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July 1, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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Ave Maria rehearsal with Misty Copeland and Clifford Williams

The American Ballet Theatre has named Misty Copeland its principal dancer – the first time a black ballerina has held the prestigious role. She had been unusually outspoken about her desire to become the first black woman to be named a principal dancer at the American Ballet. “My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company,” she wrote in her 2014 memoir. “That if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.” In March, Ms Copeland told the BBC she thought it was important to talk about being a black woman in the very white world of American ballet. “It’s incredible to be a brown swan,” she said of her current role in Swan Lake. Her performance is already credited with bringing a new diverse audience to ballet. “In the racially under-represented world of ballet, Misty has already had an historic impact,” said Damian Woetzel, a former principal dancer for New York City Ballet. “Now, as a groundbreaking principal dancer, she will continue to inspire.”

Ave Maria rehearsal with Misty Copeland and Clifford Williams from karstenstaiger on Vimeo.

July 1, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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How race is conjured

Barbara and Karen Fields: We see race not as a physical fact, but as a product of racism. And we see racism not as an attitude or a state of mind, like bigotry: it’s an action. It’s acting on a double standard, with that double standard itself based on ancestry or supposed ancestry. […] Racecraft shares characteristics with witchcraft–two in particular. First, there’s no rational causality. We often speak as if black skin causes segregation or shootings. Second, there’s (witting or unwitting) reliance on circular argument. For example, blood serves as a metaphor of race, but is often taken as a feature of race, even by scientifically trained people. So we find explanations meant to be scientific that end up using logic has to deny causality. For instance, they say Black people get this disease or that Black people have more of a certain blood factor than others, with a certain statistical frequency, but you can’t derive a causal explanation from a statistical frequency. If everyone takes race for granted, there’s no reason that scientists would wean themselves from doing the same. Race is the category they start and end with. When you have arguments or observations that do without workaday causality in the 21st century, you are on a terrain very similar to that of believers in witchcraft. In Racecraft we tell a story about a study of asthma among children living in the Bronx. The researchers had children wear monitors so they could find out exactly what emissions were in the air and what the children were actually breathing in. They reported the results and concluded the high volume of truck traffic, because of the nearby highways, contributed to the high incidence of asthma. The story as reported in the New York Times featured commentary by an expert, who agreed that the study showed this and that environmental factor had been shown to be contributors. But he said the high incidence of asthma also had to do with the high percentage of Hispanic and black children in the area. It was reported uncritically that being Hispanic or black ranked along with the actual causes of their susceptibility to asthma. That reasoning makes as much sense as claiming the things that cause asthma are pollution but also speaking Spanish in the household. Everybody would see that was ridiculous, but miss the anomaly when the subject is race. That’s what racecraft is. More here.

July 1, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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Thurston Moore Explains Nixed Tel Aviv Gig, Israel Boycott

DANIEL KREPS: After scheduling the April 27th Tel Aviv performance at the Barby Club, and after “serious deliberation,” Moore “arrived at the personal conclusion that to perform with my band in Israel was in direct conflict to my values.” The BDS Movement has called for the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. “Subsequently the choice to play in Tel Aviv, while a boycott based on principles of non-violence exists, initiated for me an active study and contemplation in which emerged an enlightenment of personal judgment,” Moore wrote. “This is in admiration to the fans, friends and neighbors who have engaged me in discussing the complicity of crossing this very real line of protest.” Moore joins an ever-growing collection of artists who have either boycotted or canceled Israel concerts in recent years; The Quietus puts the number at 1,000 British musicians alone, including Roger Waters, who for over two years has been at the forefront of the boycott. More here.

June 29, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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The Guardian view on the Sousse beach massacre: Tunisian lessons in courage

Captains are expected to get everybody else off a sinking ship before worrying about themselves. But the code of nautical chivalry does not require civilian skippers to steer their way into gunfire to save vulnerable lives, as the man in charge of one Tunisian boat off Sousse did on Friday. Nor is the captain’s code normally assumed to extend to hoteliers. But as tourists fled Seifeddine Rezgui’s bullets, they found staff “running towards the beach when we were running away”. More here.

Also, watch this video: Tunisian attack: Hotel staff ‘prepared to take bullets for us’

June 27, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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my essay in post magazine

a while back i was approached by post magazine for an interview about my work (thx carlie fishgold), mostly my film “the muslims i know.” once they learned more about my entire body of work, which includes art, film, photography and writing, they decided to let me write my own story, in my own words. it was an incredibly empowering editorial decision. it moved me immensely. i sent them two essays: one based on what i thought they were looking for (being a filmmaker in rochester) and then another one which was more loosely autobiographical and tackled my “muslimness.” they chose the second essay. it was published in the july/august issue of post magazine, with some wonderful photography by betsy traub. here are some pictures. more about post magazine here.

post mag 1

post mag 2

post mag 3

post mag 4

post mag 5

June 27, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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Undocumented Trans Activist Jennicet Gutiérrez Challenges Obama on Deportations at White House Event

what a wonderful brave woman. “President Obama’s immigration policy came under direct challenge Wednesday at the White House. As Obama spoke to a gathering celebrating LGBT Pride Month, Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented trans activist from Mexico, interrupted him from the crowd and called for an end to deportations. Gutiérrez is a founding member of Familia: TQLM, established to advocate for LGBTQ immigrants often excluded in the immigration debate.” More here.

June 27, 2015
by mara.ahmed
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Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism

Dr Robin DiAngelo: Not often encountering these challenges, we withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium. I term that push back white fragility. This concept came out of my on-going experience leading discussions on race, racism, white privilege and white supremacy with primarily white audiences. It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldviews. We can manage the first round of challenge by ending the discussion through platitudes — usually something that starts with “People just need to,” or “Race doesn’t really have any meaning to me,” or “Everybody’s racist.” Scratch any further on that surface, however, and we fall apart. Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement that we are either not consciously aware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We experience a challenge to our racial worldview as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. It also challenges our sense of rightful place in the hierarchy. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as a very unsettling and unfair moral offense. More here.