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Like most friends, Amirah Aulaqi and Mariana Aguilera have a lot in common.

They live in New York City and have a passion for fashion. Amirah runs her own formal-wear company, Amirah Couture. Mariana runs The Demureist, a fashion and lifestyle blog. They also practice Islam and have experienced microagressions and street harassment in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

"I started noticing people giving me these hateful stares all the time. On the street, on the train, everywhere," Mariana said in an interview with Vivala. "This hateful mentality has really impacted the Muslim community and it's really dangerous."


Mariana walks the streets of New York City. Image via Upworthy/YouTube.

It's true. The number of destructive, threatening, or violent incidents at U.S. mosques tripled from 2014 to 2015. And anti-Muslim rhetoric particularly from two of the leading Republican presidential candidates has only fanned the flames of intolerance.

But instead of letting fear and worry take hold, Amirah and Mariana decided to empower themselves and other Muslim women.

The duo developed self-defense classes for observant Muslim women, a particularly vulnerable group because their hijabs, or head scarves, often make them a target for harassment. With the help of Nicole Daniels, a trained martial arts instructor, Amirah and Mariana have hosted multiple self-defense workshops, attracting women not just from New York City, but Connecticut and New Jersey as well.

Participants cover the basics, including simple but effective strikes.

All GIFs by Upworthy/YouTube.

And using authoritative, commanding voices.


But the workshop also covers things like body language and maintaining a strong, confident presence in public.

A few simple changes can make all the difference. "[It] changes you from looking like a victim to looking like somebody who's empowered and not going to be messed with," Mariana told Upworthy.

Participants work with Nicole Daniels, an accomplished athlete and instructor. Image via Upworthy/YouTube.

The women who enroll don't take classes because they're victims. In fact, it's just the opposite.

The class offers an opportunity for women to come together and feel supported at a time when the mere idea of existing in your space is seen as a political act. Battling vitriol in the media and hatred or fear on the street is exhausting and can make anyone feel less-than or unworthy of kindness.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered at Columbus Circle in New York City to denounce the politics of Donald Trump and the treatment of Muslim refugees in America and Europe. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Amirah and Mariana hope these classes will empower Muslim women to stand up for themselves, not just in the case of physical attacks, but in everyday exchanges.

"We want you to go out and say, 'I'm a Muslim woman and nobody has the right to take my dignity or freedom within this country,'" Amirah told NPR.


Amirah shares her story. Image via Upworthy/YouTube.

Mariana and Amirah don't just have a lot in common with each other, they have a lot in common with all of us.

No matter our religion or background, we're all looking to carve out a space where we feel safe, welcome, and supported. It may be a self-defense class. It may be a gender-neutral bathroom. It may be a store that abandoned plus-size labels.

Whatever and wherever it is, we can do so much for one another by building, creating, and supporting places and resources that allow everyone to feel their best.

Hear Mariana and Amirah's story and see the class in action in this inspiring Upworthy original video.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

John Cena sets new world record with 650 wishes granted with the Make-A-Wish Foundation

He’s become the foundation’s most requested celebrity—and he never turns anyone down.

"I'll drop everything."

The multitalented, mega famous John Cena might hold many titles, but this might be the coolest one yet—and it has nothing to do with wrestling.

The actor and WWE performer just broke the Guinness World Records for most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As of July 19, Guinness World Records reports, Cena has granted a whopping 650 wishes. The highest amount any other celebrity granted was 200.

The 16-time world champion first became a wish-granter back in 2002. Since then, he’s become the foundation’s most requested celebrity—and he never turns anyone down.

"I just drop everything. I don't care what I'm doing," he said in a WWE produced video after granting his 500th wish. “I can't say enough how cool it is to see the kids so happy, and their families so happy, I truly want to show them that it's their day.”
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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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