Dr Nadine Naber’s new business will Moisturize Your Soulspace
Dr. Nadine Naber has been working as a community organizer and academic for over twenty-years on “issues of Palestinian liberation and joint struggles related to ending the interconnected forces of war, racism, classism, gender injustice, and imperialism.” She has witnessed and pushed back against the stresses and challenges that come with being in the world of academia, particularly for women of color with community-based ties. She balances her work in academia and community-organizing with caring for her two children. But, Naber also learned that “we cannot contribute to transforming the world if we are sick and wellness requires rest.” Sanah Yassin asked Naber a few questions about her new business—Moisturize Your Soulspace.
Sanah Yassin: What inspired you to start this business?
Dr. Nadine Naber: I started making all-natural therapeutic body products during the summer of 2015 after I was diagnosed with (a fully treatable) form of cancer. For several months after surgery and throughout therapy I had low energy levels, brain fog, and emotional fluctuations. I immersed myself in books and websites about self-healing through mind-body connection, the power of beliefs over biology, and DIY body care. Once I whipped my first batch of body butter, I could not stop. My creations were the perfect gift for friends, who cared for and took care of me. It gave me something to do with my time. Measuring, melting, and pouring butters, waxes, and essential oils was fantastically soothing and allowed me to defuse the inevitable anxieties and negative thoughts that come with a cancer diagnosis. When I gifted my potions to friends their reactions were, “Wow! You have healed my dry skin and it smells so relaxing!” Then they would say… “I want…I need more!”…“You have to make this available!”
SY: it seems that your products have Arab-undertones. How did you come up with the products and their names?
NN: These reviews and other positive reviews on Etsy motivated me to keep going, but I wanted more than a business. I started thinking, how can I give something back to my Arab diasporic communities, something beautiful and calming, especially given the constant barrage of violence and racism we are forced to encounter?
After more tinkering with recipes at home and learning about the best bottles for storing and shipping oils, I perfected my first (forest) beard oil. Given the latest trends in hipster beard oil, I realized this could go big, but I still wondered…how…and for what? I started hearing from people who tested it that the scent was intoxicating and the ingredients had intensely conditioned their skin while solving beard-related skin problems. The intimate partners of people with beards became the primary beneficiaries and even they were asking for more! I had been thinking of all the brown men, who have been marked as Other, as potential terrorists, through racist associations between their beards and “Islamic extremism.” I thought of all the struggles that have emerged on the level of emotions and the self, about whether to shave one’s beard in order to protect oneself from harm. I then remembered my childhood when my Jordanian father and uncles used to pinch my brothers and cousins’ cheeks and laugh, calling them, “Abu Lihya” [father of a beard]. That was the light bulb moment when Abu Lihya Beard Oil was born. As I have hoped for, community folks have come to love Abu Lihya not only a beard oil but as part of an Arab American counter-culture whereby we are defining—and loving–who we are with dignity, humor, and joy, in our own ways and on our own terms.
Naming my lavender bliss hand and body balm “Sukoon” [tranquility] took some time, especially since I did not know this word until a friend suggested it. And my “Healing Peppermint Shafaf Balm” does just what I hoped for—makes people smile and laugh—with its clumsy familiar mix of Arabic and English; its rooted na3 na3 [mint] scent; and the feeling of victory against the battle with dry lips!
SY: What goals and dreams do you have for this business?
NN: I currently sell my products locally in Chicago and through Etsy and gift products to activists working within challenging situations. I hope my products will circulate among other Arab and Arab American crafts. I hope they will reach and bring joy and tranquility to local Arab and Arab American and social justice-based communities (through local barber shops, stores, and salons and community-based locations). I also hope my story will empower people to make their own products and support the existence of homemade crafts and body products, and inspire people to avoid using cancer-causing chemicals on their bodies. I currently use Palestinian olive oil in my hand and body balm and I want to learn more about incorporating ingredients that sustain communities facing colonization, expulsion, and racism.
SY: What makes your products unique?
NN: They are made at home. There are little or no natural body projects with Arabic names and connected to Arab social justice communities. The markup and cost are minimal compared to what similar items sell for at places like Whole Foods. And they are made with love and a commitment to tranquility and radical self-care.
SY: What is the story behind the great name?
NN: I came up with Moisturize Your Soulspace to capture the sense of radical self-care behind my products. Like many I have felt uncomfortable with the concept of self-care because it can seem individualist, even selfish. But radical self-care is more urgent than ever– when we take care of ourselves within our relationship to others, to community, to the land, and to the world. For me, radical self-care is community. Community nurtured my business and my healing journey. It is also mind-body connection, awareness, and praxis.
The name, Moisturize Your Soulspace speaks to how the products moisturize and connect your body with your inner self, your emotions, and your sensations all at once. The word “soulspace” also affirms the influences of African American music and activist cultures upon U.S. cultures, and the people of color social justice movements and communities that have empowered and inspired me. Although “soul space” has been appropriated by predominantly white liberal new-age projects (yoga studies, clothing companies, etc.), it entered my vocabulary when I was living in the Bay Area in my late twenties. The term circulates especially in Oakland, California–among activist artists of color, affirming a connection with the civil rights histories that later influenced Motown and the sounds of psychedelic soul in the face of extreme gentrification, erasure, and police violence.
SY: What products are customers raving about the most?
NN: The Sukoon/Tranquility Lavender Bliss Hand and Body Balm($14), the Abu Lihya Forest Beard Oil($13), and the Healing Peppermint Shafaf/Lip Balm($3). You can read the reviews on my Etsy page, moisturizesoulspace.etsy.com.
You can find more information on Moisturize Your Soulspace at: Facebook.com/moisturizeyoursoulspace