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Mother’s Day 2024

By: Sanjana Khan, Executive Director & Co-Founder


How can I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day, when there are 600,000 children in Rafah who are about to be massacred by the Israeli Defense Forces? What about their mothers?


At night before I close my eyes, I weep. In the morning, in my shower, I cry as loudly as I can. Because I know I need to keep going, and then I think about Palestinian mothers. Who is grieving with them as they hold their dead infants in their arms? Who is grieving for these countless souls when all their family members have been brutally murdered? I cry while my cat, Raja, keeps me company on my sofa and tears drip down my cheeks.


This has been my reality for the past eight months, more than 200 days, as countless Palestinian children, womxn and men martyred — I believe this is what has been on the minds of many, but I know for sure it has been a heavy burden for all of us at Laal.


And for that reason, because we are an extremely adept team- we have taken things slow and worked with no deadlines. What is it that we are building if we cannot address the crimes that are committed in broad daylight and put our own mental health first. This is not normal.


Hence, the delayed newsletters, an annual report that is now a 2-year report, and a 5-Year Gala pushed to October 18th, 2024.


This Mother’s Day, all I can do is grieve and be grateful for my own mother. That I get to hold her, hug her, what a privilege. My Nani’s (maternal grandmother) 1-year death anniversary is in a few days. It’s the first Mother’s Day my Amma doesn’t have her Amma, a feeling one day I will also experience. In the past two years each staff member at Laal lost a significant love (family member, parent, grandmother, close friend). Can you imagine the heartbreak of Palestinians in Gaza — I still can’t hold all the grief I feel from my grandmother’s passing. How can we as a society expect anyone to endure so much violence, loss and injustice? That too when it is funded by our own tax dollars.


I am eternally grateful to my team who gave me the opportunity to fly to Bangladesh last year to perform the last rituals for my Nani. I have built a team rooted in community, we know that life is not easy, this world is cruel, so many of us survivors of sexual violence that we constantly ask, how is this the norm for so many womxn? We also know that in order to create joy, one must acknowledge and feel grief.


At Laal we take our time, we cry when we pray together, when I lead yoga classes we take collective deep breaths to give shakthi for the students movements and the uprisings that are currently happening, sometimes our deep breaths become loud cries for the rage that is building inside of us for the pain we are constantly witnessing, when we dance, we dance with our hearts full because we know we cannot dance this way anywhere else. And as Bangladeshi womxn, we know deep within our bodies and souls what it is to survive a genocide financed by the American government.


As my alma mater, The Evergreen State College, becomes the first university in the US to divest from all Israeli affiliations and funding, I think about the 20 years of activism that was taking place in Olympia, Washington. This did not happen overnight. Never did I think the Zionist capital of NYC (The Upper West Side) would ever, EVER have encampments at Columbia University all the way down to NYU. What an honor to witness the bravery and courage of the youth, what a beautiful future we have to look forward to.


Columbia University protest 2024 photographed by Muneeba Hassan


I am a visionary, I lead Laal with a dream that I don’t know if I will see in my lifetime. But I dream radically, I dream wildly, I dream of the most magnificent just world. Because I cannot afford to lose hope, I cannot afford to stop trying with all my strength, wisdom, and might- I owe it to all that have been killed in Gaza and my ancetors who survided a rape campaign genocide. I dream of a world that is not drenched in patriarchy but the matriarchy. And at Laal with small steps, we are building that future we want to leave to our children. 


I believe that mothers are the most hard working individuals in our society: the care labor, emotional labor and physical labor has never been accounted for in any economic forum nationally or internationally. We have continuously watched our mothers sacrifice everything for the happiness of others, especially her children. But when do they start picking themselves?


At Laal, I am so proud to say that with 4-years of programming and a retention rate of over 70%— Bangladeshi immigrant womxn in Norwood, The Bronx are making time for themselves and loving themselves. And that I believe is the most profound revolutionary act, love is a political act. Because when we truly learn to love ourselves, we learn that the greatest gift is Mother Earth, and we must protect her. From that we learn we must protect each other, because we are all we have. And I learned that from my mother, my Amma. 

Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Laal. 

 

love,

Sanjana Khan, she/they

Co-Founder and Executive Director 

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