscars will be political.

Speech after speech will reference the Trump Presidency.

I reject Trump, didn’t vote for him, and agree with most liberal values.

But I also understand the disdain felt by working class Americans towards the liberal elite telling them what they should or shouldn’t believe.

There are issues and concerns related to jobs and trade that don’t effect many of those in Hollywood.

The fact of the matter is, none of the anti-Trump speeches given at the Oscars will have any effect.

None of it will make waves.

It is preaching to the choir.

Voters across the country make their political decisions based on the issues and concerns happening in their immediate environment.

What a celebrity says has no effect.

It is up to the left and political leaders to address those concerns, and change to course of this country.

Stop putting it on the movies.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Meet Daniela Núñez, The 23 Year Old Mexican Who Wants To Change The Way We Bury People

“What would happen if there were no graveyards and, instead of graveyards, we built paradises?”

That’s the question 23 year-old Mexican college student, Daniela Núñez, asked herself.

This question would become the foundation of her biodegradable urns project and company: BioEternal.

“BioEternal literally started in one of my courses,” Núñez said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “After researching, she found several companies in Spain, Colombia and Argentina that work with biodegradable urns. That’s when she decided she could make a change by bringing the seldom used concept to Mexico.”

After validating the market in Mexico, Daniela noticed that people like BioEternal, not only because of the practice, but also because of the entire experience the product offers.

With the help of partners and guided by professors from her university, she started creating the foundations for her business.

A critical moment for Núñez and BioEternal happened during her fourth semester of college, where she signed up for an I semester.

The I semester is a unique business incubation offered by the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores Monterrey (ITESM).

“While I was there, BioEternal started moving forward really fast,” Núñez said. “I also faced my biggest challenges. People liked my idea but they kept asking me how I would work with Mexican culture.”

Núñez spoke about the Mexican culture as one of her biggest challenges.

“Mexicans have deep roots in their culture, especially when it comes to death,”
Núñez said. “It’s rare to see practices that differ from what we are used to, or from the typical funerary companies. That part was very complicated and we didn’t know if it would work here in Mexico.”

Daniela Núñez, the founder of BioEternal.

Another challenge Núñez faced while working on Bioeternal was the Catholic Church’s strong presence in Mexico.

“Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo,” a document released in August 2016 signed by Pope Francis states that the ashes of deceased people may not be kept in unholy or unblessed land.

“But after validating the market in Mexico, I realized that people no longer have a strong commitment with the Church,” Núñez said regarding the challenge.

Besides BioEternal, there are five companies that sell biodegradable urns too in her market.

Núñez spoke about Limbo as one of her strongest competitors in Mexico.

“A company that’s already selling and has very good sales is Limbo,” Núñez said. “Their product is something like a sand ball, but their concept and idea is about reintegrating with nature.”

Another company named Colibrí not only work with humans, but also work with animals.

“My plans are to start with humans and then make an approach to the animal market,” Núñez said. “If I started with the animal market, people are going to relate or interpret this practice as something exclusive for animals and that’s not a good idea.”

For Núñez, working with BioEternal has been more than just a way to help the environment.

“It’s very pretty to think about becoming a tree, but that idea is not enough, especially when you’re going through such a complicated stage in your life,” she said.

That’s the reason why Núñez decided to link together her company with the concept of green thanatology.

Without exploring the meaning of life and death, thanatology studies death.

Green thanatology, which is related to liberation, focuses on helping people go through someone’s death with the help of nature.

Companies like Limbo and Colibrí only focus on helping the environment, and this provided Daniela with an area of opportunity.

BioEternal’s focus on healing and its link with thanatology are its main strength and something that puts it beyond its competitors.

Death is not an easy subject to handle.

This is the reason why Daniela not only wants to change processes, but also wants to change experiences.

“It’s no longer an experience of burying a person, but of planting a life,” Núñez said. “Let’s make it beautiful. I want people to be able to keep these memories. That’s one reason why Bioeternal is named that way, because it’s an eternal memory.”

Setting up her company has not been easy and, currently, Núñez’s bigger challenge is money.

Producing a large number of biodegradable urns and signing up for this year’s national funerary convention are big and necessary expenses for her.

“I’m out of resources and I’m going to need help from crowdfunding,” Núñez said.

Núñez said that her long term goals are about making her own funerary company and a Bioeternal park.

“I don’t want families to go to a graveyard. I want this to be a friendly concept in which people visit a forest and visit their own tree because that’s much more attractive and pretty,” Núñez said.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Misterwives Releases New Song After Long Wait

By Annika Dahlgren

If you’ve heard of American Authors, Twenty-One Pilots, or even X Ambassadors, you’re bound to have heard about MisterWives, one of the latest bands to steal the ears of many young people.

Their hit “Reflections” is easily recognized, but the song “Coffins” was most people’s first introduction to the band.

Misterwives. Photo Credit: Abby Gillardi/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Lead singer Mandy Lee is the only woman in this alternative/Indie pop band joined by percussionist Etienne Bowler, bass guitarist William Hehir, guitarist Marc Campbell, and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Blum.

Read More: Can The 1975 Change The Music Industry As We Know It?

The band formed in 2012 and began performing in a small venue called the Canal Room in New York City.

The day after their performance, Photo Finish Records signed the band, and immediately they began work on their first EP, Reflections.

Since then, MisterWives has gained recognition for opening for Twenty-One Pilots and performing for MTV, VH1, and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

On February 17, their latest single “Machine” was released as a preview for their second album that will arrive later this year.

MisterWives is definitely a band you need to check out if you haven’t already.

Their unique sounds is mesmerizing, and you’ll get hooked immediately.

This is one of the up-and-coming bands that is going to become a household name, just wait and see.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Abby Gillardi/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Science Academia Is Still Sexist As Hell

Science is not supposed to be about gender.

The purpose of science is to allow clarity in a world with very little understanding.

Unfortunately, many in prominent positions of American life have made it about gender.

In 2015, a reporter from Breitbart News published an article called, “Here’s why there ought to be a cap on women studying science and maths”.

Seriously.

We can laugh at the ridiculous concept of it, but science is still a sexist field.

Women are expected to fail because they supposedly cannot handle the competition from being in a predominately male field.

They are expected to either deal with sexism in the workplace, or leave.

Dr. Gillian Foulger works at Durham University in the U.K., and she worries that women are still treated the same way that she was in graduate school during the 1980’s.

Her graduate program gave women 1/10 of the spots that men had.

Students on a class trip to a science fair in 1985. Photo Credit: Chad Kainz/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Her teachers were supposed to be all female, and there were so few women in geology that many of her professors did not know new scientific concepts.

After she graduated, she was refused the same opportunities that men were getting, such as positions at geological societies and oil companies, despite the fact she excelled in university.

Foulger was forced to look for opportunities abroad, eventually becoming a volcanologist in Iceland.

There, she had to continuously deal with sexist and xenophobic stereotypes during her tenure.

Students in the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment record soil structure. Photo Credit: Dave Brenner/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

At one point, her male field assistant sexually harassed her.

“I had to lock my door at night to prevent him from breaking in and raping me,” she told me over the phone with little emotion.

It was, and still is, a fact that women are commonly sexually harassed during their time in academia.

“This is the sort of thing I have done for science, Hannah,” Foulger said to me as her voice hardened slightly. “I have done this because science is me. I love science. I don’t consider myself really ‘a woman’, or ‘a man’, or ‘a person’. I consider myself ‘a scientist’.”

She accepted the scorn and abuse from her male colleagues in order to further science.

The main argument of the Breitbart article is that the retention rate for women is low, so funding women in science is a waste of money.

The author is not wrong about the poor retention rate.

Women may earn more than 50% of the degrees in STEM PhD programs, but after graduate school, the numbers of women in science begin to decline rapidly.

In fact, women only make up 21% of full science professors and tend to make half of what their male counterparts make.

Dr. Foulger told me that women leave science because “the environment is stacked against women.”

She also said it is hostile to women.

“Women are not in positions where they can help those who are at a more junior level than themselves,” Foulger said. “So of course they drop out! They are forced out! Males expect women to drop out.”

If you also consider that married mothers are 35% less likely to get a tenure track position than married fathers, and 27% less likely to become tenured, you can probably guess why women feel like they cannot succeed in science.

Dr. Catherine Cardelús, an ecologist at Colgate University, has a similar perspective.

“The author [of the Breitbart article] does not look at the heart of the problem, which is that women do not have the support or infrastructure that they needed,” Cardelús said.

When Cardelús got her PhD in 2002, she was married with children to another professor, and she said that the men in her program expected her and the other women to fail.

Dr. Catherine Cardelús, is an ecologist at Colgate University. She claims that science is not welcoming to women. Photo Credit: Colgate University

Luckily she and one of her friends, who was also a mother, made a deal that they would not drop out of their program.

Despite the discrimination against them, the two women received their degrees and pursued success.

The best way to deal with discrimination in science is by creating representation.

“My presence alone as a woman in science teaching tells people that women can do it,” Dr. Cardelús said, leaning across the small wooden table in her office, her eyes full of defiance. “Everybody should be able to do what they want. There should not be barriers.”

Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince anyone to pursue a career in academia when the odds are already stacked against you.

A lot of the time, it is less emotionally draining to leave academia with a PhD and pursue opportunities in industry.

To compensate for the extra pressure women tend to feel in science, it is important to build a community.

While we can succeed alone, science is much more likely to move forward with everyone working towards a common goal—education and progress.

The best way to get more women in science is establishing a community of women from the beginning, and moving past stereotypes to allow women to take on more important roles.

We need to support our women and other oppressed groups as they pursue a career in science, because the inclusion of different perspectives will push science into the future.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: simpleinsomnia/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Rory, Obama, And Me

The last time I saw Rory Gilmore, it was 2007.

She sat nervously sipping a cup of coffee at Luke’s at 5 a.m, about to take off on the road to work as a journalist, covering the Obama campaign.

At the time, an unlikely black, underdog, born in Hawaii had unexpectedly become a presidential candidate and I, a young eleven year old girl was about to enter the daunting world of high school.

Although Rory, Obama, and I’s futures were uncertain, there was a palpable feeling of hope that outweighed any fears of the unknown.

During my young impressionable years, I had the privilege—in both my real and imaginative worlds—to be surrounded by truly remarkable characters.

In the real world of politics, I got to grow up in the ‘yes we can’ generation, believing that anyone regardless of gender, race, economic background, could carve out a place for themselves in even the most elite pockets of society.

In my world of fiction, I was fortunate to have two strong female heroines whose self-worth was anchored in their intelligence, independence, and capacity to eat more than their male counterparts.

As a young woman—navigating through a time often ridden with cliques and self-confidence issues—my real and fictitious role models helped me keep a touch on the pulse, whose steady and defined beats reminded me of the values I would grow up to cherish dearly.

When I was reunited with Rory Gilmore this past November, only weeks after a sexist tyrant was elected as Obama’s successor, I mourned the loss of feminism in the worlds I had once inhabited.

When I left Rory, she was a quiet, driven young woman, who acknowledged her flaws and her fears.

She chose a career she loved over a man she adored, and though terrified, fearlessly threw herself into the deep end.

The Rory I found in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, was virtually unrecognizable.

Her work-ethic I had once so preciously admired was replaced with a repulsive entitlement that manifested itself in her career, her love life, and even her relationship with her beloved mother and best-friend, Lorelai.

A poster promoting Gilmore Girls during its original run. Photo Credit: Zach Tirrell/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She found satisfaction in her friendships with trust-fund babies she had once despised (Logan’s Life and Death Brigade friends) and seemed to have no qualms being Logan’s mistress, meanwhile walking all-over her caring boyfriend whose name and existence not even she could remember.

When I have expressed my disappointment with Rory’s character in the Gilmore Girls revival, people have told me—to my fervent frustration—that the old Rory was ‘unrealistic’.

But to say that a sincere, hard-working, and driven young woman who cares more about C-Span and Tolstoy than about fashion and parties is ‘unrealistic’ is to do a massive dis-service to every hard-working young woman out there who refuses to succumb to stereotypes of what a young woman is supposed to look like.

Like all of us, Rory was a flawed and imperfect character.

Throughout the seven seasons, Rory fell apart almost every time she received criticism.

When she hit a deer and missed her exam, she threw a tantrum in class; when a professor in Season Four told her to drop a class, she cried in Dean’s lap; when Mitchum Huntsburger told her she didn’t have ‘it’, she dropped out of school for a semester and moved into Richard and Emily’s pool house.

As Jess poignantly noted back in Season Two while driving Rory’s car—and Logan pointed out at a Life and Death Brigade retreat later in the series (You jump, I jump Jack)—Rory was scared of the world around her.

Gilmore Girls speaks for a certain generation of American women who are now coming into positions of influence. Photo Credit: jeffmason/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She spent her first year of university hiding away after her mom slept at her dorm her first night of college, where I might add, she hardly made any new friends.

So no, Rory was not an unrealistic character because she was imperfect with flaws that I learnt from and whose attributes I grew to admire.

But because of Rory, I went through high school hardly worrying about my appearance or trying to be cool.

While I undoubtedly had my teenage moments where I rolled my kilt to show a little more leg, or worried about what party to go to on a Friday night, I spent more time reading and studying than I did drinking or sneaking out.

I wanted to be valued for my independence and intelligence rather than be judged by my appearance or who I was dating.

Though I would like to take credit for these character traits I have grown to be proud of, I can say with an utmost certainty that I inherited these attributes from Rory Gilmore and for that, I am thankful.

In her high school graduation speech, Rory said:

“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”

For those of who grew up watching Gilmore Girls, we also grew up living in two worlds.

In one, we were part of a fictitious, eccentric town in Connecticut where two women taught us what it meant to be independent strong women in the 21st century.

In the other, Obama, an also imperfect character, reminded us that despite all the odds, hope could conquer.

In 2017, I am no longer inspired by the characters in my world of fiction nor in my world of politics—feminism seems to have temporarily escaped them both.

But perhaps this reminds us that progress is not an uphill process—it zigs and zags in surprising directions—but it’s up to us, the generation whose impressionable years were imprinted by impeccable role model to reshape the worlds that have shaped us.

It’s our turn to be someone worth imitating.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ed Schipul/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Pakistan’s First Transgender Model Makes Waves With Debut Photoshoot

KARACHI, Pakistan- It’s not very often you hear about a transgender model making waves in the fashion world. It’s particularly uncommon for a transgender model to be attaining fame in a Muslim country.

Kami Sid is a Pakistani social activist who is renowned for her endless campaigning for the LGBT community in her home country.

She was previously featured in a documentary filmed by the BBC titled ‘How Gay is Pakistan’ which brought her to light in various circles.

Kami Sid made her debut in the fashion world in a powerful photoshoot that aims to end stigma and phobia against the LGBT community in Pakistan.

Read More: Black-Listed-How Discrimination Forces Transgender People Of Color Into Poverty And Prostitution

The LGBT community has been frequently targeted in the country with over 45 transgender people having been killed in the past year in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone.

In May, a 23 year old trans woman named Alisha, was gunned down and denied treatment at the hospital due to her gender identity.

#kamisutra #waqarjkhan #nighatmisbah #haseebsiddiqui #breakingstereotypes #fashionforcause #supportequality

A photo posted by Waqar J Khan (@waqar_j_khan) on

Earlier this month, a transgender person was beaten by a group of five men in Sialkot and tortured horrendously.

The beating was caught on tape and made rounds on the internet.

The five men were arrested by the police.

Read More: “You’re Pretty. I Mean For A Brown Girl”

Kami hopes that her photoshoot can help end transphobia and break the stereotypes attached to it.

Her photoshoot was captured by Haseeb M. Siddiqi with makeup artistry being provided by Nighat Misbah.

The two collaborated with stylist Waqar Khan to give Kami the fierce look.

Although violence against the LGBT community continues, the positive reaction to Kami’s photoshoot on social media shows that in some circles transphobia is rapidly declining.

This can be considered progress in a country like Pakistan where Sharia law and Islamic fundamentalism is rampant and LGBT rights are nearly non-existent.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Do It For Yourself, Not The Gram

This piece is part of our “What Do You Live For?” series. It attempts to answer that confounding question that few people ask themselves.  

As a millennial, our lives are consumed with being connected at any and all times. Our daily actions include a continuous cycle of checking our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Snapchat feeds to see our friends, family and celebrities living their lives and giving us a sneak peek into how they are living their lives.

It is because of the habits we’ve formed as a society, as a generation that led me to rethink what my purpose is, what I am actually living for.

There is a term, FOMO (fear of missing out) that was coined a few years ago to sum up how you felt if you were not a part of something everyone else was doing.

Whether it’s at the latest concert, party, bar/club, and any type of activity that everyone would be talking about later on and leaving a digital footprint behind.

With the continued osmosis of social media platforms becoming one with our daily habits, too frequently do we find ourselves attending events only if to send a Snapchat or take a cool photo for our followers?

Since when did enjoying your free time become burdensome?

I will be the first to admit that I am as much part of the social media generation but it’s taken me quite some time to learn limits, boundaries and understanding of what is right and wrong.

At the beginning of the year I made a vow to stop using Twitter as frequently as I had once become accustomed to.

I deleted the app of my iPhone and my iPad and I changed my password so I wouldn’t be tempted to fall back down the rabbit hole that is binge scrolling.

Day after day, month after month I found myself no longer yearning for my Twitter account until one day when I realized Twitter had in fact deleted my account for some odd reason.

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I didn’t even blink an eye that it was gone, because I knew that I was living completely fine not being “plugged in” to the social media network.

The generation that I am a part of has decided that as a whole we must document every aspect of our life, whether with a witty check in, a cheeky Instagram post, or a facetious Tweet about the 2016 Presidential Election.

We have become slaves to our social media following. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to get acknowledgment and praise from time to time for something awesome or a life event that is once in a life time, but most of the time it is something so mundane or asinine that one doesn’t even bat an eyelash at.

When I think about what I am living for, I realized that I have to live for myself, for my happiness and what is reasonably acceptable for my life, both personally and professionally.

Too often I see peers who find the need to “do it for the gram” and it is that braggadocios attitude that continues to help divide our society as a whole.

It is a battle of the haves and have nots. Being a trend chaser, whether you’re at the latest music festival, or eating at the next biggest brunch place, these material things don’t matter in the long run. They’re short term activities that will have no bearing on your life in the future.

As a millennial who recently hit his “quarter life crisis” I’ve found myself become more introspective and take an inventory of everything and everyone in my life.

Over time, quality has become the overwhelming value in my life over quantity, from friends, to followers, to amounts of time I use my social media to brag to my “friends” about what I am doing.

I have put myself first in an attempt to live a better, more values based lifestyle. Instead of engaging with those who I don’t share interests with anymore, I choose to part ways and not look back.

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Letting go of any ill will I may have harbored or any semblance of a relationship I once have has allowed me to open my heart and my mind to so much more.

I’m able to live a fuller life that focuses on who I am as a person.

It’s important in life to remember who you are as a person, and if the person you’re portraying outward is not the person you are on the inside, than that is not living a genuine and authentic life. That is superficial and will only lead to more insecurities later on in life.

If you find yourself questioning your choices because of what is expected of you from others, instead of giving in or feeling pressured to oblige, think twice about if that is something you would truly do, something you would feel good about as an individual with their own identity.

Self-identity is exactly as it sounds. Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, do what you want.

As a wise person once told me, be the flame, not the moth. Be the one to stand out, not the one who follows.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Robin Vintevogel/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Musical Revivalism May Be Bringing Us Back To The 1950s

By Savannah Bullard

History is often criticized for repeating itself.

Whether it is with politics, economics or social justice, people tend to avoid going back to what was meant to stay in the “good ol’ days.”

However, a surge of emerging musicians are breaking this trend.

The Economist describes soul music as a genre that “originated in the 1950s that grew out of the blues, R&B and African American church music.”

Some say the revivalism of “the oldies” began with Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Special” album, which included the ever-popular “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars.

The funky beat and old school music video was a huge hit with younger audiences, introducing young people to the tunes that got our grandparents to get down.

Watch: Uptown Funk 

The trend continues with Meghan Trainor, who fuses 1950s pop and modern hip hop through songs like “All About That Bass” and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You (featuring John Legend).”

This year, some of the most famous artists of 2016 are coming out of hometown bars and theaters with sounds that only used to be popular in the mid-20th century.

Leon Bridges, for example, is a 26-year-old Texas native whose soulful sound captivated Spotify listeners and shot him to stardom.

Bridges quotes himself on his website saying “I’m not saying I can hold a candle to any soul musician from the ’50s and ’60s, but I want to carry the torch.”

Bridges’ popularity chips away at the stigma that all teens listen to nothing but top 40 and rap music. He closes a wide generational gap, which is hard to do when in this day and age, young people feel disconnected from their elders who “just do not understand.”

Bridges is an artist that anyone can love, and that connection is rarely seen nowadays, especially in the entertainment scene.

Watch: Leon Bridges’ Smooth Sailing

Young people are actually getting a slice of culture from artists like Bridges. His music pays homage to a beloved time period that cultivated artists like Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. This was not just music; it was an entire way of life.

Bridges is doing an aesthetic favor by channeling this era through his sounds.

Young people pick up on this stuff, and their musical perspectives widen far beyond what is played on the radio.

The same can be said for musicians like Mumford and Sons, who recently traveled to India and Africa in order to incorporate those cultures into their work.

While this is a mix of traditional music from other civilizations instead of reviving a time period, the product is the same.

The new age incorporation of music from any culture or time period creates the most beautiful harmony that serves the same purpose.

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

Young people might not know it, but they are opening their minds to a whole new world of music. It is as if these artists are teachers by extension, offering a bit of history through their music for us to learn.

The Sugarman 3 frontman and Daptone Records co-founder Neil Sugarman says in an Economist article that “even with her big pop hit ‘Rehab,’ it was honest to Amy [Winehouse]. It was real. That’s the essence of soul music. It’s honest.”

This example speaks to a lot of emerging artists who do not want to become one-hit wonders or fall into the mainstream of bubblegum pop and modern rap music.

Soul singers are those who embrace struggle in their recordings, and wearing their hearts on their sleeves is what sells out concerts.

Watch: Mumford and Songs’ Wona

In the 1960s, African American jazz musicians wrote of their hardships with civil rights and the struggle of living in a time of racism and misfortune.

Their music was raw and uncaged; they made their voices heard through their music, because in that time, music was one of the few options that allowed them to do so.

And today, this is the very same concept that these new-age soul singers try to embody.

A song so deep and meaningful will catch the heart of a listener, while more mainstream tunes might be fun for a moment, but get skipped the next time they appear in a playlist.

Young people like connections, and sharing the feelings that are sung in a favorite song makes them love that musician much more than cookie-cutter pop singers.

These are songs that urge people to look up lyrics, decipher meanings, figure out the intention behind the art. These songs make the listener want to know the artist, not just enjoy the work.

Whether or not this trend will last remains in ambiguity, because not even the most profound musicologists can predict what teens will love next.

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

For decades, country music stays consistently popular, but still gets tweaked each year by whatever artists who make it big.

And as long as we have prepubescent teenage girls and boys, upbeat breakup songs and boy bands will never go out of style.

However, the love of soul is proven to be more than just a music style.

The fluidity and swagger of soul outlasts many other genres, and manages to stay consistent at the top of the charts.

So while other styles continue to change and evolve, soul will remain timeless.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Essay: Goodbye (For Now) To Hong Kong’s Hipster Paradise Hidden Agenda

By Sing Lee

HONG KONG- Hidden Agenda, the largest performing venue dedicated to indie music in Hong Kong, is being evicted for its third time since its founding seven years ago, due to “land use abuses”.

The current 3,600-square-foot unit, which can accommodate about 300 people, is located in Ngau Tau Kok industrial district, a home to a lot of band rooms, movie production studios, churches and martial art training centers.

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These alternative uses of industrial buildings are violating the land lease agreements, which ban the sites from being use as any purpose other than “industrial and/or warehouse”.

Read More: There’s A Bleak Outlook For Artists And Businesses In Industrial buildings

The venus received a rectification order from the Lands Department in June this year, while they made an agreement with the landlord to move out this month.

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The order was based on two land lease agreements issued by the government in 1967 and 1973, when manufacturing industries was still a pillar economic sector of Hong Kong.

Industrial building users has been asking for legislative amendment on the regulations including place for public entertainment licences, fire safety regulations and land lease terms, to adapt to the change of usages as time goes by.

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Open in 2009, Hidden Agenda has been a home to shows performed by both local and international units, such as the American recording artist Toro Y Moi.

The live house’s team initialed a crowd-funding project its fourth generation in September, raising HK $517,000 in a week from the public.

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ha-54They are acquiring a food factory licence, rather than a place for public entertainment licences they failed to apply for, to operate legally as a tuck shop which provide live music for its customers.

The venue will be re-opened in December this year at its new address, while its last show for now, called “Continue to Grow”, was held on 10 October.

This photo essay records the yet final performance at what the audience called “HA 3.0”, indicating its third location, and the disassembling of the stage immediately afterwards.

Read More: How Nathan Law Is Representing A New Generation Of Leadership In Hong Kong

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Photo Credits: Sing Lee

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