Category Archives: activism

Trump Playing Golf

In a ‘Mass Art Protest,’ Artists Across America Drew Trump Playing Golf on the NYTimes Cover Memorializing the 100,000 Coronavirus Dead

Marcel Dzama’s watercolor of President Donald Trump playing golf superimposed over the New York Times coronavirus cover. Photo courtesy of Marcel Dzama.

definitions of terms

From Deepa Kumar:
Looting=corporations pocketing billions in federal aid while the average person gets $1200

Rioting=police marching down residential streets throwing paint bombs at residents, unleashing violence of all sorts from snatching masks and driving SUVs into crowds.

Violence=a system that can in 24 hours equip the police to behave like an invading army, but cannot after nearly 5 months give nurses and doctors proper PPE.

Just so we are clear what these terms mean.

By the end of his life, Martin Luther King realized the validity of violence

Hanif Abdurraqib: Beyond the misattributed quotes and bad memes and poor logic made in his name, the real tragedy of King’s legacy is that the white people who so frequently invoke it in the name of peace do so with a fundamental perversion of his message. Nonviolence — as it is discussed and fetishized in proximity to the poor and/or marginalized — is so often only dragged out in response to any uprising of those people.

The riot is a language, yes, but the response to a riot is also its own language; a language of doublespeak. The call is for peace and love, but the true demand is for complete silence altogether. An NFL player takes a knee without speaking, and is threatened and hated, called a violent thug and a racist. For those of certain skin colors, no protest can be peaceful enough. More here.

protests in nyc

it was hard not to be with my #rochester fam today. i know the cops used tear gas and rubber bullets and i hope that everyone is ok. i was in nyc to pack up my daughter’s dorm room and was surprised by the heavy police presence on park ave south. i followed the faraway sounds of a crowd and discovered a massive protest at union square. people were out there raising their voices and expressing their rage. but police cars were everywhere – controlling, terrorizing. cops were standing in lines, chopping up the flow of the protest. there was a helicopter overhead creating a sense of danger and confusion with its constant, overwhelming noise. we had to bring our kids home but for a little while i felt at home here in #nyc. this is an uprising.

The Minneapolis Uprising in Context

Elizabeth Hinton: Arguably, the success of King’s brand of nonviolent direct political action—so often valorized by pundits over and against “destructive” “rioting”—depended on the presence of this violent direct political action. As King recognized, the coercive power of mass nonviolence arose in part from its ability to suggest the possibility of violent resistance should demands not be met. Therefore, we should endeavor to see violent and nonviolent expressions of black protest as entwined forces that shaped the decade. In addition, and more challenging perhaps, we should attempt to understand violent rebellion on its own terms, as a form of direct political action that was just as integral to the decade.

It can be a struggle to imagine some of the most overpoliced, marginalized, and isolated Americans as political actors, and this bias has influenced the writing of history. Even those of us interested in forms of resistance to structural racism have been reluctant to take seriously the political nature of midcentury black uprisings. Yet they were neither spontaneous nor “meaningless” eruptions. Just as much as nonviolent direct action, rebellion presented a way for the oppressed and disenfranchised to express collective solidarity in the face of punitive state forces, exploitative institutions, and calcified “democratic” institutions. More here.

My interview with instruments of memory coming up in june

#Repost @instrumentsofmemory: In June, don’t miss a two-part interview with Long Island-based activist, artist, and filmmaker Mara Ahmed | @mara__ahmed .
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In conjunction with her production company Neelum Films, Mara has written and directed three documentaries The Muslims I Know, Pakistan One on One, and A Thin Wall. She is currently working on The Injured Body, a documentary about racism in America, focusing exclusively on the voices of women of color. Mara’s artwork is described by the artist as a multimedia fusion of collage work, photography, graphic art, and film. .
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instrumentsofmemory #womeninthearts #conversationswithwomeninthearts #artist #filmmakers #activist #filmmaker #MaraAhmed #artstories #ClaudiaPretelin #womenofcolor #documentary #comingsoon

A conversation with Mara Ahmed

Jalil Muntaqim tests positive for COVID-19 and is hospitalized in New York

“A writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Jalil requesting relief based on his heightened vulnerability to contract the virus was filed on Monday, April 13. On April 27, Judge Schick in Sullivan County granted Jalil Muntaqim’s release. But New York Attorney General Letitia James appealed the judge’s decision, preventing Jalil’s release.” #freejalil
More here.

Caliban Never Belonged to Shakespeare

Marcos Gonsalez: No matter how much confidence I gain as a critic, Shakespeare’s oeuvre still confounds me. I boggle over lines, dwell on stanzas, wonder on the motivations of characters. I change my mind over meanings I thought were settled. I possess no mastery of these texts. And it takes me a long time to reconcile with the fact it’s okay to not understand or to feel like the text rejects me. It takes me a long time to learn it’s okay to linger in not knowing because there’s pleasure, there’s knowledge, to be gained in the mystery of words, of what words can do.

This kind of relationship to literature, however, is a privilege given to particular writers. The language of Shakespeare, like the language of a Melville, Whitman, Faulkner, Foucault, is difficult, hard at times, elusive and allusive, and sometimes inaccessible. And they are literature, read widely and read in classrooms. Other kinds of writers—the Morrisons or the Torres or the Kincaids—we expect to represent and identify, to speak for entire cultures and communities, to be forthcoming and transparent. We expect those who are not like the Shakespeares and the Whitmans and Foucaults to not put up a fight to be understood, to be unchallenging and welcoming, accommodating and unobtrusive.

[…] From the moment I can think, I make the connection between whiteness and language. Not to mention my Spanish is taken from me as a child in speech pathology classes, and the Purépecha language which my family at one point spoke is a twice removed robbery. Whiteness is an aspiration, a fantasy of upward mobility, a pseudo-guarantee that I and my kind will be removed from generational poverty and racial violence, a condition hundreds upon hundreds of years in the making. The tone of whiteness as it is used in the university, or in kindergarten classrooms, or creative writing workshops, or the emails one has with an editor, is one to make distinctions between who is worthy of opportunities and financial security, and who is not.

There I am through these nearly 30 years of life, being Caliban, wanting to learn the language of my many Prosperos in order to use it against them. And my family? Those dark and huddled masses? Who plays them in Shakespeare’s comedy? They are Sycorax, banished from the plot, no dialogue, no stage directions, outside the margins of one of literature’s greatest masterpieces. More here.

The Black Bolsheviks

Rather than glorify (or even dignify) war on Memorial Day, here’s a tribute to solidarity – the opposite of war. Let’s uphold Edward Said’s ‘internationalism and cosmopolitan humanism’ and remember the Black Bolsheviks.

Paul Heideman: Cyril Briggs held no illusions in the country’s ruling class, on whom he placed the vast bulk of responsibility for the oppression that Black people faced. But the call to interracial struggle against capital seemed to him a risk not worth betting Black lives for.

By late 1919 (around the time the African Blood Brotherhood was founded), however, Briggs had begun to take more of an interest in Marxism and socialism. Undoubtedly influenced by the lively intellectual milieu of Harlem radicalism, in which political giants like Hubert Harrison regularly lectured on Marxist theory on street corners, Briggs began reading more deeply in Marxism.

[…] Briggs and the other Black radicals who looked to Russia did so because they believed that racism and colonialism could not be defeated without a total remaking of their society.

They came to this conclusion by a number of routes. The sheer scale and brutality of American white supremacy in those years, crystalized during the Red Summer of 1919, dealt a serious blow to the idea that racism could be eliminated either through Black Americans reforming their own behavior, as the followers of Booker T. Washington suggested, or through a gradual process of changing laws and changing minds, as was the strategy of the NAACP.

At the same time, the explosion of class struggle across the globe, from Italy to Russia to the U.S. (which witnessed the biggest strike wave in its history in 1919), helped make concrete the hope that another world was possible. In this context, Black radicals like Briggs saw the liberation of Black people as part of a global insurrection against oppression everywhere.

In today’s world, these kinds of massive ambitions for liberation are rare. Several decades of neoliberal assault, and the parallel weakening of movements for liberation, have made it much harder to imagine a worldwide fight against all forms of oppression.
The story of the African Blood Brotherhood, which recruited and trained the first generation of Black socialist cadre in the U.S. More here.

Senate Approves $38 Billion for Israel Amid Historic Economic Downturn

‘…the bill was passed without being named, debated, or even discussed, even though it would set into law the largest such aid package in U.S. history. There has been no mention of the bill by most media in the United States.

The massive package is particularly noteworthy in light of the current devastation to the American taxpayers who will be footing the bill – over $10 million per day. In recent months approximately 30 million Americans have lost jobs, 100,000 small businesses have already closed forever, and over seven million are at risk of doing so.‘ More here.

The Worlds of Edward Said

Rashid Khalidi: Said’s alienation and worldliness were at the heart of the complexity and richness of his work; they lent him a sharper awareness of and sympathy for other cultures and stirred inside him a pointed disdain for the placid provincialism and monoglot lack of reflection among many leading figures in the American academy. Although he shared the class and educational background of many of his peers, he insisted that we see beyond the parochial bounds of the ivory tower and the self-referential culture of the West. While this critical attitude was expressed most saliently in Orientalism, it characterized much of Said’s mature work, both critical and political. In one of his last offerings, “The Return to Philology” (on what he called this “most unmodern” branch of learning), his erudite analysis is informed by a sense of the larger stakes of the specific political moment: the war in Iraq and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s casual dismissal in 1996 of the thousands of Iraqi deaths in that decade as a result of US-mandated sanctions.

Said deftly interlaced philosophy and literature with political critique. Although his political writings could be blunt, even scalding, he most often wielded a sharp scalpel in his criticism and did so with elegance and élan.

[…] As After Said and the Selected Works reveal, Said was not only politically committed; he never really stopped arguing. His vision remained, to the end, both worldly and alienated. He insisted that we see past our own national or parochial cultures in order to better understand them. He called on us to expand the narrowness of our moral and political imaginations and to see the world in its entirety as our common home. As an exile as comfortable in New York as in Beirut, Cairo, Paris, or London, he infused his literary style with a cosmopolitan ease and his often urgent politics with a cosmopolitan humanism—a humanism that remains a potent antidote to the cloistered and often nationalist chauvinism that seems to be ascendant even in an age of global crises.

Said’s internationalism and cosmopolitan humanism are perhaps his most important legacies. Human life and its challenges—whether they be pandemics, climate change, perpetual war, or neoliberal policies that impoverish the many to enrich the few—force us past the confines of national or cultural boundaries. One can only imagine how Said would have responded to the malign forces that have sabotaged the effective handling of these ongoing crises. As Saree Makdisi proposes in “Orientalism Today,” “the most appropriate thing” in the face of such folly “would be to read Edward Said all over again, as though for the very first time.” More here.

ramadan in kashmir

ramadan, or the coronavirus, have not slowed down the violence of india’s occupation in kashmir.

Hafsa Kanjwal: This Ramadan has not been one of much comfort and ease given the relentless assault of India’s occupation in Kashmir. The corona virus is the least of their concerns given the number of civilians and rebels killed, the ransacking of entire villages, the horrifying cordon and search operations, and the legal changes made that will enable demographic change to occur—at a rapid pace.

A friend just sent over this photo though, of a Quran that survived an attack by Indian forces on an entire neighborhood today—where over 15 homes were burnt and razed to the ground. So many families have lost their loved ones and their homes this past month.

But this “miracle” served as a reminder, in ways I find hard to articulate now. But, I thought to share in case others are also similarly struggling with the immense weight of injustice around them.

Photo: Saqib Majeed