Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the confederate states of america

In keeping with the Halloween theme, I'm going to talk about a film with a rather frightening premise. I recently saw The Confederate States of America which is a fictional "mock-umentary" about what would have happened if the South won the Civil War (er.. the War of Northern Aggression) and slavery continued into 21st century America.

south moon 2

The film definitely had its high points, but to be honest it was not very impressive. The historical logic wasn't very persuasive. For example, originally, the South fought in order to secede from the Union but in the film, the South actually takes over the North. Not only that, the Confederate States of America then expands to the south and eventually absorbs Latin America as well. But to be fair, in the DVD interview with Kevin Willmott, the film's writer and director, he makes clear that the film was more about metaphor than historical realism. In our country there has always been a tension between the democratic, egalitarian, just principles of the "United States" and the racist, exclusionary, hierarchical, expansionist tendencies of the "Confederate States". Wlilmott's film was intended to provide a satirical look at those "Confederate" tendencies by taking them to an extreme.

For me, the most impressive aspect of the movie were the fictional commercial breaks which featured blatantly racist ads for things like the Coon Chicken Inn, Sambo motor oil or Niggerhair cigarettes. The "punchline" is that most of the ads (including those just mentioned) represent REAL products which were sold in our United States into the 40's and 50's.

Another of the more impressive commercials was a promo for a show called "Runaway" (clearly based on Cops). In the C.S.A, most vibrant expressions of Black culture had long since migrated north to Canada, so the reggae theme of "Bad Boys" was replaced by an upbeat song with more of a country twang. But there were still the same images of Black and Latino males running from white men, being restrained by officers, having guns pointed at them, etc. The obvious suggestion was that the police are just modern-day slavecatchers.

It reminded me of a spoken word piece by Detroit poet, Versiz where he describes an encounter with a traffic cop who stopped him and asked:
"So, do you know why I'm pulling you over?"

I asked if he wanted the short answer or the long one. He of course chose the wrong one so I had to give it to him. I had to give it to him the way they always give it to me. With no vaseline and with a straight face.

So I told him... "You are pulling me over because there was a corrupt system set in place used to manipulate and control the underclass through fear and intimidation, a system that you are an agent for. Now, whether or not you know your role remains to be seen so I guess the most important question is: Dude, Do you know why you are pulling me over?"

I couldn't help but smirk as I was being dragged out of the vehicle.

Of course it is fairly easy to cite other examples of artists and political writers who see similarities between the police and the prison industrial complex on the one hand, and slavery and other forms of oppression on the other. (But that's a meaty subject in itself and I'll have to explore it over several posts)

For other treatments of alternative history:
For Want of a Nail
The Guns of the South
Harry Turtledove
Bring the Jubilee
The Man in the High Castle
It Happened Here

Friday, October 27, 2006

even more heru

Every once in a while I check YouTube for more spoken word performances from Heru. This time I found three clips I hadn't seen before. I've posted versions of Lucy/Chambers and Wicked Man Dominion before but these performances took place at different venues. To the Core was performed at the DuSuble Theatre in Chicago and is totally new to Planet Grenada. Out of the three, I think my favorite is Lucy/Chambers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

a whole new (old) world...

This is a bit late, but over at Hood's blog, Islamic Law, Etc. he posted a narration from the salaf (the earliest generations of Muslims) which reminded him of Planet Grenada:
“Allah has servants beyond Al-Andalus, the distance between them and al-Andalus like the distance between us and al-Andalus. They do not view that any of creation has disobeyed Allah. Their stones are coral and pearls. Their mountains are of gold and silver. They do not plant nor harvest, nor do they work at all. They have a tree that grows at their doorstep which bears fruit which is their food as well as another tree with large, wide leaves from which they make their clothing.”

Just as Grenada/Granada evokes both the West Indian island and the Moor's last stand, for Hood, the passage recalls both Al-Andalus (Spain) and early European descriptions of the Caribbean.

To see Hood's post along with other folks comments, check out:
A whole new world...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

more heru on tv

YouTube: a brief feature on Heru (Pan-African spoken word artist and former classmate) for a new york tv station.

see also: we be broke while other folks' cash registers be like "i ching" "i ching" "i ching"

an inconvenient truth

Alberto Fernandez, a senior state department official recently partipated in an interview with Al-Jazeera where he admitted: "I think there is great room for strong criticism, because without doubt, there was arrogance and stupidity by the United States in Iraq." One opinion is that Fernandez's comments might generate a certain amount of goodwill in the Middle East since that is what most of the people think anyway. Let's hope his employers see it the same way.

BBC News: On the Alberto Fernandez interview

the 99

After my entry on Green Lantern and other Black superheroes, Hood gave me a heads up about The 99, a new comic about a team of Muslim superheroes whose powers are all based on the traditional ninety-nine names of Allah.

Here is an interview with the comic's writer/creator, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa and here is a more detailed article (originally from the New York Times) which gets into the general background of the characters and talks about the hurdles Dr. Mutawa has had to go through in order to make the comic book a reality.

Although comic books in general feature several heroes with "Oriental" associations, believing Muslims seem to be more rare. To my knowledge, in the DC universe, the most prominent Muslim hero is the Janissary while in the Marvel universe, the most prominent hero is a mutant known as Dust. In both cases, the characters are women.

Monday, October 23, 2006

understanding the new "racial olympics"

I've linked to articles from Hishaam D. Aidi in the past. In fact the passage of text at the top of the blog (which in some ways captures the scope of Planet Grenada) is loosely taken from an article by Aidi called "Let Us Be Moors". (Although the quote itself originates with post-colonial critic, Robert Young).

Now, in the article Slavery, Genocide and the Politics of Outrage: Understanding the New “Racial Olympics”, Hishaam D. Aidi explores the intersections between Black Nationalism, Zionism, Black Orientalism, Afro-Arab unity, 9/11 and the current crisis in Darfur.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

ramadan fiqh: intention, mindfulness and responsibility

Perhaps someone out there can shed some light on this issue. Something I've never really understood about the rules for Ramadan is the following... take two people, Zayd and Jamal.

Zayd is a conscientious Muslim. It is the month of Ramadan. Zayd made intention to fast on the night before. He even makes the effort to follow the sunnah and gets up before fajr in order to have a little something (say some water and dates) to help him last through the day. Unfortunately, he later finds out that his clock has been slow and it turns out that at least on a few occasions he had been eating and drinking after fajr had come in, even though he sincerely believed otherwise.

Now take Jamal. Jamal is not so conscientious. He didn't bother getting up before fajr. In fact, he slept through fajr. When he woke up he sort of realized it was Ramadan and so he knew to skip breakfast but other than that he started his day much as any other day. He was absorbed in various mundane tasks and responsibilities until the middle of the day when he would normally have a lunch break. As was his habit, he goes around the corner to his usual lunch spot to order some food. He noticed he was hungrier than usual so he gets the extra large sandwich, a large pop, a side order and some dessert. After his lunch break he goes back to work and an hour after his meal it occurs to him, with the appropriate amount of shock and surprise, that he just had a full meal in the middle of the day during the month of Ramadan.

Now here's the weird part: It is my understanding (based on the fiqh books I've read) that the slow clock doesn't constitute an excuse so Zayd's fast has been broken and he has to make up the days when he accidentally broke his fast. But Jamal's fast, on the other hand, actually hasn't been broken and that he doesn't have to make up any days.

First, it would probably be good to keep in mind that the question of what breaks your fast or not is different from the question of how actions are judged spiritually or not. For example, lying, gossiping and stealing don't break your fast either but that doesn't mean these are acceptable activities to engage in. Also, I would guess that the above issue is related to how scholars of fiqh understood the relationship between intention, minddfulness and responsibility, but I myself don't have a really good understanding of what the reasoning process is. Anyone out there have a good suggestion?

not much ramadan blogging

Today is the last day of Ramadan. The month has gone by very quickly. This year, I feel like I've been doing A LOT less blogging about the month of Ramadan itself compared to last year. In fact, I've been doing less blogging, period. On top of that, I should have taken more spiritual benefit from the month. We'll see what the rest of the year holds.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

what and why

I've had a draft of this post sitting around for a while but after I got an invitation from Reconstruction to talk about why I blog I figured I would get off my behind and finish it up.

When I originally started this blog, my basic idea was that I was going to comment on a lot of "Black stuff" "Muslim stuff" and "Latin stuff", preferably two at a time and ideally three at a time. (This ideal is generally what I mean by "Grenada-esque") After blogging for over a year, I am a bit more aware of the patterns which show up and can be more refined in describing them.

When I surf the web, stories where Latino/Hispanic issues overlap with Islam seem to be rather few and far between compared to the other combinations so I'm the least picky about those and will add links to what I find most of the time. On the other hand, the overlap between Black/African issues and Islam is much larger by comparison so I can be a little pickier. But for a while now I've been sending most of the interesting things I find or think about in this area to the Third Resurrection.

When it comes to Afro-Latino issues I generally don't talk about music because I feel many people only recognize the musical contributions of Black Latinos and have almost no concept of anything else. I would prefer to talk about Afro-Latinos in politics, literature, science or even sports. Similarly, it is common for Muslims to be viewed through a narrow political lens so I'd rather not talk about Middle Eastern politics, and I'd prefer to talk about Arab/Muslim cultural production (poetry, music, etc.) especially in the West.

The rest of the content of Planet Grenada is more varied. Random pieces on progressive politics, race, racism and culture. An occasional piece on Afrofuturism. Pieces on religious orthodoxy and more ecclectic forms of spirituality. Whatever tickles my fancy. Sometimes I imagine that I'm somehow contributing to the "emerging global anti-hegemonic culture" refered to at the top of my blog. Other times I write just to get things off my chest. So why do you blog?

tuesday i had fruit loops: revisited
hisham aidi

many receive nothing from the fast...

"Many receive nothing from the fast except hunger and thirst."
-a hadith

winning the grandmas, winning the war

APoC: Winning the Grandmas, Winning the War: Anarchists of Color, Religion and Liberation by Ernesto Aguilar is a brief look at some of the challenges which come up when secular leftists try to communicate and connect with more religious folks, especially people of color.

voices of resistance: muslim women on war, faith and sexuality

“There are no celebrity endorsements here for a certain kind of Islam, there is no list of permissible ingredients that can go into a canned version of good Muslimness, whether by the standards of the patriarchies inside or the colonialism outside.”
–by Shahnaz Habib
I recently found out about a new book to add to my shopping list; Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith & Sexuality (Sarah Hussein ed.) The book is a collection of narratives and prose by Muslim women from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds; Yemen, Iran, Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Canada, and the United States. And as implied by the above quote, the book seems to be about resisting convenient stereotypes and definitions of Muslim (female) identity.

Samar: Inside, Outside and Everywhere In Between a review by Shahnaz Habib
Amazon: Voices of Resistance
see also: living islam out loud

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

in brightest day, in blackest night


I hope y'all can forgive the mildly juvenile, but still culturally relevant diversion: I had stopped regularly reading comic books by the time that John Stewart's Green Lantern appeared. But in a lot of ways I think he is the most refreshingly universal black science-fiction superhero. In most of sci-fi, whiteness is framed as universal, and blackness is framed as provincial and local. The advanced being from the next galaxy over is generally the authoritative-sounding white man with silly putty on his face. Most black characters, on the other hand, will sound and act as if they were from 125th and Lennox Ave (give or take a light year).

In contrast to the more "ghetto-centric" blaxploitation era superheroes like Black Lighting (and variations like Black Vulcan, Soul Power, Static and Juice) or Power Man, and even in contrast to the more Afrocentric heroes like Storm or Black Panther, John Stewart is on a whole other level. (A few others in the same ballpark, which come to mind from the world outside of comic books are Mace Windu and Benjamin Sisko).

Wikipedia: Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Book of Oa: The Unofficial John Stewart Biography
Wikipedia: List of Black Superheroes
Wikipedia: History of Black Superheroes
Wikipedia: African characters in comics

Grenada's past:
race and dc comics
black comic books
birth of a nation: a comic novel
"'x-men' is not a cleverly named documentary about the nation of islam..."
on the serious tip...
aaron mcgrudder
afrofuturism/rebirth of a nation


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

a muslim response to the pope

Zaytuna: A Muslim Response to The Pope: For They Know Exactly What They Do by Imam Zaid Shakir gives a pretty thoughtful analysis of the pope's controversial lecture in the context of other comments and policy decisions coming out of the Catholic Church recently.

Monday, October 09, 2006

evil eye protection

I'm really not superstitious. In fact, for a while now I've been really getting into the idea (associated with Asharite theology) that God is not just the First Cause, but the Only Cause. In other words, in a radical and thorough sense, everything which happens in the world is directly caused and willed by Allah. So in addition to stars and talismans not influencing your destiny, matches don't really cause fires and medicine doesn't really cure diseases. Instead, God creates the medicine and the healing and God is just in the habit (the sunnah of Allah) of making one follow the other.

Alternatively, (to point to a commonly used example from the Quran on this point) since there is no necessary connection between fire and burning, it makes sense that God could say "O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!" when Nimrod tried to burn Abraham alive. Fire doesn't have the power to burn by itself.

In this view, there is also no such thing as a miracle because whether God follows his own habits or not, everything that happens is willed and created by Allah. The created world doesn't even have the power to sustain its own existence for an instant, so another consequence is that Allah is continually recreating the cosmos from moment to moment, almost like a projector shining successive picture frames on a screen.

But all the above is really a preface. To make a long story short, I mainly wanted to share that a few days ago I ran into some friends (a married couple) who generously gave me a beautiful blue fatima's hand. I had mentioned to them some "evil-eye" issues going on in my life along with my fascination with the khamsa and moments later they offered me one (which they had actually bought for themselves in Cairo). It is hanging on my shelf right now. It is definitely one of the most interesting presents I've gotten in a while. In any case, I wanted to be able to say how pleased I was with the gift, without people accusing me of shirk. I know very well that it has no power to help or harm, but ultimately that's not the point.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

people in me

ApoC: People in Me by Robin Kelly is a brief and slightly personal look at polyculturalism and black identity.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

still muslim like me

Last year I wrote an entry called muslim like me about non-Muslims selectively practing some aspect of Islam (either fasting in Ramadan or wearing hijab) as a way to express political/ social/ spiritual solidarity with Muslims. (Unfortunately, the link to the Scarves for Solidarity story has expired.)

A good discussion of this phenomenon recently appeared over at the Woman of Color blog in an entry called Ramadan, solidarity, critiques and the internet.

And in Michigan, the Arab American NOWAR Committee is co-ordinating several solidarity fasts throughout the month of Ramadan. For more information (especially if you want to participate) check here.