Wednesday, November 30, 2005

the life and legacy and malcolm x

By Any Means Necessary: The Life and Legacy of Malcolm X is a brief talk given by Manning Marable at Metro State College, Denver, Colorado, February 21, 1992.

white mexican racism rears its ugly head

From The Black Commentator: White Mexican Racism Rears its Ugly Head Again by Abdul Karim Bangura is a brief but fresh and up-to-date article which discussing the African (Afrikan) presence in Mexican culture and society. It also includes a number of good links to materials (many of which have appeared on Planet Grenada before).


From The Black Commentator: In Peru, Afro-Descendants Fight Ingrained Racism, Invisibility by Angel Paez

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

harry potter and the scorpion sister

I just felt I should give a heads-up to Sister Scorpion's two recent Harry Potter entries:

First there is Harry Potter which gives Yassir and I a shout-out and also includes a link to the Hogwarts MSA (Muslim Students Association).

And then there is You know I had to go there... which includes a number of links with more commentary about Harry Potter and various cultural/political/racial issues. Some are "new", and some have already been included in the recent Grenada entries on implications of Harry Potter, namely:
harry potter and the last review
bell hooks v. harry potter
harry potter and the magic of whiteness

living islam out loud


The book Living Islam Out Loud is a refreshing collection by 16 American Muslim women who are contributing to public life in extraordinary ways and willing to share honestly about the experiences that have shaped their lives.

A number of them like Suheir Hammad and Mohja Khaf have previously been mentioned at Planet Grenada. [1] [2] [3] [4]

I'm also going to take this opportunity to draw attention to Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer another black latina Muslim poet, who is currently a graduate student at Princeton and is also featured in the book. (This is also a chance to check if she is reading my

And finally, a review from Alt.Muslim: The Diverse Feminism of "Living Islam Out Loud"

the willie lynch letter

For many years now, I've seen the Willie Lynch speech/letter circulated in different Black publications. It alleges to be the text of a speech given in 1712 by Willie Lynch to his fellow slave-holders on how to use divide-and-conquer tactics to control Black slaves. I've actually suspected this for a while, but in the Death of the Willie Lynch Speech Prof. Manu Ampim gives a detailed and logical argument for why the speech is probably not authentic.

From the point of view of historical accuracy I think it is certainly important to "debunk" the letter. But I would also say that, even if it is not "authentic" the letter is nevertheless "true" (i.e. one of the biggest obstacles to political/economic progress is a lack of unity and we won't get very far if we keep getting caught up in petty squables over stupid s---)

The full text of the Willie Lynch letter is included in Ampim's article.

Monday, November 28, 2005

public enemy no. 43,527

From Slate: Public Enemy No. 43,527 takes an insightful Big Picture view on the Jose Padilla situation. And Umar Lee makes similar comments in his own blog entry: Padilla Indictment a Complete Joke; Media Duped Again

the french muslim rebellion

Also from La Voz de Aztlan: The French Muslim Rebellion of 2005

strange rumblings at the center of our galaxy

Strange Rumblings at the Center of our Galaxy is an interesting speculation from La Voz de Aztlan about how modern astronomical observations may match up with Mayan cosmology. I would tend to take such speculation with a healthy amount of salt, but the piece is interesting nevertheless.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

interview with willie perdomo

An interview with Willie Perdomo, Black Nuyorican poet, and author of the anthology Where a Nickel costs a Dime. His most well-known poem is a piece called Nigger-reecan blues.

the mahdi

Ever since joining the Su-Shi Webring I've felt like I should do more to try to consciously promote the goals of the group. Here's my contribution for November...

Recently Svend White at Akram's Razor wrote an entry: Rejecting a "Mahdi" vs. rejecting the idea of the Mahdi which discusses how some people claiming that Harun Yahya may be the Mahdi, but that we should be careful to distinguish between questioning the validity of any individual who might claim to be the mahdi, and questioning the concept of mahdi overall.

harry potter and the last review

So some other bloggers have also touched on Harry Potter from a Muslim perspective:

Firstly, there is Arafat at Anthology (who has been on my blogroll for a good long while now... *cough*... hint, hint... *cough*) with two entries:
Orientalism: Alive and Kicking, Harry Potter Style
and Harry Potter's Bangladeshi Date

And then there is Reformist Muslim with Muslims At Hogwarts???

And finally, if you are still intrigued by this whole idea of watching movies for their political content and not just for their visceral entertainment value, I also found reviews for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the Maoist Internationalist Movement's Movie Review Page.

Friday, November 25, 2005

bell hooks v. harry potter

From The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks:

While feminism may ignore boys and young males, capitalist patriarchal men do not. It was adult, white, wealthy males in this country who first read and fell in love with the Harry Potter books. Though written by a British female, initially described by the rich white American men who "discovered" her as a working class single mom, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are clever modern reworkings of the English schoolboy novel. Harry as our modern-day hero is the supersmart, gifted, blessed, white boy genius (a mini patriarch) who "rules" over the equally smart kids, including an occasional girl and an occasional male of color. But these books also glorify war, depicted as killing on behalf of the "good".

The Harry Potter movies glorify the use of violence to maintain control over others. In Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets violence when used by the acceptable groups is deemed positive. Sexism and racist thinking in the Harry Potter books are rarely critiqued. Had the author been a ruling-class white male, feminist thinkers might have been more active in challenging the imperialism, racism and sexism of Rowling's books.

Again and again I hear parents, particularly antipatriarchal parents, express concern about the contents of these books while praising them for drawing more boys to reading. Of course American children were bombarded with an advertising blitz telling them that they should read these books. Harry Potter began as national news sanctioned by mass media. Books that do not reinscribe patriarchal masculinity do not get the approval the Harry Potter books have received. And children rarely have an opportunity to know that any books exist which offer an alternative to patriarchal masculinist visions. The phenomenal financial success of Harry Potter means that boys will henceforth have an array of literary clones to choose from.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

harry potter and the magic of whiteness

I've already added a couple of "Thanksgiving" entries so I don't feel like I need to say anymore about the subject. But I also saw the new Harry Potter movie recently and had some Grenada-esque comments about the series.

I don't know if it has been written yet, but there is enough rich material in the Harry Potter books/movies for someone to write a serious work on the ways in which race and ethnicity (especially in the form of Orientalism) are represented in the Harry Potter series. From the alchemical references and turban-wearing villan of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to the multiple (superficial? objectifying?) inter-racial romantic pairings in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, identity politics abound.

The two main points one could cover are firstly the way the "Orient" is exoticized and objectified, and secondly the way that White European experience is central and made the norm. We can, and should describe the situation with more detail, complexity, subtlety and nuance. But the above gives the outline. And some of that detail is fleshed out over several articles and blog posts.

Arabworld Books: The Eastern Influence in Harry Potter
Hyphen: Harry Potter's Girlfriend
The Age: Potter Spell Broken
Model Minority: Harry Potter and the Asian American Image in Media
Sepia Mutiny: Hari Puttar - Attack of the Clones Southasian flavor in Harry Potter film
Poynter Online: Harry Potter and the Imbalance of Race
Asia Times: Harry Potter and the Decline of the West
Washington Times: Harry Potter and the Guantanamo Detainees
Ed Strong: Harry Potter - Whitewashing Western Imperialism and Capitalism

Previous Planet Potter posts:
harry potter and the book-burning benedict
the magic of not reading

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

american muslim heritage day

From Alt.Muslim: Thanksgiving: American Muslim Heritage Day?

we didn't land on plymouth rock

One of the reasons that it is bad for us to continue to just refer to ourselves as the so-called Negro, that's negative. When we say so-called Negro that's pointing out what we aren't, but it isn't telling us what we are. We are Africans, and we happen to be in America. We are not Americans. We are a people who formerly were Africans who were kidnapped and brought to America. Our forefathers weren't the Pilgrims. We didn't land on Plymouth Rock; the rock was landed on us. -Malcolm X (full speech)

For me personally, it was important to go through a stage of not feeling very American. And if an individual feels so alienated from this society that they need to go somewhere else (Ethiopia, Cuba, Arabia, Israel, Liberia, France, Canada etc.) to feel more at home or feel free, then more power to them. I have alot of respect for people who are willing to make that move based on their convictions.

But for most of us, truthfully speaking, I would say we just need to find ways to identify as American without identifying with a long history of racism and oppression and while remaining critical of anti-human foreign and domestic government policies. Those things are not a part of what it means to be American. American culture is more than just a narrow medley of European culture with non-Western accents. And patriotism is not an uncritical acceptance of government policy, but rather it means having enough love for this country to fix what is broken.

a time to build an alternative

Thanksgiving: Time to Build an alternative to Modernity and Fundamentalism by Michael Lerner

national day of mourning

The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) plan on commemorating tomorrow as a National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, MA.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

thanksgiving: a native american view

From Alternet: Thanksgiving: A Native American View by Jacqueline Keeler gives a balanced perspective on the approaching holiday.

the truth about thanksgiving

The Final Call: The Truth about Thanksgiving by Yo'Nas Da Lonewolf-McCall Muhammad

coming together

I feel like for the past week especially, my entries have been really ecclectic. But now I have an urge to synthesize a whole range of ideas, to come down from the mountaintop and explain how everything fits. I want to show how to connect the dots. Reveal the connections. Make regions and categories blend and melt into one another. Blur the boundaries. The trouble is, it is sometimes hard to articulate how things should come together.

Islam is at the heart of an emerging global anti-hegemonic culture, which post-colonial critic Robert Young would say incarnates a "tricontinental counter-modernity" that combines diasporic and local cultural elements, and blends Arab, Islamic, black and Hispanic factors to generate "a revolutionary black, Asian and Hispanic globalization, with its own dynamic counter-modernity...constructed in order to fight global imperialism. *

Ok, but what's the next step? If Asians are fighting against Blacks, and Blacks are fighting against Latinos, and Latinos are fighting against Arabs how are the different elements going to combine?

buy nothing day

Adbusters is promoting the Friday after Thanksgiving as Buy Nothing Day.
For 24 hours, millions of people around the world do not participate -- in the doomsday economy, the marketing mind-games, and the frantic consumer-binge that's become our culture. We pause. We make a small choice not to shop. We shrink our footprint and gain some calm. Together we say: enough is enough. And we help build this movement to rethink our unsustainable course.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I think it is kind of deep how even secularists are still feeling a basic urge to reject materialism and perhaps implicitly affirm some kind of spirituality. At the very least, alot of folks are clearly recognizing that being greedy for the dunya isn't enough. We need to live a different kind of life.

Wikipedia on Buy Nothing Day

the new color of british racism

The Guardian: The new colour of British racism is on the recent conflicts between the Afro-Caribbean and Asian (Pakistani) communities in England, especially Birmingham.

For more pieces on Afro-Asian relations in different contexts, see also:
racial tension in birmingham turns deadly
racial jujitsu or the more things change...
afro-asian crosscurrents in contemporary hip-hop
two pieces on islam and american culture

and finally, a paper on some of the racial/religious issues raised by the music scene in England: ISLAMIC HIP-HOP vs. ISLAMOPHOBIA: AKI NAWAZ, NATACHA ATLAS, AKHENATON

we are leading the pack

From The Voice: African-Caribbeans in the UK are moving up the social and economic ladder faster than white people says new survey. Read article.

jose padilla indicted

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held by the Bush administration for three years without charges as an enemy combatant plotting a "dirty bomb" attack in the United States, has been indicted on charges unrelated to any potential terrorist attack in this country.
Washington Post
BBC News

french african-americans?

Aired November 6, 2005 on CNN regarding the riots in France:

CHRIS BURNS: But even after what Chirac said, we're seeing more violence. What you could point out, though, is that there - at this point, about half as many vehicles torched as the night before. So you might call that progress, Carol.

CAROL LIN: Hard to say because it's been 11 days since two African-American teenagers were killed, electrocuted during a police chase, which prompted all of this.

CNN Transcripts

I've always thought that 'African-American' seemed like a silly euphamism. There was nothing really wrong with 'Black'. And my inner Garveyite finds the term more than a bit divisive and counter-productive. Plus, it encourages ignorant statements like the above. Two youths were French citizens of Tunisian descent. Nothing American about them.

were my african-american ancestors muslims?

Were My African-American Ancestors Muslims?: Some very brief comments from the Genealogy Today website. The site also has resources which might help you research your own family tree.

african muslims in spain

African Muslims in Spain by Steven Malik Shelton is just a VERY brief account of the beginnings of Muslim rule in Spain. But it is part of the Afromerica webpage which you might want to browse through.

new york cubans


The New York Cubans was one of the many teams which were a part of the Negro Leagues way back in the day. It is interesting to think about how such a name fits into the whole discussion about Indian mascots and sports teams.

Negro League Baseball (Wikipedia)

islam in latin america and latino muslims

Islam in Latin America and Latino Muslims is a collection of English-language pages on the named topic. Some content has appeared on Grenada before but some is also new.

la diaspora del medio oriente

La Diáspora del Medio Oriente is a rich collection of links to Spanish pages on Middle Eastern people in Latin America.

Monday, November 21, 2005

the afrolatino connection

From Black Enterprise: The Afro-Latino connection: can this group be the bridge to a broadbased black-Hispanic alliance?

CID WILSON HAD HIS FIRST UGLY RUN-IN WITH RACISM AS A TEENAGER ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON. "One kid threw something at another kid," Wilson recalls. "The kid actually thought it was me." One of only 11 minorities in a senior student body of 300, Wilson recalls being called the "n-word" by the white teen.

"I was so infuriated with him," says the New York native. "The following Monday--its something I'm not proud of--I looked for him and got into an actual physical altercation. That whole weekend, it was just building up inside, how angry I was."

Justifiably angry, Wilson's father was the voice of reason. James A. Wilson, a medical doctor, counseled his young son to handle racism in a more constructive way in the future: demand more of yourself and work twice as hard as your white counterparts.

Now a 33-year-old Paramus, New Jersey, resident, Wilson took his father's words to heart and worked hard to excel. A former market analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, he is now a senior analyst at Whitaker Securities, a boutique investment bank, where he tracks past performance and future prospects of publicly traded stocks. Politically active, the NAACP member hopes to run for office someday. But the sting of that racial slur remains to this day.

Wilson's tale seems a familiar one to African Americans, except he's not African American. He's un puro (pure) Latino, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominicans Republic. Wilson, president of the Dominican American National Roundtable, is one of millions of America's Afro-Latinos who belong to both of the United States' largest minority groups. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1.7 million of the 38.8 million Hispanics identified themselves as both Hispanic and of African descent, yet many believe this number to be much higher--closer to 3.9 million. (More than 42% of all Latino respondents marked a box labeled "some other race" on the Census form.) Among the more famous Afro-Latinos: Dominican baseball superstar Sammy Sosa, retired Puerto Rican boxing champ Felix Trinidad, and the recently deceased Cuban salsa icon Celia Cruz.

And while historically attempts by Latinos and African Americans to forge economic, political, and social alliances have yielded lackluster results, it can be argued that this group--many of whom feel comfortable in both the black and Latino communities--could be the key to a much-needed business and political link between America's largest minority groups.

It's estimated that between 10% and 80% of Latinos who hail from countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Belize, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have African ancestry. As the slave trade proliferated in the Americas from the 1500s through the 1800s, Europeans used Caribbean ports as a hub to transfer African slaves throughout North, Central, and South America, as part of the African Diaspora.

And some say Afro-Latinos have as much or more in common with African Americans as their lighter-skinned countrymen. Many regularly face discrimination and battle racism, both in the United States and in their native countries. Such disparaging terms as negrito (little black one), pelo malo (bad hair), or worse are commonplace for this group that often wields little political and economic power in their homelands. Poverty as well as poor educational and employment opportunities are high on the list of concerns to both African Americans and Afro-Latinos. However, the beginnings of a civil rights movement for blacks throughout Central and South America has come about fairly recently and Afro-Latinos are beginning to make some progress.

"In essence, white Latinos discriminate against black Latinos just like [white Americans] may do here," says Harry C. Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. In order to effect change, Alford believes, "The 40 million blacks in this country need to start communicating better with the 135 million blacks in the Caribbean and South America."

The good news is, this group is beginning to come together to build a sense of pride in their African heritage by forming organizations and teaching others that Latinos crone in all shades. "Blacks have already walked twice the miles we have walked," says Grace Williams, an Afro-Latino who is president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA). "We're starting to walk right now."

Interestingly, efforts to increase awareness regarding Afro-Latino culture and plight can be found on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). At Howard University, Nadine Bascombe heads Cimarrones, a 50-member black student union of Caribbean, Central, and South Americans that recently expanded to include a chapter at Benedict College in South Carolina. Before Afro-Latinos can even begin to link the black-Hispanic communities, more Afro-Latinos must embrace their African heritage. "Within the population of what are considered Afro-Latinos, not all people identify with being black, so they'll join the Latino organizations because it's more of an assimilation of being white," says Bascombe, a junior. "It seems that if you relate yourself to being black it's something negative, so with that problem existing within the Afro-Latino population, not too many people run towards having an organization with that name."

Another HBCU, Spelman College, recently hosted a series of lectures, performances, and a conference looking at the African Diaspora and its impact on the Americas. A visiting group of Afro-Latinos from the Spanish-speaking nations of South America discussed their similarities based on common African heritages. "It seems [to be] apparent that Afro-Latins of various sorts see [African Americans] as role models with respect to political participation and economic success," says Sheila S. Walker, a professor of anthropology, who organized the event. "Their consciousness raising and civil rights movements were inspired by their knowledge of ours."

There's no denying the merits of bringing these groups together from a business standpoint. "If we were to combine the African American and Hispanic community, it means a purchasing power block of $1 trillion dollars," says George Herrera, former president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "That kind of purchasing power and that kind of strength can basically make industry come to a standstill ... power within our communities lays in our discretionary purchasing with corporate America, to be able to change the corporate landscape and change the dialogue of how corporate America deals with our communities." Herrera says this power can be used to affect corporate governance, procurement, and employment opportunities.

Currently, the state of black Hispanic relations in the United States is a mixed picture. Surely the media frenzy surrounding the emergence of the Latino population as the largest minority group has lent itself to a contest like atmosphere between the racial groups. There's also no denying that old prejudices and rivalries remain on both sides--bringing numerous challenges to overcome before any alliance can be formed.

In order for an alliance to succeed, a national agenda would have to be created that includes such issues as diversity, inclusion, and access to economic, political, and educational resources, according to Nicolas C. Vaca, a Harvard Law School graduate and author of The Presumed Alliance: The Unspoken Conflict Between Latinos and Blacks and What it Means for America (Rayo; $24.95). "Let's figure out exactly what each party needs and wants, what is important for each group, and then work out a plan for achieving it without the rose colored glasses," he recommends.

Efforts for alliances are being made on the political front. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosted members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in a small beach resort in Puerto Rico in October 2003. Politicians were invited for a weekend of social activities as well as political dialogue designed to foster cross-cultural understanding and facilitate the forging of common political agendas. This was the second gathering: the group met for the first time in 2002 at a New Orleans retreat.

"In order for us to work together and dialogue, we have to be able to interact, to get to know each other," says Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (D-TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Rodriguez adds that the caucuses have worked to jointly draft a minority legislative health initiative that will be presented to Sens. Daschle and Kennedy.

In the meantime hopefully, Afro-Latinos will continue on the path to becoming an economic and political force, and by doing so, bring the Hispanic and black communities together. This is something Cid Wilson hopes to see. "We can honestly say we know what it's like to feel racism and discrimination--on the Latino and the African American sides," he says. "The way to build bridges is to get involved in both communities."

Whether these bridges are eventually built remains to be seen. Hailing from different countries with different cultures, the movement toward a stronger sense of Afro-Latino unity and identity must pick up speed. There is no doubt that challenges will abound, but the potential rewards are too promising to dismiss.

BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with several prominent Afro-Latinos to better understand the issues they face daily. Here's what they had to say:


Cuban-American actress Gina Torres' television credits include recurring roles on the FOX drama 24 and ABC's Alias, as well as appearances on Law & Order, The Agency, and Angel. In nearly all her roles, however, she plays an African American. She hopes to take on more Latina roles in the future.

"I've gone out for several [Latina] roles," says Torres, who recently had cameo appearances in the highly success fill Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions films. "It has not been my experience thus far that the people that have the power to make those [casting] decisions are ready to embrace a Latina who is dark. They like to keep it simple. You don't want complicated when you're trying to sell gum. You want to say 'that is a black person, that is a Latin person, that is a white person. Everybody looks like they came from where they're supposed to come from. Let's not complicate that.'"

The Bronx-raised Torres admits that she gets annoyed when people assume she's not a real Latino. "That it's so out of the realm of possibility that somebody like me can be all Latina. Both my parents were horn in Cuba; they came over in the mid-50s before the revolution."

Torres, who married Laurence Fishburne in 2002 after meeting on the set of Matrix Reloaded, views her work as contributing to the struggle and making a difference. "I often say I didn't become black until I became a professional actress. It's when I realized I wasn't the Latina that America was comfortable with. I'm still not. Inside of the industry, it's changing slowly," she says. "The darkest Latina that first had name recognition was Rosie Perez, but because she sounded familiar no one made a big deal out of it. But the image the business perpetuates and is still most comfortable with is Jennifer Lopez, as was Rita Moreno in her day."

Torres says that she is comfortable with serving as a bridge between the black and Latino cultures. "As a people, we are both certainly much stronger if we align ... we all want our children to grow up in a better place and to have better opportunities than we did." she says. "We all want the same things, we all hit a similar wall in terms of being viewed [against] standards that were set up so long ago, that we continue to bust out of and redefine. I am proof that it works."

At an early age, Maria Perez-Brown learned to live in two worlds. Born in Puerto Rico and moving to Brooklyn at the age of 6, she lived in what she describes as a segregated neighborhood. "One block was all Puerto Rican and the other block was all black," she recalls. "I felt early on that my identifying quality was not only that I was Latina, but that I was a black Latina flora an urban experience, with much more in common with my black friends from my neighborhood than with my Puerto Rican cousins from Puerto Rico."

In the early 1990s, Perez-Brown left the corporate world for the world of television. Now, Perez-Brown is a successful television producer. Among her credits is creating and producing Gullah Gullah Island, which ran for six years and was named one of the Top 10 television shows for children by TV Guide in 1996. Sire was also the creator and executive producer of Taina, a comedy series that aired from 2001 to 2002 on Nickelodeon about a 15-year-old Latina caught between two cultures: that of her traditional Latino family and the modern world of her school and friends. Perez-Brown uses her insight into both cultures to breathe life into characters that are believable and real.

"Sometimes you look at I all no shows and Latino characters in American television and you have a Jewish writer from the Upper East Side or from Los Angeles purporting to write what he thinks is a character that's Latino," she says. "What results many times is an insulting and very offensive stereotype of a character. At no point did they think it was important to find an authentic voice to write that character, or to integrate their writers, which is a pet peeve in my industry."

If African Americans and Latinos were to form lasting alliances via the Afro-Latino connection. Perez-Brown believes perception is the first thing that needs to be addressed. "The moment you start creating an image that these two groups are separate and have separate interests, you start creating a rift that allows people to divide and conquer," she says. "We can have, wield, 25% of the population--that is huge political power. That is a huge economic force that could make a much bigger difference than we could separately."


Though he's a BE 100s executive, Frank Mercado-Valdes remains rooted in the Latino community. The CEO of The Heritage Networks (No. 61 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $61,5 million in revenue) often laments the fact that with the except inn hi" baseball programming, Afro-Latinos are nearly non-existent on television--even on Latino programs.

"In Latino broadcasting we're invisible because Latino broadcasting is Mexican-centric and Mexicans really don't have many blacks--they have certain pockets of Mexico where there are black populations who have been there a long time," he says. "But for the most part, you won't see black people in anything Mexican."

The son of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents says blacks in Latin America have an even lower standing socially than African Americans did prior to the Civil Rights Movement. "There never was a Dr. King, a Malcolm X, or a Stokely Carmichael," says the Bronx native. "So some of them come here and shed their identity and what happens is they merge with the greater white Latino community rather than with the black community."

His Latino heritage has influenced his business decisions. "My business niche was the African American community at first," he recalls. "I've changed the name of my company from The African Heritage Network to The Heritage Networks because I wanted to get into the perpetuation of English-language Latino programming." The syndicated network includes original properties such as Showtime at the Apollo, Livin" Large, and Weekend VIBE, as well as Resurrection Boulevard, a drama set in Los Angeles with a Latino cast.

And though he has seen prejudices firsthand in his industry, he still gets upset when he experiences it from the African American community. "I think the most frustrating thing comes from the black side of the equation--not the white. I've never had white people say 'you're not really black, are you?'" he says, "I'm always thinking 'when did I stop being black because my last name is Mercado or Valdes?'"

Mercado-Valdes says that the Afro-Latino community could be a powerful ally to both the African American and Latino communities once more civic, business, and political leaders emerge. "It's one of the things that I feel I should have been more active in that I libel like I haven't been," he confesses. "I spent so much time being black I forgot I was Latino."

somos primos: black latino connection

Somos Primos is a website dedicated to Hispanic heritage and diversity issues (with a really strong emphasis on history). One area of the site is the Black Latino Connection which deals with the role of people of African descent in Hispanic American history. A distinctive feature of the Black Latino Connection is that instead of emphasizing Caribbean, most of the information has to do with people of African descent in Mexico, Florida and Argentina.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

gender jihad

Earlier I had a blog entry about the international congress on islamic feminism. A few weeks ago, BBC News followed up on the congress with a story: Islam feminists urge gender jihad

zaid shakir on rosa parks

Now that I have a new source to plunder content from... lol... here is: Zaid Shakir commenting On the Passing of Rosa Parks The article invites a comparison between the Black Civil Rights movement and Muslim efforts for greater acceptance and tolernace in the current political climate. And of course, the obvious question is: Will we stand or will we sit?

new islamic directions

I've frequently included links related to Imam Zaid Shakir here at Planet Grenada. For example:
martin and malcolm
civic involvement and islam
approaching ramadan
not just in february
we are all collateral damage
islam, prophet muhammad and blackness

But now there is also a website called New Islamic Directions which is "dedicated to disseminating the work of Imam Zaid Shakir through print and audio formats". Check it out.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


by suheir hammad ([1] , [2] , [3])

don't wanna be your exotic
some delicate fragile colorful bird
imprisoned caged
in a land foreign to the stretch of her wings
don't wanna be your exotic
women everywhere are just like me
some taller darker nicer than me
but like me but just the same
women everywhere carry my nose on their faces
my name on their spirits
don't wanna
don't seduce yourself with
my otherness my hair
wasn't put on top of my head to entice
you into some mysterious black voodoo
the beat of my lashes against each other
ain't some dark desert beat
it's just a blink
get over it
don't wanna be your exotic
your lovin of my beauty ain't more than
funky fornication plain pink perversion
in fact nasty necrophilia
cause my beauty is dead to you
I am dead to you
not your
harem girl geisha doll banana picker
pom pom girl pum pum shorts coffee maker
town whore belly dancer private dancer
la malinche venus hottentot laundry girl
your immaculate vessel emasculating princess
don't wanna be
your erotic
not your exotic

what kind of food am i?

I'm not sure what this means about me... but in case you were wondering, this is the result I got... It is sort of an odd concept, thinking of people as things to be consumed. The idea reminds me of a Suheir Hammad poem. Also, the movie Soylent Green

You Are Japanese Food

Strange yet delicious.
Contrary to popular belief, you're not always eaten raw.

islam and the blackamerican: finally reading it

Yesterday, I finally started reading Prof. Sherman (Abdul-Hakim) Jackson's book Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection. In the section I've read so far, Jackson deals with the question of why African-Americans (or Blackamericans) seem to have such a strong affinity to Islam and why Blackamericans form the largest part of the American Muslim community.

One might be tempted to suggest (and I actually have in some early Grenada entries like it's a black thing? and my name is kunta) that that there is a general affinity between "Blackness" and "Islam" but Jackson questions whether it is even possible to meaningfully speak in such abstract and universal terms.

In South Africa, for example, the Muslim community is represented mostly by people of Asian descent and Islam hasn't really made significant inroads in the Black population. And this situation wasn't helped by the fact that the Muslim community was incredibly late in terms of getting involved in the struggle against apartheid.

While in Latin America (where Catholicism was prevalent), it was easier for people of African descent to resist white supremacy through following African-based syncretic religions (rather than Islam).

What Jackson argues is that there is a specific body of ideas and themes he calls "Black Religion" which arose in the United States and exists somewhat autonomously from any particular religious community.

Black Religion has no theology and no orthodoxy; it has no institutionalized ecclesiastical order and no public or private liturgy. It has no foundation documents or scriptures, like the Baghavad Ghita or the Bible, and no founding figures, like Buddha or Zoroaster. The God of Black Religion is neither specifically Jesus, Yaweh, nor Allah but an abstract category into which any and all of these can be fit, the “God of our weary years,” the “God of our silent tears.” In a real sense, Black Religion might be profitably thought of as the ‘deism’ or ‘natural religion’ of Blackamericans, a spontaneous folk orientation at once grounded in the belief in a supernatural power outside of human history yet uniquely focused on that power’s manifesting itself in the form of interventions into the crucible of American race relations.

But Black Religion isn't just a catch-all for all the religions of Blackamerica, only those with a certain "political" outlook:
[At] bottom, Black Religion remains, in its abiding commitment to protest, resistance, and liberation, ultimately more committed to a refusal to be the object of another’s will than it is to a positive affirmation of any particular philosophy of life. Subversion, resistance, protest, opposition: These are all key to the constitution of Black Religion.

Jackson argues that historically in the United States, Black Religion had been "married" to the Black Church but that the nature of that relationship changed and a "divorce" occured (this is reminiscent to some things we've mentioned before in no place for me and pimpin' ain't easy) If we want to extend the metaphor further, we might even say that for a long time now, Black Religion has been "seeing other people" which might help to explain Blackamerican willingness to explore certain non-mainstream spiritual paths (Islam, Nation of Gods and Earths, Hebrew Israelites, Rastafarianism, Ma'at, Santeria, African Traditional Religion, etc.)

In the early part of the 20th century, Black Religion was strongly associated with proto-Islamic movements like the Nation of Islam and Moorish Science. This affinity continued even after Warithdeen Muhammad took over the Nation of Islam (after the death of his father, Elijah Muhammad) and brought them into the Sunni fold. Now there is an interesting and complex relationship now between orthodox Islam of Blackamericans and Black Religion (which I'm assuming the book will discuss further.)

(to be continued...)

More on the book:
review of islam and the blackamerican
Islam And The Blackamerican: The Third Resurrection
black orientalism
an extensive excerpt from the book

More on Jackson's other work:
islam, past, present, and future: summary
more on sherman jackson
might as well make it sherman jackson day

Thursday, November 17, 2005

good questions, better answers

Recently, in an op-ed piece for the LA Times, Dennis Prager put forth a series of questions to the world's 1.3 billion Muslims which probably express many of the nagging suspicions (or blatant accusations) many Westerners have towards Islam.

1. Why are you so quiet (about terrorism)?
2. Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?
3. Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?
4. Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?
5. Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

Both Umar Lee (in Muslim Answers to the Questions of Dennis Prager) and former Bahai, Juan Cole (in Muslims and the 5 Questions) soundly address these suspicions on their respective blogs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

los cabildos

Los Cabildos is a rich portal for articles and other information of interest to Afrolatinos.


I recently found the Saxakali People of Color Portal which has some excellent links to information involving multicultural and political topics. In particular, they have a section on Caribbean Studies with many good articles which fit in well with Planet Grenada.

oro negro

Oro Negro is a site I recently found with some overall information on Afro-Chilean people.

next french revolution

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Next French revolution: a less colorblind society

go back to mexico?

This is a very interesting piece from called The Black Man's White Man Fantasies by David Ikard. For me it is a reminder of how some Blacks in the United States are what I would call Afro-Gringos, people who are Black, but still very much Anglo and willing to use what little power they have (through U.S. citizenship, facility with English, knowledge of the "system" etc.) against non-Anglos. It also discusses a certain insanity behind the ways we participate in the oppression of ourselves, and people who should be our allies. Here is an excerpt:

The truth of the matter is that most Black men, whether they will admit it or not, have a love/hate relationship with White men. They covet the ways that White men are able to use their social and economic power to control minorities and women, even as they vehemently repudiate the ways that that power is being used to dominate and control them. It is this phenomenon of complicity in oppression that Audre Lorde had in mind when she noted that the "master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." The point that I am trying to make is simply this: In order to have a serious impact on the dismantling of racial inequities in the twenty-first century, Black men must own up to the ways that they participate in the maintenance of the White male status quo. I am not talking about the "treat-your-woman-as-a-Black-queen-and-take-care-of-your-children" kind of transformation. I am talking about a serious overhaul of the ways that we think about manhood.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

roger bonair-agard

A poem by Roger Bonair-Agard (I imagine it was dedicated to Martin Espada, at least in part, because of this poem, previously mentioned on Grenada). At the very least, one poem reminds me of the other.

part 2 / electric boogaloo / song for Trent Lott (again) who said “…I want the president to look across the country and find the best man, woman or minority that he can find, …a strict constructionist -- yes, a conservative… I suspect there are a lot of really good, qualified women and minorities and men in America that could step up to this job.” / a sermon and some prayers

(for Amiri Baraka and Martin Espada)

this is the hardest poem
to write
I’d believed we’d agreed
on at least one thing
the fundamental human-ness
of us all

even your beloved Strom
(see my first song for you)
entertaining his black daughter’s
twice annual visits
(for checks for college and her silence)
I imagine
at this (less foot-in-the-mouth
than deep-seated hate)

through bus boycotts and Martin’s sermon
on the mount
through apartheid’s fall
and the revelations of Sally Hemmings
through Muhammed Ali and Clarence
and Malcolm and Condoleeza
three-fifths is still enough
math for you to divide
man from minority

from Mississippi King Cotton’s bleeding
fingers to Harriet
even after Thurgood and Rosa
your rhetoric still
a white supremacist Nazi salute
to a nation that will excuse you

while it condemns Angela
and Amiri and Mumia and Assata
you pulpit for man or minority
a strict constructionist (spell revisionist)
to people the people’s highest court

so dig it

On this Halloween
may the spirits of 2 million
drowned-at-sea Africans
drag you to their graves
demanding a meeting

May the souls of men
- men I say – railroaded North
by Harriet pick the scabs
of their foot-blisters
over the soup
during your evening meal

May Nat Turner show up
naked and grinning
and covered in the blood
of plantation owners
in your daughter’s room

May you hallucinate
Martin’s little black children
and little white / little black
children and little white / little
black children and little white
children till all your grandkids
turn brown

May every black maid
you’ve ever coveted
show up nine months pregnant
in labor and deliver on the steps
of the capitol babies all of whom
have your eyes

This is the hardest poem
I never thought I’d have to prove
human again
though I’ve come to expect
to prove worthy
to prove non-threatening
to prove intelligent
to prove not hip-hop
to prove I won’t rob you
to prove English speaking
to prove innocent after being assumed guilty
but never human Trent
never human

What do you expect to prove
when you awake on mornings
how do you a Christian man (you say)
expect the spirits the saints
Jesus any just God
to let you get away
with all those bodies
all those hanging bodies
all those burnt bodies
all those scarred bodies
all those bottom of the Tallahachee bodies
and Amadou’s body
and Biko’s body
and my grandfather’s body
and Fred Hampton’s body
and Fred Hampton, Jr.’s body
and Jimi and Emmett and Medgar
and the invisible man who stole
Susan Smith’s kids
and all those boys shot dead in East New York
and Little Rock and Watts
and everywhere people know
the meaning of colonialism
and pre-emptive war
and first-strike option

how do you expect to get away
from your conscience
from all them black babies
born of all them colored people
all them orphaned Iraqi babies
all them orphaned AIDS babies
and children of disappeared Latin American
activists for the people Trent
from all them Bloods Crips
and Latin Kings from all them vatos
and re-incarnated of badass Indian and
runaway slave gun-toting
in the streets of America niggas Trent

you keep talking and we’ll keep coming
showing up in your dreams
every Halloween in every revolution’s age
here’re a sermon and some prayers for you
what heaven do you think waits for you?
what hell are you living in right now?

the melungeons

The Melungeons: An Untold Story of Ethnic cleansing in America By Brent Kennedy (full story)
Perhaps Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln, was Melungeon. It somehow seems fitting that one of America's greatest Presidents should be of mixed race and probably Muslim heritage. But who are the Melungeons? Historical records document that from 1492 through the early 1600's an estimated 500,000 Jews and Muslims were exiled from Spain and Portugal through a religious witch-hunt known as the Spanish Inquisition. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim exiles escaped to their ancestral homelands of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. In fact, the well-known Barbary Coast Pirates of North Africa sprang from this group. They, along with their Turkish compatriots, were renowned for their seagoing exploits as they sought revenge against the Spanish and Portuguese in ferocious Mediterranean Sea battles.

Many of these people made their way to the Americas where, to varying degrees, they remained a distinct ethnic group.

Monday, November 14, 2005

rolling... rolling... rolling on the river

new blogs on my blogroll: A Beautiful Struggle and The Crime of Aquinas Just goes to show you, if you make enough cool comments on my blog, you'll be famous... lol...

keep me in your dua'

one of those days...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

islam needs radicals

From In These Times: Islam Needs Radicals by Mark Levine gets at some of the label issues I have been wrestling with for a while now. Radical, Left, Right, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, Traditional, Reformer, Extremist, Fundamentalist. All these labels have their nuances and they all mean different things and answer different questions: Do you follow traditional scholarship or do you try to re-interpret the source texts apart from tradition? Should Islam accomodate itself to the larger secular society or the other way around? What is your attitude towards American foreign policy? What is your attitude towards wealth and political power in general? Do you tend to read the texts literally or figuratively? Do you tend to read the texts in ways which restrict conduct/behavior or are permissive?

It is common to find Western commentary on Islam which seems to assume that there are two camps; "good Muslims" and "bad Muslims" who can be easily distinguished based on their answers to the above questions. But on the contrary, these questions actually outline a multidimensional space where for almost any given combination of answers one could probably find a group which espouses that particular combination.

Past Grenada entries on related subjects:
take a step to the left
progressive islam?
the spiritual left
what is progressive islam?
lily munir on indonesian islamic liberation theology
tariq ramadan and globalization
muslim anarchism
how progressive is the progressive muslim movement?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

muslims in the caribbean

Muslims in America & the Caribbean - years before Columbus is an interesting article giving a historical overview of some of the early contacts between Muslims and the people of the Caribbean.

While Muslim Situation in the Caribbean from the Muslim World League Journal and Muslims in the Caribbean by Larry Luxner summarize the current condition of Muslims and Islamic institutions on the Caribbean islands.

octavia butler

When I started this blog I called it *Planet* Grenada to try to evoke Afro-futurism as a theme. In reality, I've only touched on the subject occasionally. So I figure that now would be a good time to mention it again.

Recently, on Democracy NOW! there was an interview with Octavia Butler on Race, Global Warming and Religion. The interview deals with Butler's new book Fledgling about a Black female vampire and also touches on the two books Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents which are about a near-future world where ecological problems and certain other factors have led to a much more brutal and violent society. One of the few bright signs of hope in this future world is a particular woman with a unique gift for empathy. On top of that, her journal, a collection of revelations and insights she makes for herself at first, becomes the scripture for a new religious movement which helps to bring new life to a crumbling world.

Some excerpts:
Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.

Beware, all too often we say what we hear others say. We think what we are told that we think. We see what we are permitted to see. Worse, we see what we are told that we see. Repetition and pride are the keys to this. To hear and to see even an obvious lie again and again and again, maybe to say it almost by reflex, and then to defend it because we have said it, and at last to embrace it because we've defended it.

Good advice in any world.

a history of the african-olmecs

From Race and History: A History Of The African-Olmecs

Friday, November 11, 2005

clippings on latino muslims

In fact, the Pluralism Project also has links to other brief human-interest stories about the Latino Muslim experience:

Chicagoland Eid Celebrations Expand with Immigrant Muslim Communities

Columbia Students Discuss Role of Islam in Latino Culture, Break Fast with Tex-Mex

Number of Latino Muslims Increases Significantly in the US

Growing Number of Latinos Converting to Islam in the US

Latino Muslim speaks about religion

the emerging latino muslim community in america

The Emerging Latino Muslim Community in America is an academic report prepared by student researcher Abbas Barzegar as a part of something called the Pluralism Project. The following is just an excerpt (for the whole report, click the link above) but it raises some interesting questions on where Latino Muslims are headed in the future.

Future research that aims at understanding the significance of the rising role of Islam amongst Latinos in the United States needs to be placed along a comprehensive matrix that allows for the analysis of a number of variables simultaneously. Some of the factors that need attention include the religious tone of the Latino community, the role of Latinos in the United States, the location of Islam in American civic life, the relationships between immigrant Muslim communities and Latinos, along with a host of other concerns. I briefly present a few directions for possible future research.

As alluded to before the presence of African American Muslims in major metropolitan areas has, in various ways, contributed to the rise of Latino Muslim conversion. Islam’s visible presence in the black community dates back to the early years of the 20th century and has grown exponentially since. Today the African American Muslim community is extremely diverse in its makeup, which has produced multiple layers of cultural contribution to American society by way of religious orientation. Furthermore, because most Latinos live in metropolitan centers and thus share the same space as many African American Muslims, it is safe to say that Latino Muslims have been influenced whether, directly or indirectly by the African American Muslim community. Researching the correlation between African American Muslim cultural visibility and contribution and its effect on Latinos who convert to Islam may require more than survey questions and interviews. An ethnographic assessment of Islam as it is portrayed in inner city life may produce the information we need to examine the larger implications of Latino conversion to Islam. We may soon be in a position to ask whether or not there exists an identifiable indigenous American Muslim culture, that is, a culture of Muslims in America that is a product of conversion and not immigration.

The fact that Latinos and African Americans are converting to Islam tempts the question of race and ethnicity in America. Why is it that segments of these two historically disenfranchised communities have found meaning in the religion of Islam? Does Islam provide something unique to these communities that they have not found in other religions? Many testimonies of both African American and Latino American Muslims address the way in which the structure of Islamic belief systems serve to combat deteriorating social conditions in both communities, such as drug/alcohol abuse, gang and domestic violence, the decline of traditional family settings, and so forth.

It is also interesting to note that at a time when Islam is dubbed in public discourse a hateful, dangerous and violent religion, conversion rates increase. What might explain this phenomenon? Can it be related to the different ways different communities perceive Islam? If so, what are the contours of these differences? Furthermore, it seems that there is a tendency to emphasize religious identity above cultural and ethnic identity in most Muslim communities, how might this factor into the lived experiences of community members, who have to occupy the Latino and Islamic worlds simultaneously? Are communities forging new identities or manipulating new ones? It is also necessary, no matter how fascinated we are with the idea of Latino Muslims, to ask why there are dozens of millions of Latinos who have chosen not to convert to Islam, and perhaps the thousands that were interested but decided not to? Opening a discourse on Latino Muslims in the United States can be a fruitful endeavor and should be considered.

The simultaneous presence of Islam in the national consciousness of the American public and its rapid growth among various groups in the United States raises an interesting set of questions. To treat the phenomenon of Latino Muslim conversion laxly would be a mistake. Roughly a half century ago there existed a group of ‘so-called’ African American Muslims. Leading opinions of the time considered the movement to be temporal one based off of the charisma of various leaders. However, today there are over an estimated 4 million African American Muslims in America. The empirical trend leads us to question the potential future of the current 40,000 Latino Muslims. If trends continue the landscape of American society in just few decades may look dramatically different. The study of Latino Muslims as a component in the Muslim American landscape may yield insights, not only in related academic fields, but also into the uncertain yet impending future of American society.

npr on malcolm x

Here are a number of reports related to Malcolm X which appeared on NPR for the past couple of years. Enjoy.

npr on latino/hispanic muslims

Here are two older reports from National Public Radio on Latino/Hispanic Muslims:

Islam and Hispanics From Chicago Public Radio, Shirley Jahad reports on the thousands of American Latinos who are members of the Muslim faith. The Islamic Society of North America is met to focus on the link between Islam and Hispanic populations.

Latino Muslims NPR's Laura Sydell reports on the increasing conversion of Latinos from Christianity to Islam. The number of Latinos Muslims remains small but mark a significant change. Sydell attended a gathering in Stockton California of Latino Muslims and has this report.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

which superhero are you?

You didn't ask to be like this! But you do have to
admit, you have some reaaaal repressed anger
issues. You're a good guy! Until someone pisses
you off! You aren't really a superhero..You're
more of a monster who can go either way in

Which superhero are you? (This is for the boys)
brought to you by Quizilla

beware of the hand...

Beware of the hand
When it's comin' from the left
I ain't trippin' just watch ya step
-Public Enemy, "Can't Truss It"

i'm rick james, ukhti?

I totally didn't know this until Da (whose blog is called Crime of Aquinas) mentioned it in a comment to a Grenada entry. But yes, apparently Rick James did come to identify with Islam before he passed. Here is an excerpt from an old interview with Jigsaw at Are you Muslim?

Rick: I study Islam and prefer to call God, Allah. I have studied Islam for 7 years. I am a spiritualist, I believe in God but I prefer to call him Allah What attracted you to Islam?

Rick: Because Islam is one of the most powerful dedicated regimented religions that I have ever studied. And it opened up a whole new light for me. Did you study this on your own, or did you have someone….

Rick: Allah, or God, leads you towards what you are supposed to do, when I was thinking about my stroke, and my mother and stuff, the only person I could turn to was God. Christianity, I didn’t believe in. Islam is not interested in what you wear, and it doesn’t care for all of that. I had expressed converting to Islam, with a girlfriend of mines…

Rick: When you convert to Islam you have to be ready, you have to pray five times a day. You have to know what you are getting into. She was immediately turned off, now with mainstream and in accordance with situation in Iraq…

Rick: There has always been in every religion, warriors and soldiers, you have fanatics. Bin Laden, we are the Bin Laden terrorists of the world, we have killed more people than Bin Laden and Saddam put together with Adolf Hitler. We dropped bombs and killed millions of people in Japan. Do you consider the current war, a holy war?

Rick: No, it isn’t a holy war, it is a war based on money. The only reason we went over there was to kill Saddam to get the oil. It’s a shame, ‘cause Bush’s racist brother was stopping blacks from going to the polls. Have you seen Fahrenheit 9/11?

Rick: I loved it. What do you think? I mean, Republicans believe it’s not true, but it is fact based. The media seems to not be as critical of the President. The President does not have the ultimate power; the largest power seat in the US is Chairman of the House. Because you can’t f**k with him. That’s what Arnold Schwartzenegger is going to run for. Louis Stokes is my first cousin and he has been a congressman for over 50 years. Me and him talk a lot, and he told me that’s the most important position. People don’t know that big brother’s are going to be watching them.

The entire interview is in 6 parts and available at

a day in the life of damali ayo

I've mentioned the work of conceptual artist Damali Ayo before (see tokens aren't just for buses and damali ayo). And now that she has come out with her new book "How to Rent a Negro", ABC News recently did a story: A day in the Life of Damali Ayo.

state of emergency declared in france

AlJazeera: State of emergency declared in France

the malcolm x project

Under the direction of Dr. Manning Marable and with the guidance of members of the Shabazz family, the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University has launched the Malcolm X Project. The project would bring together electronic, media and film records related to malcolm x, as well as compiling and organizing the full range of written materials related to Malcolm X (correspondence, speeches, interviews, unpublished writings).

Here is the home page for the Malcolm X project and here is the Malcolm X Project Journal which is a related blog where some interesting articles and films are already available.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

what's my name, fool?

To be honest, I don't often watch sports and I tend to think of them as pretty inconsequential. The topic reminds me of the Boondocks strip where Huey is sitting in front of the television and the announcer's voice (filtered through Huey's mind) says: "And today in sports, a black man somewhere ran with a ball and jumped with a ball and threw a ball and people got really excited as if they hadn't seen it a million times before". But in fact, there are certainly times when athletic competitions can have deep political/cultural implications.

This is an excerpt from Dave Zirin's new book, What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books, 2005).

No sport has chewed athletes up and spit them out -- especially black athletes -- quite like boxing. For the very few who "make it," it is never the sport of choice. Boxing has always been for the poor, for people born at the absolute margins of society. The first boxers in the United States were slaves. Southern plantation owners amused themselves by putting together the strongest slaves and having them fight it out while wearing iron collars.

After the abolition of slavery, boxing was unique among sports because it was desegregated as early as the turn of the last century. This was not because the people who ran boxing were in any way progressive. They make the people who run boxing today resemble gentlemen of great character. Those early promoters simply wanted to make a buck off the rampant racism in American society by pitting black vs. white for public spectacle. Unwittingly, these early fight financiers opened up a space in which the white supremacist ideas of the day could be challenged. This was the era of deeply racist pseudo-science. The attitude of the social Darwinist quacks was that blacks were not only mentally inferior but also physically inferior to whites. Blacks were cast as too lazy and too undisciplined to ever be taken seriously as athletes.

When Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight-boxing champion in 1908, his victory created a serious crisis for these ideas. The media whipped up in a frenzy about the need for a "Great White Hope" to restore order to the world. Former champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement to restore that order, saying, "I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro."

At the fight, which took place in 1910, the ringside band played, "All Coons Look Alike to Me," and promoters led the nearly all-white crowd in the chant "Kill the nigger." But Johnson was faster, stronger, and smarter than Jeffries, knocking him out with ease. After Johnson's victory, there were race riots around the country -- in Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Most of the riots consisted of white lynch mobs attempting to enter black neighborhoods and blacks fighting back.

This reaction to a boxing match was the most widespread simultaneous racial uprising in the U.S. until the riots that followed the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Right-wing religious groups immediately organized a movement to ban boxing, and Congress actually passed a law that prohibited the showing of boxing films.
(click here for the full page on AlterNet)

venezuela and free trade

BBC News: Massive Protests in Venezuela against Bush and Free Trade

najee ali v. the boondocks

Ok, Najee Ali has done a lot positive things in the past. I like the brother. I'm often glad he's out there doing the things that he's doing. Some of which I've blogged about:

najee ali and project islamic h.o.p.e.
interview with najee ali
an open letter to minister louis farrakhan
the mexican stamp controversy

And I don't want to take anything away from the good he has done, but sometimes I think that he should work harder to find more constructive targets for his efforts. It's almost as if he is picking targets who will draw more attention to his organization rather than thinking about which efforts will make the most positive impact. Case in point: Najee Ali v. The Boondocks. The first episode of the Boondocks only just aired this Sunday, and Najee Ali is already organizing protests against the show's liberal use of the n-word. Given that The Boondocks represents a rare opportunity to insert a "still small voice" of positive consciousness into the mainstream television media, I definitely wish he would pick his battles more wisely. Of course, the controversy helps raise the profile of his organization, but if he "wins" he might succeed in getting rid of a uniquely positive Black voice on television.

on the paris riots

This is just a summary of some of the previously included links with news/commentary on the Paris riots, plus some new ones. (Coincidentally I'm currently in the middle of reading a book about the French Revolution and am right around the Storming of the Bastille). The similarities are arguably superficial, but then as now, the status quo can't last for long and France is going to have to do some serious soul searching about what kind of country it wants to be.

From MSNBC:New French curfew laws as euro falls on riot fears
BBC:French riots rage despite warning
From Common Dreams:Explosion in the Suburbs
From Alt.Muslim:Paris is Burning: What's Religion Got To Do With It?
From Alt.Muslim:Paris Is Burning: Religion Has A Lot To Do With It
From Black Looks:Mort pour rien - Dead for nothing
From The Moor Next Door:The Violence
From Izzy Mo:Paris is burning and New Orleans has drowned
From Umar's blog:To Riot, or not to Riot
From IslamOnline:France Riots Spreading, Gov't Says 'Organized'

Monday, November 07, 2005

digging below the underground

So the other night I saw Ladybug Mecca and the other 2/3 of Digable Planets (Butterfly and Doodlebug) perform on their reunion tour. Opening for them was the Muslim rapper, Nashid Sulaiman, better known as One.Be.Lo.

There were some interesting contrasts between the two performances. Coming from a mainstream Muslim background, Nashid's songs were generally "positive", but they actually didn't have much specifically Islamic content. (He is much more explicit about his religious beliefs on the S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. album). Nashid's delivery was clear, cool and laid back. And he performed a number of pieces which I don't think I have heard before.

On the other hand, Digable Planets' songs are intricately laced with Afro-futuristic Five Percenter references ("I got crew kid, seven and a crescent") which gives their language a very unique feel. Digable played mostly old, warmed-over material from their first two albums, Reachin' and Blowout Comb. The only piece which I'm sure was new was performed by Ladybug Mecca from her solo album. The whole evening, it was funny to watch Mecca because she seemed so geeked to see the audience recognize and sing along to their old hits. I was disappointed that they didn't do Femme Fatale. But as expected, they 'ended' with "Cool Like That" before doing a few more songs for an encore.

All in all, it was a good show. And I think it is exciting to think about what will happen as more mainstream Muslims participate in creating popular culture and effectively compete with alternative representations of Islam.

lessons of the five percent
islam and hip-hop
more on muslims and hip-hop
unofficial Digable Planets website
Digable Planets reunion on NPR

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saturday, November 05, 2005

the violence

From The Moor Next Door: The Violence
more commentary on the riots in Paris

dead for nothing

From Black Looks - Musings and Rants of an African Fem:
Mort pour rien - Dead for nothing
a thoughtful look at the current rioting in France.

sushi revisited: part two

Although Muslims generally look at the split between Sunnis and Shias as a tragedy, and a great source of chaos and fitna, some have argued that there is a sort of silver lining behind this particular cloud.

For example: A Blessing in Disguise: a Jungian Reflection on Sunni-Shia Split a recent entry from the Ihsan blog, suggests that the division between Sunnis and Shias has injected a certain amount of life and vitality into the ummah:
[...] this ying-yang type of split between Shia and Sunni schools may have actually helped to maintain a balance in the collective consciousness of both Shia and Sunni Muslims. The presence of different perspectives keeps our conscious attitudes from freezing into a rigid, inflexible, stale position (as it would if we only had one correct view or a perspective) and creates a dynamic movement due to the tension of so-called opposites. Each school of thought prevents each other from petrifying into a stiff, lifeless formality. It may just be that this ying-yang type of conflict has created enough tension to allow for a continuous movement, renewal and growth for each school of thought and for the collective consciousness of the Muslim ummah.

And in The Study of Shi'ism Seyyed Hossein Nasr suggests that the Sunni - Shia split was beneficial because it allowed Islam to reach different kinds of people with diverse spiritual/ethnic/cultural inclinations:
Within each religion [...] especially within those that have been destined for many ethnic groups, different orthodox interpretations of the tradition, of the one heavenly message, have been necessary in order to guarantee the integration of the different psychological and ethnic groupings into a single spiritual perspective. It is difficult to imagine how the Far Eastern peoples could have become Buddhist without the Mahayana school, or some of the Eastern peoples Muslim without Shi'ism. The presence of such divisions within the religious tradition in question does not contradict its inner unity and transcendence. Rather it has been the way of ensuring spiritual unity in a world of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Both approaches are appealing. The only question is whether those benefits are really worth the violence and bloodshed and division which are also associated with the split.

paris is burning

Two articles on the recent riots in France:
Paris is Burning: What's Religion Got To Do With It?
France Riots Spreading, Gov't Says 'Organized'

sushi revisited: part one

From a recent interview with Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud:
Cedric Muhammad: What is your position on the basis of the Shi-ite and Sunni split? Do you think that the Shi-ite’s have a valid point in their view that Ali was improperly denied the caliphate beginning with the election of Abu Bakr in ‘succession’ to Muhammad of 1400 years ago?

Dr. Aminah McCloud: Actually since both sides have produced unjust societies, I do not care who is right. I do not honor this historical split. When you look at it, those who became Sunni, killed the family of the Prophet and those who are Shi’I reconstructed inherited leadership. How can any of this be right?

I find Dr. McCloud's argument intriguing but I would not go as far as she does. I don't have a problem calling myself "Sunni". But then, I would insist that being Sunni does NOT mean giving uncritical approval of those who fought against Ali (ra), Hussein (ra) or the rest of the family of the prophet. It certainly doesn't mean giving uncritical approval to the governments which followed Ali (ra). In fact, some time ago I realized that ALL four Sunni imams of fiqh (Abu Hanifa, Malik Ibn Anas, Imam Shafii and Ahmad ibn Hanbal) were put in prison or otherwise punished by the rulers of their day for taking certain political stands. So even though Sunni political theory may have a certain conservative streak, there is also room for principled disobedience of the government.

Overall I would say that as Muslims (whether Sunni or Shia) we should combine and balance 1) love of family of the prophet, 2) sufficient recognition of their high spiritual status, 3) an understanding of the mistakes of the early Muslims 4) a great deal of adab when discussing the same, and 5) an acceptance of the qadr of Allah when it comes to early Muslim history. And I would suggest that by emphasizing these points we might find more common ground and mutual understanding between Sunnis and Shias.

Sunni sites on Ahl al-Bayt:
Ahl al-Bayt Homepage
Ahlul Bayt (a Naqshbandi site)
Muslims of the Americas Ahlul Bayt site

Previous Grenada entries on Su-Shi issues:
sunni - shia
is love sushi... or is that su-shi?
even more su-shi love

new age jahiliyyah

In Hip Hop and the “New Age” of Ignorance Adisa Banjoko points to an interesting parallel between the age of Jahiliyah (ignorance) before the coming of the prophet Muhammad (saaws) and the ignorance which is manifested in many of our modern urban communities. I've often seen some of the same similarities myself. On the one hand, these similarities indicate that there are a lot of deep problems in our cities which need to be addressed. On the other hand, they also suggest that if Arabia in the time of jahiliyyah was ready for the coming of Muhammad, then perhaps our modern urban areas will be especially receptive to Muslim efforts to serve and contribute those same communities. I don't want to speak for them, but that seems to be one of the main pillars behind the organization I.M.A.N. (Inner-city Muslim Action Network)

spanish muslims celebrate eid

Spanish Muslims Perform First 'Open-Air' `Eid Prayers

Friday, November 04, 2005

the shia of south america and the caribbean

From The Shia of South America and The Caribbean is a very brief look at the needs of the Shia community in Guyana and nearby areas.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

martin and malcolm

Martin and Malcolm
Implications of their Legacies for the Future
With Dr. Cornel West and Imam Zaid Shakir
Date: Friday, December 2, 2005.
Time: 8 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Doors open at 6.30 p.m.
Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center
Calvin Simmons Theatre
10 Tenth Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Tickets available online only!
Regular: $20.00
Student: $10.00 with valid student I.D. at the door
And check out the related Cognizance Website

That actually raises an interesting question: In contemporary times, what individuals, organizations or movements really are the best manifestations of the respective legacies of El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and Martin King?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

piri thomas interview

From In Motion magazine: An interview with Piri Thomas, a pioneering Afro-Latino writer and poet. He discusses the inspiration for his ground-breaking autobiography Down These Mean Streets, along with his broader outlook on poetry, prison and Puerto Rican politics. Punto (as Piri would say).

the black latino experience

The Black Latino Experience by Grisel Y. Acosta is an article from Para Mi magazine which touches on some of the common experiences of Afrolatinos growing up in the US.

Growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s as a mixed Cuban/Colombian in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, with its large Puerto Rican and Polish populations, was confusing. Everyone thought I was Puerto Rican, and when I explained where my parents were from, they looked at me funny, as if I had said, “I am from the galaxy of Cuba, located in the region of Colombia, far, far, away.”

the boondocks: tv show website

The Boondocks TV show website

dia de los muertos

So today is Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead [2] [3].I don't think I'm going to be eating candy skulls but I will be thinking of my loved ones who aren't here anymore.