Meet Jess Rizkallah: The Lebanese-American Whose Poem On Being Torn Between Being Arab & American Will Blow You Away

I’ve been into slam poetry for more than two years now and Button Poetry is one of my favorite YouTube channels. I love it so much that it’s the only YouTube channel for which I’ve enabled notifications.

Late last night, Lebanon-time, I get a notification that a new poem by Jess Rizkallah has been uploaded. Intrigued by the name, I open the YouTube video to find one of the most enriching, gut-wrenching poems I’ve listened to on that website in months.

In three short minutes, Jess Rizkallah was able to convey the struggles that she, a Lebanese-Arab-American woman in the United States goes through trying to juggle her Arab side with her American side, in a culture that is increasingly putting both of her components at odds. I mean just look at a creature like Donald Trump existing and at people, many of whom are Lebanese unfortunately, applauding him.

Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American woman who’s trying to find herself in the dichotomy of cultures in which she is stuck. She is light-skinned enough to pass as white, but brown-souled enough for white people to call her on it and make her question who/what she is, and question she does: From the injustice her family went through, to the change of beauty paradigms in the United States that now include her and her sister (thanks Kim Kardashian?), to the politics in general that make her people feel like lessers.

The poem may be Jess Rizkallah’s personal experience, but I find it’s something most of us as Lebanese, who have been outside the country at certain points, who are immigrants, who might immigrate soon, have to deal with or have dealt with at a certain point: this need to assimilate while also wanting to maintain the semblance of who you are.

Find the transcript below:

i am but i’m not

white man says to my brown father

go blow up your own country i’m not buying a car from you

fires my father replaces him
with another white man.
the first time i hear my father cry,
my grandmother says a hail mary.
& he smashes the statuette of white jesus

we still brought it with us when we moved
to the white neighborhood where the children
broke eggs into our living room named us loud & dirty and the white father smiled at us
the next morning
as he mowed
his lawn.

& now white man leers at my brown sister
who no one believes is my sister he likes how exotic & kardashian she is all bellydancer hatching
from double apple smoke something entrancing
in the way she talks / way she walks
white man better keep walking say the Lebanese men who say they will protect my sister
they say they are her Big Brothers
i say No, actually I am her big brother.
I am all of her big brothers & I am her big Sister

so they tell me my problem: i’m too White
for them too loud & dirty won’t shut up, but they like the way i wear my shorts
& my arabic is too dull of the knife
my tongue could open them with so i let them
drive me home

then white man asks to use my phone
tells me i look like a Nice White Girl
not like those Not White girls winks. do i know what he means and suddenly
i hate him it is so easy to hate them

but it’s midnight by an alley on boylston & a strange man has
my phone so I just tell him No, I don’t know what you mean and suddenly I feel very much like a white girl because I am.

But I’m also not but when I’m scared
& I want to be, it’s not impossible it’s actually really easy.

but white girls still ask me where I’m from.

no, where are you really from? when you go back do you have to cover up?
& their boys love middle eastern girls
but oh man, all that hair would have to go

so i don’t shave anything for weeks because fuck you

then an arab man tells me he loves a woman with body hair
and i fantasize about setting fire to every individual hair on my body because fuck you

and my mother tells me i’ll never find a man if i don’t get rid of it

but she also tells me to be less american so less white? but i am white. so is she but she watched people die & still, white people called her the smelly immigrant

but white people invite me to their potlucks.
ask me to bring my mother’s food. they like me. except when i’m angry and they don’t like me. or when they don’t like my brown family.
i don’t look like most of my family.
i look like the people that hurt my family.

the census classifies middle eastern people as white but if we can be called terrorists and white people can’t then are we really the same?
is the distance between guantanomo and an acquittal just a pair of parentheses?
i’m safe in spaces others are not but invisible when my white friends make bomb jokes
when they say we deserve it
maybe i am the insurgent that hollywood says i am maybe they’re not safe from me from my tongue from its rage living in the space between
all my loud & my too much

& it’s funny
that’s the only thing white people and my people agree on
when they look at me

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Welcome Lebanon’s Newest Singing Sensation: Lara Kay

Remember Lara Kay? Lebanon’s version of YouTube reality star wannabes?
Well she’s back. And she has taken a few lessons from the likes of Myriam Klink in how to get people talking, which shouldn’t come as a surprise with it involving singing.

Her song is “ataletleh l a7lem” and it is not as “trashy” as Klink’s “3antar.” She’s basically depressed about life in Lebanon. So she decided to sing about it.

Shou we2fet 3laya? L kel beddo yghanne.

Problem is even with auto tune, she’s out of tune and the video she has going with the song is simply boobs galore.

Now please, for the love of God, don’t tell Nemr Abou Nassar about this. Let’s keep this among ourselves, have fun with it for a week max, and not turn it into a matter of national security.

Lara Kay: A Self-Proclaimed Lebanese YouTube “Reality TV Star”

This is absolutely disgusting and as +961 said “Please tell me this is a joke.”

Let’s start with the shorter video – I couldn’t go through the first 30 seconds. I really thought her lips were going to fall off. Shouldn’t there be a law as to how much silicon you can inject into a certain part of your body? Dear Lara, your lips are not koussa. Walaw?

And since there’s another longer video, I decided not to waste my quota on it. 15 minutes of this atrocity is nowhere near acceptable. But hey, you might find her “entertaining?”

In the first video, she says about herself that she’s beautiful. Miss Kay, if you’re beautiful then Maryam Nour should be crowned Miss Universe. How about you ponder on that while you give hair advice?

Update: I was just linked to her Facebook page. She has over 450 likes. Why does she have that many likes? Well, let’s just say that she has many images there that resemble this:

No, you’re not imagining things – if you know what I mean.

Carrie Underwood: Voice Of Versatility

Everyone knows by now that I’m a huge fan of country singer Carrie Underwood. I also believe she has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard – and no, I’m not being biased. Even if you dislike her, you can’t but appreciate her talent.

So I was positively surprised when I stumbled on a youtube video that is precisely what this post is about: showing you just how versatile a singer Carrie Underwood truly is.

The fact of the matter is, she has tackled more genres than people have realized – and she has nailed every performance outside the country genre, which is supposed to be her home turf.

Without further ado, just check out the video:

Carrie Underwood Going Viral

Who knew that the person that would be taking YouTube by storm these days would not be Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga or Britney Spears… but Carrie Underwood.

Showing everyone that you don’t need legions of teenagers and sexed up music to get the attention of the masses, she has gone in the totally opposite direction: gospel music.

Carrie’s first video to be considered a viral success was her duet with Steven Tyler at the ACMs on the Aerosmith song “Walk This Way”.

Becoming the top video in music on YouTube for a few day and also topping out the most watched videos lists in many countries around the world, “Walk This Way” stands in less than three weeks at more than 4 million hits.

And for those that might say the only reason Walk This Way became viral was the presence of Steven Tyler, Carrie indirectly replied with a breathtaking performance of How Great Thou Art.

Not only did she blow everyone away with her voice but her performance has actually reached the masses with the video currently standing at a little less than 2 million hits, a mere four days after her performance. How Great Thou Art is a gospel song, praising God… and it is sung in a divine way and people want to listen to it. Maybe other artists should take note?

Moreover, Carrie is now the #1 trending topic on Yahoo!, fueled by the growing popularity of her How Great Thou Art performance.

Read the Yahoo! article here.

A singer’s job is to sing, not to show skin in order to get attention. People are beginning to call Carrie Underwood this generation’s best vocalist. And that is not something to take lightly. She has no way to go but up… and as the pop masses would say: Get it, Carrie!

Razan Moghrabi… Sex Talk?

A friend linked me today to a YouTube video that hasn’t gone viral in the Middle East yet, featuring Lebanese TV presenter Razan Moghrabi in an intimate session with friends, discussing sex.

I normally wouldn’t care about such a thing. Sex is a natural thing that we discuss. However, Razan takes this “discussion” to a whole new level with lewd behavior that includes putting her hand up the guy’s shorts.

Lebanese people in general, and women in particular, are already being stereotyped as being overly promiscuous, which, in a region as conservative as the one we live in, isn’t a positive association. We try to tell everyone how this is not true and that those spreading such lies are Saudi men whose only purpose of coming to Lebanon in summer is to get laid.

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