Category Archives: politics

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

happy birthday malcolm x

From Noura Erakat: Happy born day to the visionary who saw strength in our unity, who imagined us as an Afro-Asian collective, who never appealed for inclusion but insisted on liberation on our own terms. May our ongoing efforts do justice to your sacrifice. Today and everyday. #MalcolmX #Freedom

Artist: T. A. Charron, Malcolm X, 2007

COVID-19 is a practice run for climate change

great piece by my friend kate. a couple of sentences i would love to reframe:

‘It is a national security risk even when we ourselves don’t face famine. Droughts in one country displace refugees, who cause political disruption and a rise in nationalist violence in others.’

rather than look at a crisis in another country (climate change or pandemic related) as a ‘national security risk,’ we need to focus on/feel the cost of a catastrophe in terms of human suffering and the impact on our planet.

refugees are not the cause of disruptions, they are the effect of wars and climate change activated by rich countries. similarly, the cause of nationalist violence is not refugees, it’s white supremacy, which is an important part of this equation.

this is why i don’t believe in borders – because they allow us to separate and otherize based on geography and the economic privileges we aim to protect.

Kate Kressmann-Kehoe: …the pandemic and climate change are both threat multipliers: They amplify existing problems and bring previously hidden vulnerabilities to the surface. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc not just in the restaurant industry, but in the education system, pharmaceutical supply chains, global scientific research and more. It is highlighting economic inequities and racism, from the lack of the option to work from home, to higher death rates. More here.

Engaging the Oppressor Within

Nadia Ben Youssef (granddaughter of Tunisian revolutionary Salah Ben Youssef): Our own freedom is dependent on our capacity to rid ourselves of the imposed and internalized fear of the freedom of those we have criminalized, subjugated, dehumanized, and othered. This is the groundwork of social change, a constant undoing of our attachment to any manufactured elevation where we believe we come out on top. Only when we build upon this foundation can we rupture the systematized lie of human hierarchy, and ensure that our visions of liberation are not mere replicas of oppression.

[…] No oppressor can be reassured that when resources, power, and consequence are equitably allocated, they will not face profound loss and accountability. Because they must experience both. On the other side is healing and liberation, but if this truth is not enough to set you free, the fundamental work remains.

That the individual journey of dismantling internalized supremacy is fundamental and lifelong, however, can in no way be used to justify delay in justice or social transformation. Were we to wait for the critical reckoning by every member of every dominant group, the deadly, institutionalized status quo would persist into perpetuity. On the path towards justice, material conditions must be urgently altered, and harm must be immediately reduced. More here.

From Maternity Ward to Cemetery, a Morning of Murder in Afghanistan

no words. so much solidarity with the people of afghanistan.

Violent death here is so frequent, and so scattered, that an accurate count is an impossible task. But by dusk on Tuesday, when the reported deaths of the day from all sides had been tallied, the Afghan war had most likely taken 100 lives.

Of course, the night brings more death — and the next day more tallying.

What is crushing Afghans is not just the sheer brutality of the attacks with newborn babies soaked in blood and deprived of mothers before they have even gotten a name, but the failure of anything to bring a reprieve. More here.

Asian Pacific American Our Experience: Local Stories

Asian Americans is a sweeping 5-part historical series chronicling two centuries of evolving contributions and challenges experienced by Asian Americans in the United States. The series explores bold, new perspectives that recalibrate the way we look at those experiences, and reveals the vital role of Asian Americans in shaping American history and identity.’ [from Vivek Maddala who composed the music score for this series]

Episodes 1 & 2 premiered yesterday on PBS (broadcast and streaming), and Episodes 3, 4, & 5 premiere tonight (May 12) at 8 PM.

I was honored to be one of the local Asian Americans asked to share their stories and perspectives, as part of the collaboration between APAA (Asian/Pacific Islander/American Association of Greater Rochester) and WXXI. Thank you Mimi and Lily Lee for your continuing work in our community.

You can watch the spots, including my own, below. My only gripe is that, in my intro, I mentioned how I come from the Global South/colonized world and how that impacts my identity and work, which was edited out. But the rest is still here:)

Watch at this link.

The Pandemic Is the Time to Resurrect the Public University

Corey Robin: For decades, a handful of boutique colleges and powerhouse universities have served as emblems of our system of higher education. If they are not the focus of discussion, they are the subtext, shaping our assumptions about the typical campus experience. This has remained true during the pandemic. The question of reopening has produced dozens of proposals, but most of them are tenable only for schools like Brown; they don’t obtain in the context of Brooklyn College. The coronavirus has seeded a much-needed conversation about building a more equal society. It’s time for a similar conversation about the academy.

In academia, as in the rest of society, a combination of public and private actors directs wealth to those who need it least. While cuny struggles to survive decades of budget cuts—and faces, in the pandemic, the possibility of even more—donors lavish elite colleges and universities with gifts of millions, even billions, of dollars. Sometimes these donations fund opportunities for low-income students, but mostly they serve as tax-deductible transfers to rich, private institutions, depriving the public of much-needed revenue. What taxes federal and state governments do collect may be returned to those institutions in the form of hefty grants and contracts, which help fund operating budgets that Brooklyn College can only dream of. This is the song of culture in our society. The bass line is wealth and profit; the melody is diversity and opportunity.
The coronavirus has revealed to many the geography of class in America, showing that where we live and work shapes whether we live or die. Might it offer a similar lesson about where we learn? More here.

justice for Ahmaud Arbery

such rage. such heartbreak.

Adalah Justice Project: We demand justice for 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery who was killed because of the color of his skin while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. He was murdered by a white father and son who took it upon themselves to end the life of this young black man because of racism and white supremacy. May he Rest In Peace, and may there be justice for him and all of the black lives who were stolen because of this anti-black world. Artwork by @shirien.creates on Instagram.

The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World

Dear friends, I’m thrilled to share that I will be one of the women featured in a new exhibition, ‘The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World,’ inspired by the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and commemoration of the women’s suffrage movement.

The Changemakers will open on October 9, 2020 in the Riedman Gallery at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

It will be a community-curated exhibition that hopes to celebrate historical and contemporary women visionaries, trailblazers, inventors, social innovators, and entrepreneurs in western New York, through compelling, untold narratives. It will use Immersive, collections-rich spaces and hands-on experiences to give visitors new access to insights from the past, encourage gender equity in the present, and inspire a better future.

I will be there on Oct 8th! What a treat! #ChangemakersRoc