Why we need to stop calling Afghanistan “The Graveyard of Empires”

“Attributing imperial failures in Afghanistan, whether historical or current, to a combination of what Nivi Manchanda (in her Imagining Afghanistan) calls a “trans-historical, congenital Afghan predisposition” and “geographic determinism,” obscures more than it reveals: It prevents any serious analysis of why America and its allies’ 20-year mission failed so badly. It precludes drawing any lessons from their experiences there. And it forestalls any moral reckoning for either the damage inflicted by the occupation or the harms that will inevitably result from our withdrawal. After all, it was broken when we got here.“ More here.

An Open Letter to Airbnb

“Nearly every property that comes up for sale is snapped up in days by a holiday rental company for far more money than any local family can afford to pay. If the trajectory continues — and there’s no indication that it won’t — there’s a good chance our local school will close before our child has a chance to attend.

I can’t describe to you the sinking feeling I get in my stomach every time a sixty-year-old suburban woman stops in front of our place and says to her husband, “oh, that one would be cute,” or worse, when a holiday rental company van pulls up and snaps a photo of our home.

There’s a ticking clock that hangs over our heads, counting down the days until we’ll inevitably have to move to a less desirable location, into likely a much smaller place, and still pay way more money, thanks to the commodification of real estate in the hands of Airbnb land-lorders.

…Airbnb guests: I encourage you to stay in hotels, resorts, regulated bed and breakfasts, and in real commercially-zoned vacation rental properties, not in residential neighborhoods. If you want to use Airbnb in an ethical manner, do your due diligence to ensure that the property you’re renting is a bona fide owner-occupied unit and not a unit that has been taken away from a family. It’s deeply troubling to enjoy family vacation time in a space when you know another family has lost theirs — it’s time to make the Golden Rule popular again.

Citizens: Lobby your city councilors, county clerks, state representatives, and Congresspeople to ban all commercial activity and investment in residential real estate. Whether they include a 500% second house premium, a cost-prohibitive landlording license, or an outright ban on non-owner-occupied clerkless hotel rentals, we simply must drive investors out of the residential real estate market.” More here.

we are lady parts

watched the first 4 episodes of ‘we are lady parts.’ wow. it’s one of the best shows i’ve seen. ever. nida manzoor (the writer, creator, director) is an absolute genius. how long have we (muslim/brown) women waited for something like this. can a show this creative and trope-free even be produced in america? i hope so. we need more.

Call to Action — Afghan-American Coalition

lots of posts on afghanistan. just wanna say, pls center the afghan people. otherwise what’s the point. it’s more of the same. here is what we can do to support people in afghanistan: prioritize evacuations, special immigrant visas, humanitarian assistance, and welcoming refugees. write/talk to ur representatives. more details here.

Trailer for The Injured Body

Dear friends and fam, it is with immense pleasure and hope that I would like to share the official trailer for The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America. I have been working on this documentary (inspired by Claudia Rankine’s poetry) for three years now. I have interviewed remarkable women and collaborated with incredible dancers. My closest partners in this project have been Rajesh Barnabas (cinematography, sound, post production), Mariko Yamada (dance choreography, costume design, translation between dance and film), Erica Jae (photography) and Tom Davis (music) – the most talented and kindest people on the planet. It has been an extraordinary, eye-opening, emotional experience. I hope that some of the beauty and brilliance we experienced while filming will come through in this short preview. I’ll finish editing by the end of this year and will be working with Don Casper on post-production early next year. Pls ‘like’ and comment on YouTube if you can. And pls share widely.

Coming in 2022, this…… is…… The Injured Body.

More info at NeelumFilms.com.

afghanistan <3

thinking about the people of afghanistan – their strength and perseverance in the face of unimaginable horrors and deprivations for 42 years. the soviets invaded in 1979 and left in 1989, this was followed by a cruel civil war, a taliban takeover that devolved into tyranny, and then a brutal american invasion and military occupation which lasted twenty years (2001-2021). as american troops leave, people’s lives have been thrown into a tailspin, once again. the taliban controlled most of the country anyway and now they are back in power. it’s 2001 all over again. and what does american imperialism (with all its talk of democracy and women’s rights) leave behind except for torture sites and malnutrition? nothing. kabul falls like saigon fell in the 1970s, and it’s up to the people of afghanistan to pick up the bombed-out shards of their lives. shame on all those who used afghanistan as a ploy for their great games, proxy wars, and neocon experiments. no more imperialism, war or military occupation. open all borders and allow people to move freely, wherever they feel safe. unequivocal solidarity with all our friends and neighbors in afghanistan who have suffered too much and for too long already.

pakistan and india’s independence days

on pakistan and india’s independence days, i dream of a shift away from the gendered nature of colonialism and its legacies. an end to patriarchy, casteism, the oppression of minorities, capitalist greed and its inequities, and all structures of violence in south asia. more water and sustainability, more equality and justice, more comfort and happiness for all. one day, inshallah.

Comrades and organizations in Ayiti/Haiti

From the Movement 4 Black Lives:

“On August 14th, 2021 the people of Ayiti/Haiti experienced another devastating earthquake that has left more than 1,200 dead and hundreds of thousands injured. The people of Ayiti deserve our solidarity. Instead, we are witnessing what we have seen many times before, disaster capitalists and proponents of US imperialism swarming, prioritizing the consolidation of profit and power over the needs of the people. The lack of action to defend Black Lives in Ayiti/Haiti is yet another reminder of why we say Black Lives Matter.

The solution? Solidarity in practice. We have learned from survivors of man-made climate disasters here in the US, that we must not only support the immediate needs of the Haitian people, we must also commit to their long term needs and their right to be self-determined.

The Haitian people are part of a powerful legacy of resistance, courage and dedication.

Here is a list of trusted comrades and organizations either based in Ayiti or connected with Ayiti with deep roots and integrity.”

owners of the earth at ICA

also at ICA’s watershed:

“Boston-based artist Stephen Hamilton highlights the generations-long tradition of indigo dyeing in West Africa too often ignored in the accounting of early American history. Included is Hamilton’s painting Owners of the Earth (2020), a richly layered mixed-media work that refers to traditional artforms and philosophies from the Yoruba people in West Africa. The work is accompanied by a description of the unrecognized historical contributions of West Africa to indigo use in the Americas and educational materials depicting indigo dyeing techniques that the artist adopted during his research in southwestern Nigeria. Hamilton brings these histories—referenced in Firelei Baez’s monumental Watershed installation—to life through words, images, and textiles.”

institute of contemporary art in boston

it rained today so spent the entire day at ICA (the institute of contemporary art in boston). took the ferry to the north side of the boston harbor to visit ICA’s watershed – a wonderful gallery space. right now it is housing the work of dominican american artist firelei báez:

“In her largest sculptural installation to date, the artist reimagines the archeological ruins of the Sans-Souci Palace in Haiti as though they were revealed in East Boston after the sea receded from the Watershed floor. The Watershed’s location—in a working shipyard and as a trade site and point of entry and home for immigrants over decades—provides a pivotal point of reference. Báez embeds Sans-Souci within the geological layers of Boston, where histories of revolution and independence are integral to the city’s identity. This site-specific installation will invite visitors to traverse passageways and travel through time, engaging with streams of influence and interconnectedness. The work’s intricately painted architectural surfaces include symbols of healing and resistance, patterning drawn from West African indigo printing traditions (later used in the American South), and sea growths native to Caribbean waters. Báez’s sculpture points to the centuries-long exchanges of ideas and influence between Europe, the African continent, and the Americas.”

A Thin Wall screening in the UK

This is exciting UK friends!

Repost from @ukasianfilmfestival:

To mark @southasianheritagemonth_uk & celebrate both India & Pakistan Independence Day, #reelN & @modernfilmsent are screening documentary film A THIN WALL. Screening to take place from Friday 13th August to Friday 20th August, Geo blocked to the UK only. There will also be an online Q&A that can be accessed with the ticket price. Purchase tickets via the Modern Films website: modernfilms.com/athinwall.

Event organised by ReelN Ltd @aman_kdhillon and supported by UKAFF.

A THIN WALL (2015)
Duration: 65 mins
Director: @mara__ahmed
Co-Producer: @surbhid1

A THIN WALL is a documentary about memory, history and the possibility of reconciliation. It focuses on the Partition of India in 1947, but derives lessons that remain urgently relevant today. Shot on both sides of the border, in India and Pakistan, A THIN WALL is a personal take on Partition rooted in stories passed down from one generation to another. It is written and directed by Mara Ahmed and co-produced by Surbhi Dewan. Both filmmakers are descendants of families torn apart by Partition. The film is also a work of art infused with original animation, music and literary writing.

plymouth breakwater

today walked along plymouth breakwater (it protects plymouth sound/anchorages). not interested in plymouth rock, settler colonial myths, or all the pilgrim museums/statues but enjoyed walking along jenney pond all the way to the grist mill. this area is beautiful no doubt, but the blue lives matter flags are disturbing. the arrival of the colonizers is commemorated endlessly with no mention of the indigenous peoples who lived/live here and own this magnificent land. this historical narrative needs to be corrected. we know better.

On indigeneity

Language is important. It can help us clarify our thinking, by crystallizing ideas and making grounded analysis possible, or it can befuddle, disorient, and completely disengage with reality – not only our own but also that of our human family. I will try to be as clear as possible in this post.

I agree with Mary Adams that it’s good Brighton is being exposed for what it is. I have heard stories about how hard it is for Black kids at the town’s high school and how they’re frequently harassed by police, so I never understood the charms of Brighton’s so-called success with diversity.

It’s unfortunate that this unravelling of the Brighton myth is happening at the expense of Robin Wilt, the only Black woman on their town board. She is being persecuted by a large (and extremely loud) portion of Brighton’s Jewish community for posting a picture with Linda Sarsour and saying the words, “Free Palestine.”
That Linda and Robin are both women of color is no accident. Zionism is a European, ethnonational, Jewish-supremacist ideology. How is it supposed to treat people of color or women for that matter?

Amidst all the brouhaha and surreal accusations, the word “indigeneity” has been thrown around by Robin’s attackers. It’s also incorporated into some of the softer liberal Zionist discourse coming from people who support Robin. So let’s be linguistically precise.

Israel is a settler colony. It is justified by the same kind of self-righteous, racist propaganda as America’s Manifest Destiny, “a phrase coined in 1845 and the idea that the United States is destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent.” At the last Brighton town meeting, one of Robin’s detractors used the words “Gospel-given right” to claim indigeneity to Middle Eastern land. It fits.

Palestinian Jews are indigenous, of course, but the white people ranting against Robin and harassing Palestinian Muslim families in the audience are not. Neither were the founders of Israel. They were white European settlers with generational links to European lands, not Palestine.

What is indigeneity? See this document from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, but here are some ways to understand “indigenous”:

• Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.
• Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
• Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
• Distinct social, economic or political systems
• Distinct language, culture and beliefs
• Form non-dominant groups of society
• Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.

The settlers who moved to Israel cannot claim any of these continuities. Neither can they be called a non-dominant group by any stretch of the imagination. Their military, economic, and political power and privilege are obvious. They (Jews with European ancestry in particular) occupy the highest echelons of an apartheid system where the Palestinians are so savagely oppressed even their food and water are controlled.

From the same UN document: “Indigenous peoples often have much in common with other neglected segments of societies, i.e. lack of political representation and participation, economic marginalization and poverty, lack of access to social services and discrimination. Despite their cultural differences, the diverse indigenous peoples share common problems also related to the protection of their rights. They strive for recognition of their identities, their ways of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources.” — almost a word for word description of the Palestinian struggle.

To co-opt the word “indigenous” and apply it to colonizers is a stunning bastardization and corruption of language.

If 2,000-year-old connections to land define indigeneity, then we are all indigenous to Africa. But I doubt it means that we can (or should) walk into an African country, move into someone else’s house, and resort to ethnic cleansing and genocide in order to be able to return home.

Let’s be careful and intentional with our words. Otherwise “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.”

Remembering Bob Moses

Bob Moses passed away on July 25th. Here are powerful words from Margaret Burnham’s excellent tribute, Remembering Bob Moses, 1935–2021:

“In telling this personal anecdote, I violate what Bob Moses taught us—not didactically but by his example. The first-person singular pronoun, a dangerous thing, should be used sparingly by those who seek to break the deafening silence of the subordinated.

Bob Moses’s storied life is the stuff of myth, told in scores of books, films, and archives, and crowned with a “genius” award. Perhaps less well-rehearsed is what he imparted to those of us who worked with him about how to move around in communities that were not ours but were of us, how to learn from the unschooled, how to be a charismatic follower rather than an acclaimed leader.”