art by Bernarda Chiriboga April 1, 2021
Women’s History Month has officially ended. But we didn’t want to see it go without talking about Yelda Ali and her responsibility as a creative. A creator of all sorts and now a writer too, Yelda published her new book, Outlet, a space that covers human experiences in a unique way.
Being creative bears a lot of responsibility. Not only are creatives able to inspire, but they move masses; connecting reality to a much bearable story.
But, perhaps most powerful, it’s their ability to create shared human experiences. Thus, Outlet bridges the gap between cultures by depicting what it means to be human in the 21st century.
The book is dedicated to “to those who believed, those who didn’t. To those who survived, and those who didn’t.” Thus, it touches matters of mental health and reminds us of values of community, empathy, and compassion. Yet, most importantly, it reminds us that human struggle is real, is painful, and it is shared.
Now more than ever, conversations about mental health are happening. And, although depression, anxiety, and stress are far away from losing their prejudices, at least they are being taken seriously.
Still, there is much work to do in the mental health awareness department, and perhaps Outlet is a great place to start. Yelda Ali has brought to light all these struggles, yet this time from various different perspectives.
“Everyone talks about depression. Yet, the conversation is often drawn from the perspectives of a white person or scientific studies. But, have you ever wonder what does depression means to an Arab woman in the middle east? Or a Black person in America?”Yelda Ali, 2021
Our problems are deeper than the names they are given. More than that, they are valid.
“My father would always say, ‘these are the stories that stay behind the curtains and do not make it to the centerstage.’ And indeed, this is the shadow no one wants to talk about.Yelda Ali, 2021
Yet, these are the stories that make the world real. And now that we are on a collective process of understanding and healing, it is important that we make the collective effort to create spaces to listen non -judgementally. It is essential that as creatives, we understand our responsibilities.
To talk of some uncomfortable realities that are very relatable for women and men, black or white, Christian or Muslim.
Outlet blurs away the lines of identity to connect its readers through a single human experience. When stripping away the identities, or any given context, the reader is able to naturally connect with the story, without any bias or stereotype. Judging just by their feelings.
Borned to Afghan parents, Yelda always felt connected with her cultures. She was born in Germany and grew up in Canada, yet her parents had instill her about all Afghan traditions and rituals since a young age. Thus, she was raised in as a child of the world but sedimented with Afghan values.
“Traditions are all about coming together. In my family, we ate together, we heard music together, there was this huge sense of connection, not only to the culture but between each other.”Yelda Ali, March 2021
But, what inspired Yelda Ali the most was storytelling. “Storytelling runs deep in the family,” she told us. Particularly, they valued stories about change in the world. She confessed that instead of Britney Spears posters, she had Martin Luther King hanged on her wall.
And, after countless hours of re-watching MLK speeches, she acknowledged that using your voice helps. Since child Yelda had realized an essential tool for creative people; storytelling and the power it bears.
Yelda Ali grew up to do exactly that; use her voice to help others. Thus, creating different spaces for people to do the same. She is the founder of Camel Assembly, an international women-only collective of creative leaders. A community focused on using voices to create deep connections.
“It is almost like a ritual, everyone gets the chance to speak and share their stories. And with that, I have discovered not only that people are willing to listen, but also to form deeper connections. They come together based on who they really are, and not because of their titles or accomplishments”Yelda Ali, 2021
Through it, she not only realized two important lessons that would change the world. One, vulnerability is contagious. Two, when people have an outlet, they let out.