When you find struggle, you also find beauty. I like to think that beauty creates struggle.
In high school, I was bullied. I went to a school that was 99% white and there was me, the only Middle Eastern, and there was one African American student. This was in Ohio and it was super close minded, I called it a bubble. Thank goodness I moved from there and ended up here in California. That was 6 years ago. It was a nightmare within itself because I never connected with anyone there. I wore a headscarf and I took it off because I had struggles with my own self-worth. I had the hardest time appreciating who I was, especially because social media came along a few years later – I thought to myself, I couldn’t connect with anyone especially because these platforms made me re-evaluate your self worth, which is a battle I think we all face. It’s crazy because the more you grow up, the more battles arise.
I think it’s all about those friends you can attach yourself with. When I went to Chicago I couldn’t connect with anyone. The mentality when you have a friend is usually “friends pick you up when you fall,” my mentality is “my friends won’t hit the ground even if it means I’ll carry them by the pinky.” That’s how sacred my relationship with anyone is.
Sometimes when you go to places where you’re completely mind blown by it, your mind just cannot absorb it. When I went on my road trip through Utah, I hiked through Zion and did Angel’s Landing, it looked like Jurassic Park and I couldn’t get out of it. It was so hard for me to comprehend what I was looking at. And we were lucky enough to see the flowers bloom at Death Valley, that’s when I bought my camera and learned to use it.
I did a really challenging hike to the top of Mount Baldy, and it was then I realized that the destination sure was beautiful. But a destination is not what it is unless you understand what the journey was. That’s something that I learned through reading The Alchemist. Everything that I do, especially hiking, is reflected through that book. He himself is going through his journey and that book changed the way I perceived myself and how I go into the world. Before I turn 30, I want to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, really spend those 6 months going into nature. That’s my biggest goal. My biggest goal isn’t to make money, it’s to feel fully self content. I do feel content now, but not to its highest potential. This life is so short, and we have to keep going. Nothing upsets me more seeing people put themselves down because of negative vibes, and sadly we do have to cut that negativity away.
I was such a private person and no one really knew who I was or what I did until I started Pali Roots. That’s when people would want to find out who I am, especially going to these conventions. The reason why I started Pali Roots is because I really connected with my roots. Pali Roots is more than just a brand, it’s a movement for the youth, especially for Palestinians. It’s a small niche, but it’s also something that I can relate to. With Pali Roots, we’re highlighting the Palestinian identity by staying away from the occupation because through war, Palestinians have lost their identity. That’s no one to blame but ourselves. We let them take our identity.
We started Pali Roots in September, and we were able to make profit in 4 months, where normally it could take up to two years! The conventions we were a part of were a big influence and how we met people. We donate 10% of our company to people of Palestine. Instead of going through an organization, what we do is we physically take that money ourselves and we travel there. Our mission is to keep the identity going, and this last trip, I was able to contract a company to make a thousand scarves. We go to a company that is struggling, and we do something about it. From the soap company that uses olive oil, to using the trimmings of those olive trees to make beads for our bracelets, nothing is ever wasted in Palestine. That’s kind of our mission. I’m so against war and what’s going on in Syria, so for me, I can’t sit down and do nothing about it. I won’t sleep or put my head on my pillow until I feel like I earned something that day and contributed to those people who are suffering. That’s just how I live.
I feel like I gained this concept called empathy, which a lot of people lack. We are so busy in our own lives that we forget to understand other people as well. I think empathy changed a lot of who I am now. I didn’t use this concept until a year ago. When I graduated from FIDM I thought to myself I wanted to start a menswear brand, but no one benefits from a menswear brand except for those who are wearing it. I wanted to start a Palestinian company, cater it to the youth. That’s how I started Pali Roots. We’re an educational brand and we teach people and write about famous poets, cities, landmarks, traditions, and foods of Palestine. It’s an educational brand to really teach the youth what Palestine is, because it’s much more than an occupation. The way we stand out from our competitors is that competitors tie occupation into their designs, and we tie love and peace into our brand. Like one of shirts that has “Remember your roots,” everyone can relate to that, and it has an olive tree in the background. It’s anyone who is aware of their roots, it’s about solidarity. It’s inspired me to start a new company with my sister, that I’m so excited for, she wants to start a ceramic company. One thing you have to do when you start a brand is tie it in with a message. The biggest message right now is Syria and refugees, they’re suffering, and the world doesn’t see it just yet. She’s starting “Bowls for Refugees” where every bowl she sells she feeds a person and we’re hoping to launch this Summer.
Time is money and money is time. I know I can’t do a 9 to 5 and I want to stay in the arts field. In life you’re never supposed to settle, just keep going. Whether it’s starting something new or moving on, it’s a privilege to have that. Like taking a simple concept into something amazing. With passion, anything is possible. Passion is everything to me, and no one understands that you have to find it. The problem is, I think people cannot find their passion because they either didn’t push themselves or no one pushed them or they didn’t go through a tragedy. Something turns you into something else. It’s because of routine. If you’re a creative person, you just try everything until you find it. That’s what I did, I tried lettering and it was so hard for me, but I love calligraphy. I love drawing and I was a painter for years where I would paint portraits of my family. I think it keeps you at your homeostasis.
Being content is a simple concept, but everyone feels like they need more. Nothing is wrong with wanting more, but you need to be satisfied. In your life, you’re supposed to constantly move and constantly learn. If you want to do something different, you have to just do it. The journey is everything. And when you think about it, what separates you from the richest man in the world? Absolutely nothing. He breathes and eats just like any other human, so there’s literally nothing stopping you. Use your brain, because it can either build you or destroy you, and that decision is the most crucial decision, especially when you’re young.
Everything I do is designed with a purpose. If you surround yourself with people who motivate and inspire you, you’ll rise to the top. It’s not even the idea of being at the top that makes me happy, it’s the journey of getting to the top. Throughout the journey, you make decisions and make mistakes, and we need to embrace the flaws and lessons we’ve been taught. Things in life don’t come easy and if you want it to be easy, you might as well just sit and do nothing.
Everything in life, you have to reflect. It changes you. I’m thankful for everything I’ve done. Nothing is stopping you. Being here is a gift, and we have to recognize everything is a gift. Being comfortable with someone is everything to me. I love to connect with people where I can be myself, because being myself is the best self.
Aminah Musa is the counterpart to Pali Roots, a brand started to reflect upon the Palestinian culture through inspired products to create community. Not only does she design and run this business alongside her brother, but she has an eye for photography and a heart for adventure. With Pali Roots, she incorporates her own core values with the brand to truly share what she is passionate about – including charity and giving back to Palestine, embracing optimism to create unity, and ultimately having fun! After claiming California as her second home, she travels often to Chicago and all over the country as well as abroad to shine her light and explore different hiking trails. She is relentless with her love for what she does and she has an infectious bright spirit!
After getting to chat with her, we learned about how her perspective changed just in the last year and how we should embrace this journey of ours to explore what our purpose is. Though she is young, she is extremely wise. She shared how bullying has impacted her life and how that struggle has ultimately helped shape her to the strong woman she is today. We admire her strength and tenacity for life and love, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to continue to follow her journey with Pali Roots, her photography, and beyond!