by David Mendez
Lenora and Adnen Marouani’s storefront makes no attempt to hide its progressive leanings.
The front window of The Souk, 1201 Manhattan Avenue, lays it out in black and white.
“I refuse to let a misogynistic, narcissistic, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, racist, racist, deceitful, reckless, egotistical, self-obsessed, inarticulate, insulting, unfit, bigoted megalomaniac represent my daughters,” the sign reads, accompanied by the hashtag #StandUp.
The Souk, Lenora notes, is focused on women’s empowerment, both at home and abroad. To that end, they’ve partnered with Aatik and Darzah, organizations that help build fair-trade commercial opportunities for women in Tunisia and the West Bank.
“The nature of the women there, they’re typically behind the scenes…I wanted to bring their passion here,” Lenora said. “I wanted to promote women, putting them on the pedestal…I feel if given equal opportunity, they could really blossom.”
The store, the couple’s second venture following successful wine shop, Barsha, is named for the open-air, artisan marketplaces found in North Africa and harkens back to Adnen’s Tunisian birthplace. Its shelves and racks include handmade clothing, pillows, rugs and furnishings.
“I remember the first time going to Tunisia, I was there for three months and just fell in love with it,” Lenora said. “The artisan processes are amazing — everything is handmade, hand-woven, hand-painted, with attention to detail and passion put into each product.”
But now Lenora, who took her two daughters to the Los Angeles Women’s March, feels that women’s rights are at risk under the presidency of Donald Trump.
“I feel like everything we’ve fought so hard for is now biting us back in the ass,” Lenora said. “We’re going to experience a me-first, a self-centered type of America that doesn’t have our best interests in mind.”
In less than two weeks, the Trump administration has made good on promises toward a more nationalistic foreign policy, with steps to limit migration and refugees from majority-Muslim countries. The administration has also rolled back funding for organizations providing women’s reproductive services outside the U.S.
The Souk seems to run directly counter to Trump’s philosophies, giving priority both to women and to cooperation between people of all faiths and ethnicities.
Lenora produced a pillow, made by Adnen’s mother, Zina.
“Every every color and pattern was a reflection of how she was feeling at the moment; it was her form of artistry and creativity,” Lenora said. “She’s inspiring, and the women there are truly inspiring…but they don’t have equal rights. It’ll get there. I have hope.”
The Souk is there to help provide that hope, offering resistance through empowerment.
“The only way to get through this is together, we can’t just be angry,” Lenora said. “We have to change that and shake that, and mold it into positive action.”