Thursday, November 30, 2006

richards' racist rant (part 2)

In the wake of Michael Richards' meltdown on stage, several new developments have come up. For now I just wanted to talk about how a number of black leaders have met with media heads to discuss use of "the n-word".

AP: Black leaders seek end to use of slur

For me the most surprising piece of this is that after watching Richards' rant, even Paul Mooney has said that he will no longer use "the n-word". "He's my Dr. Phil," Mooney said. "He's cured me."

Paul Mooney definitely expressed a noble sentiment and if he can stick to his pledge, more power to him. But to be honest, I really don't believe he will. I mean, Mooney is the brother who made the claim "I say nigga 100 times every morning... it makes my teeth white". He was a close friend and collaborator to Richard Pryor, but even after Pryor's trip to Africa when he decided to quit using the word, Mooney kept right on going. Mooney even has an upcoming film 'Jesus is Black and so was Cleopatra' which is about to be released and which is definitely liberally 'seasoned' with the n-word. (Also, thinking about the film makes me wonder if the title is at all a reference to the title of Sarah Silverman's film 'Jesus is Magic'. Both Silverman and Mooney are stand-up comedians who deal with race in ways which are intense, edgy and skillfull.) Ultimately, I suspect that Mooney will probably tone down his live performances, especially if the Laugh Factory is serious about fining comedians who use the slur on stage, but I doubt that he will quit cold turkey.

Myspace: Jesus is Black and so was Cleopatra

Grenada's past:
"it makes my teeth white" - paul mooney
richard pryor (1940-2005)
word association
deep cover
rebirth of a word, a film, a slur
najee ali v. the boondocks

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

richards' racist rant

By now a lot of bloggers and punidits have already put in their two cents on the whole Michael "Kramer" Richards racist rant situation so I'll assume you know the basic facts of what happened. (If you don't, I've included several links below).

My own contribution to that conversation as follows:

From a free speech perspective, Michael Richards has the right to say pretty much whatever he wants to on stage and I'm glad that I live in a country where it is legal for anyone with a microphone (or a blogger account) to say all sorts of offensive things without facing legal sanction. In that light, I have definite resistance to the idea that the courts should make Richards pay monetary damages for his actions. At the same time, I am also glad I live in a country where I have the right to call someone like Michael Richards out as a racist prick. And given that he had such a fundamental disrespect for the Black paying members of his audience it would only be appropriate for his career to be adversely affected.

Also, to add a certain amount of historical perspective to the situation, this isn't even the first (or second) time that the cast of Seinfeld has been involved in racial controversy.

The first case which comes to mind is the Puerto Rican Day episode (which included a number of stereotypical Puerto Rican characters along with a scene where Michael Richards accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire and then stomps on the flag in full view of some Puerto Rican parade-goers.) NBC actually had to apologize for airing the episode and took it out of circulation for years even after Seinfeld went into syndication.

The second racial controversy involving the Seinfeld show which I'm aware of has to do with the time that Danny Hoch was asked to play a stereotypical Hispanic character (Ramon, the crazy pool cleaner) and ended up refusing the role. (He reminds me of the Hollywood Shuffle line: "There is always work at the post office")

So I would argue that Richard's rant is really not surprising given his time on a show with such a track record.

The best analysis of the situation I've seen so far comes from Dan Charnas over at Dantrification:

I harbor no illusions: The construct for “Seinfeld,” like so many other comic teleplays and films, is a monochromatic world where White People are central, and people of color — if they appear at all — are simply used as accessories, as added “color” for a scene.

When you think about “Seinfeld,” and you realize the only recurring Black characters were either there because they made our white heroes uncomfortable simply by being Black (like George’s nemesis Mr. Morgan at the Yankees); or to parody a Black celebrity (like Kramer’s erstwhile lawyer Jackie Chiles doing his best Johnnie Cochran), you get a peek inside the archaic white psyche. It’s a headspace where white people simply do not know how to deal with a world that is slowly become not their own. So they literally ignore it. “Seinfeld” is Ralph Ellison’s argument made visual.

Many of my friends live in this space. Many of your friends do too. They’re the white friends who giggle when hip-hop comes on, rather than bob their heads to it. It’s not that we can’t be friends with them. It’s just that we choose to live multiculturally and they don’t... either because they don’t know how, don’t want to, don’t have to, or they are afraid to.

When white folks are brought out of this space, they can have a number of reactions. Some take kindly to reality. Others snap.

I’m sure that Michael Richards doesn’t believe he is a racist. I’m sure, on an intellectual level, believes in equal rights for all. But we never find the truth until we get cornered. When Black folks are pushing his buttons, Richards’ response, apparently, is to tell Black people they have no right to push his buttons because they’re Black. That is the very definition of deep-seated, latent racism. Sorry.

That should be enough for now. More later.

You Tube: Michael Richards' Rant
You Tube: Michael Richards' "Apology"
You Tube: Seinfeld: The Puerto Rican Day episode
Script for The Puerto Rican Day The Definitive "Racist Kramer" Post (Updated)

Revolutionary Worker: Danny Hoch's People
You Tube: Danny Hoch exposes Seinfeld

The Manrilla Blog: Racism, Kramer and Why His Apology Meant Nothing To Me
Digg: Comedian Paul Mooney rips Michael Richards on FOX News
Racialicious: Kramer drops the n-bomb repeatedly in racist tirade
African American (Black) Opinion: African American Opinion Reader says: Michael Richards a.k.a Kramer is only the tip of the iceberg.
Alternet: Richards' N-Word Diatribe

Monday, November 27, 2006

theories/practices of blogging

Recently the online publication Reconstruction came out with their latest issue and the unifying theme is Theories/Practices of Blogging. And in addition to a number of meatier articles on the socio-cultural implications of blogging, the issue features many different bloggers (including yours truly) talking more briefly about why they blog. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

islam and natural healing (part two)

I was trying to find more information about healing in Islam and came across the following over at
Arabic Medicine in the Mediteranean
Bone Fractures in Ibn Sina's Medicine
along with some other articles on medicine from

After thinking a bit more about the subject of medicine I started to have two contrasting trains of thought.

First I started to think back to other posts I've written about how Islam is reminiscent of a nature-based religion. The religious calendar follows the cycles of the moon. The prayer times don't follow "clock-time" but instead depend on the position of the sun, the lengths of shadows and the appearance of the sky. Animal sacrifices vividly remind Muslims of how life depends on life. And in many other ways Islam is a "natural" path. This is fleshed out (pun intended) a little bit more in the Grenada post called where's the beef? on islam and vegetarianism which also links to yet another post on the vegan Hardline movement. An argument can definitely be made that Islam encourages a drug-free natural wholistic organic approach to health/nutrition and other areas of life.

On the other hand, the above approach can't be absolute. The human body is a complex collection of distinct interrelated systems which can get sick in a variety of ways. It would be a bit naive to totally dismiss conventional medicine and exclusively rely on "natural" methods.

Something else which occurs to me is that almost by its very nature, the practice of medicine is going to tend to be ecclectic. Not all disorders can be treated in the same way. So instead of trying to find a "pure" Islamic system of medicine it actually makes sense to combine conventional medicine with prophetic techniques and alternative approaches. For example, I've read before that Chinese Muslims have developed "Islamic" versions of Qi Gong. (If I find out much more about this I'll probably blog about it.) And I imagine that Muslims in other parts of the world have also developed their own syncretic healing methods (which will still manifest some family resemblance due to common Islamic elements).

an old but timely boondocks strip from 2003

Caesar and Huey are hanging out by a tree and Huey says out loud:
Moderate, Reasonable Leftists argue that even though we may not support the war, what's happened has happened and there's no point in dwelling in the past. [pause] All of those people, mind you, are still mad at OJ

Monday, November 20, 2006

say hello to khalil al-puerto rikani

I've been meaning to update and reorganize my blogroll for a while now, but until then I'll use this entry to give a shout out to a Latino (Puerto Rican) Muslim blogger: Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

Saturday, November 18, 2006

farrakhan steps back

In These Times: Farrakhan Steps Back by Salim Muwakkil is an incredibly thoughtful piece about the implications of Farrakhan's declining role within the Nation of Islam. Although in the wider media Farrakhan is often dismissed as a fanatic, Muwakkil argues (persuasively I think) that in the context of the Nation, Farrakhan's political skill has been a moderating, unifying factor.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

say hello to kameelah

Blogger is acting up so some glitches have turned up when I tried to add Kameelah as a contributor for Third Resurrection. But in the meantime, you can check out her blog, Kameelahwrites. She is currently writing from Johannesburg and in her profile she writes:
born and raised in east palo alto, CA, i am a dash of eclectic smarts, a pinch of unapologetic sarcasm and a sprinkle of grace all wrapped up quite nicely in a 5 foot 1 hijabi package. raised on gil-scott heron and nasheeds. i am a beautiful shade of brown, certified black person (ask me how to get your certificate!), green-tea drinker, rad. vegan, political organizer, community researcher, artist, teacher, writer, renewed marxist and professional smarty pants.

Monday, November 13, 2006

in death, unconquered

In the spirit of my hypothetical muslim art of war project I'm going to direct y'all to a recent post over at Rasa'il Khalil al-Wafa' (Letters of a loyal friend) called Morior Invictus on the subject of The Concept of Taqwa in Ali Ibn Abi Talib's Sermons on Jihad

the aztec al-qaeda

La Voz De Aztlan: The story Mayor Villaraigosa falsely tied to Al-Qaeda is only tangentially related to Muslims. It is really more about a nativist PR attack against Villaraigosa and Academia Semillas del Pueblo, a Chicano charter school in Los Angeles. But it is interesting (and frightening) to see how the xenophobia seems to be coming from the same place and taking similar shape.

see also:
palestinian che

Saturday, November 11, 2006

new muslims in spain

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, In Spain, dismay at Muslim converts holding sway discusses the growing prominence of Spanish converts to Islam as voices of moderation. The piece also gets into some of the criticism faced by these new Muslims both from inside and outside the Muslim community.

islam and natural healing

I've been thinking about health recently (both my own and that of people close to me) and so I went to my bookshelf and dusted off my copy of "Natural Healing with the Medicine of the Prophet" (a translation of an older work by Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya 1292-1350 CE).

The whole concept of "Islamic medicine" is intriguing for the most part, but also has its limitations.

If we stick strictly to the Quran and hadith there are a number of texts which give some sort of medical advice but it is not clear that this constitutes a totally comprehensive and detailed medical theory. For example:
And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build: Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colours, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect. (16:68-69)

or the famous hadith from Bukhari:
Abu Huraira, God be pleased with him, narrated in the correct prophet traditions that God's messenger (saaws) said: "Use this black seed regularly, because it has a cure for every disease except death"

Imam Al-Jawziyya's work also includes many other hadith (of varying degrees of authenticity) with assorted bits of advices on matters health and illness (texts on food, drink, sleep, cupping, spiritual aspects of healing and related subjects).

From a modern perspective, some of this material is challenging. As Muslims do we have to accept all of it (for example blood-letting) as sound medical advice, or can we sift through some of it and say it is not really "prophetic" but merely reflects the ordinary fallible medical knowledge which was in circulation at the time of the prophet (saaws)?

Moreover, when "Islamic medicine" was developed, doctors took the prophetic elements and inserted them into a matrix of Greek medical knowledge (e.g. Galen and Hippocrates) and so Al-Jawziyya's text also assumes the four humour theory which was current in Europe during the Middle Ages. (The resulting mix of Graeco-Arab ideas is sometimes called Unani medicine and is similar to Aryuvedic medicine. Both are still practiced today in some communities).

It makes me wonder to what extent is it possible to take the truly "prophetic" aspects of Islamic medicine and come up with a truly Islamic wholistic system? Or are we left with a few isolated remedies which are culled from the Quran and hadith and are then tossed into the context of another system (whether modern, metaphysical or alternative)? Is the answer different if we are talking about mental health as opposed to physical health?

I found the following links on the above subject but I'm not a doctor. I'm including these pages because they are interesting and topical but if you are sick and need help you should go see a qualified expert (however you define that) for advice.

The Medicine of the Prophet: A Message Par Excellence by Dr. M. Iqtedar Husain Farooqi
CrescentLife: Health & Healing: Islamic Perspective
Dr.Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal: Islamic Medicine Online
Wikipedia: unani
Medicine of the Prophet
The Sufi Enneagram Website

Thursday, November 09, 2006


From time to time here at (Planet) Grenada I bring in links/entries on Afro-futurism. Well, recently over at Hawgblawg, Ted Swedenburg has written a couple of entries on "Islamo-futurism". In Fun^Da^Mental's "786 All Is War": "Sufi surfing on boards of steel" Ted goes over the surreal and futuristic lyrics of Aki Nawaz. And in More on Islamic sci-fi/futurism he gives a heads up on Yusuf Nuruddin's recent article in Socialism and Democracy called "Ancient Black Astronauts and Extraterrestrial Jihads: Islamic Science Fiction as Urban Mythology". (Hopefully the article or a discussion of its contents will eventually be available online).

taina asili

Recently, I also had the chance to see an amazing performance by Puerto Rican spoken-word artist Tania Asili. Definitely check out her site and explore the links. Definitely think about giving her some $ support (either buy her CD or, if you are in a position to, book her for an event).

In a lot of ways, she reminded me of one of my cousins who has also done a lot of spoken word. Actually, in my generation there are about three of us who to varying degrees have done spoken word/poetry. At one point I thought to myself that maybe there is some kind of "poetry" gene in my family which made us get on stage. But more likely some of us are "odd birds" who have a lot to get off our chests and it almost can't help but come out as poetry.

see also:
teresa vazquez
black orpheus

Monday, November 06, 2006

seeds in the wind

I just wanted to turn y'all on to Seeds in the Wind. They haven't made it big yet but I will say that the singer/writer is one of the most sincere, good-natured people I know and you should check out their album. I would describe their sound as acoustic folk with lyrics which evoke Rastafarian spirituality.

climbing poetree

I first saw Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman (aka Climbing Poetree) a few years ago doing a multimedia spoken-word piece which explored the so-called War on drugs and made some powerful connections between US foreign policy in Colombia (where Alixa is from) and what is going on domestically in terms of the prosecution of drug-related offenses and treatment of prisoners. They do some deep work and I thought I should give them a shout-out.

I saw them perform recently and I got a kick out of seeing them do a piece on hip-hop which started off with Alixa making the very surprising Grenada-esque move of beatboxing while simultaneously playing a set of South American pipes!

I hope you enjoy exploring their sites and think about giving them some support for their work.

Climbing Poetree's main site
Climbing Poetree's Myspace Page

Sunday, November 05, 2006

in these times on borat

For a much more positive evaluation of the film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan you might also want to check out Adam Doster's piece from In These Times on The Crazy Kazakh Correspondent.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Growing up, I think my first real exposure to Afro-Cuban music was an old Mongo Santamaria double-LP called Afro Roots which my parents had. I've gotten a bit more into Mongo Santamaria since then but I can't really call myself a fan. But I do really enjoy his album Our Man in Havana and in particular I think all the guaguancos on that album are amazingly beautiful.

The last piece on the album is a guaguanco called Complicaciones:

Que yo no quiero más complicación
La vida me traicionó

Yo la quería, ella también a mi
Yo la quería, ella también a mi
Y en un momento importuno
Ella se marchó

La mujer es como el pan
Que hay que comer lo caliente
Se lo deja enfriar
Ni el diablo le meta el diente
Quince años yo tenía
Cuando por primera vez
Dí mi voz a conocer
Y mi lírica poesía

Que yo no quiero más complicación
La vida me traicionó

No quiero complicación
La vida me traicionó

I'm just in that kind of mood.

Friday, November 03, 2006

borat and ali g

What is the difference between a white person in blackface and Sascha Baron Cohen, the English/Jewish comedian behind the characters of Borat and Ali G who presumably come from Muslim cultural backgrounds? (Borat is from Kazakhstan). I have a gut reaction but I'm really not trying to be rhetorical. That's an actual question. Does Sascha Cohen cross the line which seperates edgy and conscious cultural representation from a minstrel show?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the confederate states of america (part two)

After writing the previous post on the film the Confederate States of America, I wanted to add links to some other related entries from Planet Grenada's past:

On slavery, the civil war and our national character:
iraq and al qaeda, america and the kkk
afrofuturism/rebirth of a nation
post traumatic slave syndrome
what a country!

On racist images and language in contemporary times:
the mexican stamp controversy
understanding pickaninnies and improving the race
rebirth of a word, a film, a slur
accepting the slurs

On prisoners and the criminal justice system:
black cats who became muslim
johnnie cochran died today
ex-prisoner rights