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January 20, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Glenn Ligon, Double America, 2006

In 2006 Glenn Ligon created “Double America”, a large scale glowing neon sign that boldly flashes “AMERICA” with an inverted mirror image of itself underneath. Both Americas flicker erratically as if the energy source used to sustain it is almost depleted. The two Americas are tethered to and powered by six transformers that feed black lined white neon glass tubes that are the sign’s skeleton. The power boxes, laying exposed and vulnerable on the floor suggest a subtle sense of disregard and instability that almost goes unnoticed. Looking at the piece, the viewer is so easily distracted by the electrified spectacle that one doesn’t give much thought to what powers it – until the sign flashes off.

Double America by Glenn Ligon

January 20, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Muslim NYPD chaplain: saluted in uniform, harassed as a civilian

Imam Khalid Latif is the second ever Muslim to serve as a chaplain in the NYPD. He’s also the executive director and chaplain for the Islamic Center at NYU. He’s done a lot of interfaith work, and has shared the stage with the Dalai Lama and the Pope and has met with President Obama. Latif’s parents are American citizens who emigrated to the US from Pakistan. Latif is one of the people featured in the new digital series about Islamophobia called “The Secret Life Of Muslims.”

January 20, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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People’s Solidarity Rally

Friends and compadres, I hope to see u at this rally on January 21st at 11am. I will be speaking there, very deliberately and mindfully, as a first generation immigrant, a woman of color, and a Muslim. I want to open up the conversation a bit and talk about the importance of recognizing (and working with) difference within struggles for justice. Would love to see u there so we can march together.

People’s Solidarity Rally

January 19, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Israeli Lawmakers Celebrate the New “King of the United States” With Evangelicals

Just wow.

Zaid Jilani: Speaking to a gathering that included a who’s who of Christian right leaders, Israeli Knesset member Yehuda Glick, who belongs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, spoke about Trump’s election in messianic terms.
He began his remarks by approvingly quoting Psalm 72, which speaks of welcoming a new king. “It is a prayer for King Solomon, and it is the prayer for all kings and especially a prayer for the king of the United States.”
“Tomorrow, 21 hours from now, and 14 minutes, there will be another miracle!” he said, speaking of Trump’s election to sustained applause.

“Trump throughout his campaign, again and again and again repeatedly spoke about Israel and Jerusalem,” he reminded them, his voice escalating as if giving a sermon. “We’re so close, friends of Jerusalem and Israel! […] He can choose to be a Cyrus! He can choose to say Jerusalem, all nations should recognize Jerusalem!” More here.

January 19, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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talking about #NoDAPL with local reps

met with chuck schumer’s staff today, with my wonderful friend sue smith, in order to talk about #NoDAPL and our own personal experience of traveling to standing rock. we focused on human rights (tied it to schumer’s opposition to jeff sessions as AG), gave context to NoDAPL (a history of theft and river dams that have made land uninhabitable, but also unemployment rates of close to 80%, rampant poverty and consequent social problems including suicide rates that are double the national average), and insisted that the racist language being used by ND congressional reps on the floor of the senate (calling water protectors and their allies terrorists for example) be challenged and stopped. we described the oceti sakowin camp – how well-organized, clean and spiritual it was – and reiterated the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. i hope that these face to face meetings work. sue insists that they can be effective, if they take the form of ongoing conversations. that’s exactly what we need to do then. next: kirsten gillibrand.

January 18, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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anti-racism work and engaging with trump

at an anti-racism worshop. a lot of talk about trying to burst the so-called liberal bubble and engage with trump voters. in fact, trying to connect with trump himself by focusing on mutually agreeable areas, to which i had to say, pardon me for being the agent provocateur here, but sometimes it’s ok not to find a meeting point with fascism. it’s ok not to make friends with the racist bubble. sorry for being radical and for using an extreme example, but if hitler were in power, would we want to find some common ground by focusing on mutual interests? guaranteed to be a killjoy 🙂

January 18, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Chelsea Manning Will Be Free!

Greg Grandin and Chase Madar: With two days left in his presidency, Barack Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence. Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst currently being held in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth as Inmate 89289, will now be released in May. This is most welcome news, as surely new torments, sponsored by the incoming Trump administration, would have awaited her. According to a recent report by The New York Times, she’s been punished by prison officials for possessing outdated toothpaste (deemed “medical misuse”) and put into solitary confinement as a penalty for the disruption her attempted suicide caused the prison.

In a better world—a world where liberals were willing to protest the militarism of a liberal president—Manning would be a hero, and the material she helped make public celebrated with the kind of enthusiasm that liberals today celebrate the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers gave us context, a step-by-step account of deepening US involvement in Vietnam. Manning’s leaks, as Chase Madar discusses below, are more episodic and fragmentary, but equally important: “a mosaic portrait of two flailing pacification campaigns” in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as insight into other doings of US foreign policy, including diplomatic pressure to keep wages low in Haiti.

Amnesty International hailed the administration’s announcement: “Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the U.S. government for years,” said Executive Director Margaret Huang. “President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.” More here.

January 17, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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kids…

dropped my son off to college and, am embarrassed to say, cried in my car on the way back.

ah, kids… they tug at your heart in such profound ways.

even when they’re 21 🙂

January 17, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Patrice Lumumba’s assassination anniversary

On the anniversary of Patrice Lumumba’s assassination:

“In the middle of 1960, the Congo, until then a Belgian colony, celebrated its independence.

Speech followed speech, and the audience was melting from heat and boredom. Belgium, a strict teacher, warned of the dangers of freedom. The Congo, grateful pupil, promised to behave.

Then Patrice Lumumba’s speech exploded and ruined the party. He spoke out against the ‘empire of silence,’ and through him the silenced found a voice. He paid homage to the fathers of independence, the murdered, the imprisoned, the tortured, and the exiled, who throughout so many years had fought to ‘bring an end to the humiliating slavery imposed on us by force.’

His words, received in icy silence by the Europeans present, were interrupted eight times by ovations from the Africans in the audience.

That speech sealed his fate.

Lumumba, recently released from prison, had won the first free elections in Congo’s history, and headed up its first government. But the Belgian press called him a ‘delirious and illiterate thief.’ In Belgian intelligence cables, Lumumba was dubbed Satan. The director of the CIA, Allen Dulles, sent instructions to his agents:
“The removal of Lumumba must be an urgent objective.”

Dwight Eisenhower, president of the United States, told British Foreign Secretary Lord Alec Douglas-Home:
“I wish Lumumba would fall into a river full of crocodiles.”

Lord Douglas-Home took a week to reply:
“Now is the time to get rid of Lumumba.”

At the beginning of 1961, a firing squad of 8 soldiers and 9 policemen commanded by Belgian officers shot him along with his two closest collaborators.

Fearing a popular uprising, the Belgian government and its Congolese tools, Mobuto Sese Seko and Moise Tshombe, covered up the crime.

Two weeks later, the new president of the United States, John Kennedy, announced:
“We will not allow Lumumba to return to the government.”

And Lumumba, who by then had already been killed and dissolved in a barrel of sulphuric acid, did not return to the government.

Mobuto, the free world hero who trapped Lumumba and had him crushed, held power for more than thirty years. The international financial institutions recognised his merits and showered him with generosity. By the time he died, his personal fortune was nearly equal to the foreign debt of the country to which he had devoted his energies.

But Lumumba had announced:

‘History will one day have its say. It will not be the history taught in the United Nations, Washington, Paris, or Brussels. Africa will write its own history.’

The tree where Lumumba was executed still stands in the woods of Mwadingusha. Riddled with bullets. Like him.”

– Eduardo Galeano

Patrice Lumumba

January 16, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Stanford – “The other America” 1967

the speech i used as the foundation for my talk today about dr king and his formidable legacy, at the Islamic Center of Rochester Inc. full house, a rousing speech by rev marlowe washington sr who urged us to speak up for justice, references to the parting of the red sea and MLK’s status as a kind of prophet by rabbi debbie till, and the tying together of racism, poverty and war by yours truly. best of all, in the middle of my presentation, we showed a clip from the actual speech, so that we could hear dr king’s powerful words firsthand. the most charming and unexpected moment came when a little girl from the islamic center, in a white dress and a lovely white hijab, began to beatbox during a rap she and her elementary school classmates had prepared about dr king and how cool his message was. they got a well-deserved standing ovation 🙂