The Beauty Behind The Grim Reaper
This is the ghost of my past who never gave me closure.
This is the shadow of the chair in my hotel room when I am tortured by insomnia.
This is the outcast who challenges the norm and forges their own path.
This is the woman with strong, rugged hands, and owning it.
This is temptation following an addict’s every footstep.
This is The Grim Reaper reminding me to savor each moment of every day.
This is the person who is ashamed of their body because of hegemonic standards of beauty.
This is the gay man feeling afraid to come out.
This is the man masking his vulnerabilities because he thinks they make him appear less masculine.
This is the widow in mourning, trying to reach out and feel life again.
This is my reflection when I feel like nothing because I compare myself to others.
This is the maturing woman who feels pressure to hide and defy the natural signs of aging.
This is the wall inside the head someone battling mental illness.
This is the genderless state I felt after being called a prude as a teenager.
This is the desexualization of myself after being labeled a slut as a woman.
This is the misunderstood and overlooked second-class citizen.
This is the celebration of fearless self expression in the face of judgment.
This is a remarkably beautiful and ominous photo of my sister Yasmine. It was taken by our friend, Jack McKain, in the back alley of a retro neon-lit motel in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The moment was captured on film camera as Yasmine was retreating inside a piece of sheer, black fabric that we spontaneously purchased during our photoshoot escapade.
I am scared of this photo, yet drawn to its profound nature. Haunted by the fear of some people interpreting the figure as offensive and threatening, I am far more possessed by its aura of universality. What I love about this piece of art, besides my sister, is that it transcends race, ethnicity, religion, age, and time. It can be whatever you want it to be.
If this image resonates with you because you see a victim of sexual assault living in shame, then let it give you a voice after years of internalizing fear.
If you see a burka in the photo, then let it open your eyes to the individual complexities that exist past the barbaric, one-dimensional representations of Muslims in the media.
If this cover art challenges your expectations of a young woman’s image in the music industry, then let it encourage you to think outside the box and challenge the status quo.
In what sometimes feels like atomized society, I often feel emotionally detached from the experiences of others. I forget to imagine the perspectives of people outside my bubble, especially while living behind a screen. Growing up in an era that breeds competition and emphasis on unique individuality, our sense of humanity is often lost, and power of community often neglected.
Our open-mindedness towards envisioning the experiences of other humans affects our dialogue on a personal level, and from there it has a ripple effect that influences communication in our families, social groups, and then communities. There is no such thing as enough rights, enough peace, and enough equality.
My grandfather Muhammad Yusaf once preached to me that living and thinking in a stagnant state is actually retrogression. With the decline of empathy in our society, we have to consciously practice taking the perspective of others to advance towards having a more tolerant world. Empathy is what allows us to cooperate and unite.
Despite different contexts, behind the veil we all experience the same threads of emotions. The seams are imaginary borders that divide us. Let this be the fabric of humanity that reminds you that we are all one.