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February 3, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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Barbara Smith, founding member of the black feminist Combahee River Collective that coined the term “identity politics,” has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president

Barbara Smith: “When we use the term ‘identity politics,’ we are actually asserting that black women had a right to determine our own political agendas. We, as black women, we actually had a right to create political priorities and agendas and actions and solutions based in our experiences in having these simultaneous identities—that included other identities via the working class, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. So that’s what we meant by it. That didn’t mean we didn’t care about other people’s situations of injustice. We absolutely did not mean that we would work with people who were only identical to ourselves. We did not mean that. We strongly believed in coalitions and working with people across various identities on common problems.” More here.

February 2, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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coffee with allyson and iman

with Iman Abid and Allyson Perkins this morning at @starrynitescafe. perhaps my favorite thing about activism is to get to know strong, courageous and brilliant young women who want to change the world and are doing that hard work – it reassures me, for we are in good hands. love u both <3

January 31, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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Israel’s efforts to erase Palestinian history reflect ‘incremental genocide,’ Ehrenreich says

Ben Ehrenreich: The question about genocide – yes, it’s an incremental genocide. And I think that’s a word that gives a lot of people pause and it certainly should. We don’t see the absolute mass slaughters, although in Gaza I think we’ve seen something very much like it that we usually associate with genocide. But– the attempts to erase a people, to just erase them, to erase their history, I think follow a logic that can only be called genocidal. I mean, every time someone says– and people say it all the time, I get it on twitter all the time– “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian,” or “There was nobody there when the Zionists arrived”– these are genocidal statements, these are attempts to erase a culture, erase a history, decimate a people and I think they should be recognized as that.

Moderator Colm Toibin, the Irish novelist, pushed back, saying, that’s a very very loaded thing to say from the Israeli side, and difficult to accept, in the context of the Holocaust and European genocide. “I’m very uneasy about letting this go without questioning you one more time… I wonder if there’s another word you could use. I’m just uneasy about it.”

Ehrenreich elaborated:
You should be and we all should be. It’s an especially painful thing to talk about, given the history of the Holocaust, and as someone with a Jewish background, it’s extremely painful for me to use that word. It’s more painful to see those realities, and those historical ironies are brutal. I mentioned the Balfour Declaration because I think this always has to be put into a colonialist context. Israel is a settler colonialist society, and the one things that settler colonialist societies have in common is that they follow a genocidal logic. The one we’re living in right now. Every single one of them– South Africa, Canada, the United States, Australia, and Israel: places where settlers came in and declared the land theirs and did everything they could to either remove the people who were already there or so erase their history that they could pretend that they weren’t there. More here.

January 31, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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coffee with elisabetta

with the beautiful Elisabetta Sanino D’Amanda at Village Bakery & Cafe today – we talked about assimilation into whiteness and the loss of radical left politics, language as a political construction that buttresses ideas of a strong unified nation and subjects languages/dialects from economically marginalized regions to a linguistic/cultural hegemony, and how homes can be living, breathing, organic repositories of memories and histories and dismantling them involves a kind of grieving… such deep rich conversations elisabetta – will miss u amica.

elisabetta sanino d’amanda and mara ahmed

January 30, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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‘Islamophobia is Racism’ at First Unitarian Church of Rochester

I will be presenting at First Unitarian Church of Rochester on Thursday Feb 6, 7-9 pm. The topic will be ‘Islamophobia is Racism’ (part of the ‘Race, Racism and Relationship’ series at First Unitarian Church).

As white supremacy becomes emboldened in America, overt racism has re-entered civil discourse and there has been a corresponding surge in Islamophobia. The word Islamophobia is used frequently by mainstream media, yet few understand its social construction, historical context, or operation in everyday life.

This interactive, multimedia workshop will help explicate the term, locate it in history, and clarify its overlap with racism. The presentation will be followed by group activities and an open discussion. Thank you Barbara De Leeuw for organizing this before our move. Looking forward.

January 29, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

loved!

Nathan Heller: The Last Black Man in San Francisco was funded in part by Kickstarter and was drawn from Jimmie Fails’s own experience: he did grow up poor in the city, and his family did once live in such a house. In that sense, it’s a report on an African-American presence that truly is fading—the percentage of black residents in San Francisco is less than half what it was in 1970, and sits today around a measly six per cent—and it captures the experience of displacement, of travelling among spheres in which you have increasingly little say or stake and trying to blend in. At Sundance, the film won a directing award and a special-jury prize, and it captured viewers’ imaginations as a human window onto the city’s rocky transformation. Fails and Talbot have been friends since late childhood, when Fails was in a housing project and Talbot was living nearby, and they made the movie while living in Talbot’s parents’ home. Their film is frank not only in its portrait of the real-estate pressures that make San Francisco a shorthand for self-stifling unaffordability but in its reports on the habits and moods of the place. From the platinum-hued outdoor light to the rollicking skateboard rides across town, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” feels of San Francisco, and its characters are vivid with the offbeat pursuits that give the city’s residents their bizarre glow. In the world of the film, as in real life, everyone is bound by a common anxiety, and the movie gently suggests that many middle-class San Franciscans can see aspects of their own displacement panic in the black experience of Jimmie Fails. The fear is not just that you’ll lose your place in town but that the place will lose all memory of you.

January 29, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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coffee with muna

with the fabulous Muna Najib today – we talked about the western binary of emotion vs rationality and whether women could be empowered by means other than sex (made me think of saba mahmood’s work on the women’s mosque movement in cairo) – fascinating stuff 🙂 will miss u habibti.

January 28, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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citizen kane is boring

so coming back to an earlier discussion about why i don’t think ‘citizen kane’ is the best film ever made. first of all, i have an issue with top 10 (or even top 100) lists. they’re mostly created by self-righteous critics/arbiters of taste who think they’re better than everyone else and since their opinions are sold as such (expert, valuable, sacrosanct), the film/artwork’s rating becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. if such lists were compiled more organically, bottom-up, they wouldn’t be static or anachronistic. also, films/art wouldn’t be assessed eternally through the lens of white heteropatriarchy, which is so very tired.

as a friend pointed out, citizen kane’s cinematography, camera angles, structure and writing might have been inventive for its time, but our response to art is visceral – it’s not some kind of intellectual calculus, rather an emotional response. i’ve never been able to watch the entire film, all the way to the end. it doesn’t engage me.

if u think about it, why should an american film made by a white man in 1941 be universally accepted as the best film ever? my repository of favorite movies doesn’t have room for ‘citizen kane.’ here are a few films (in no particular order) that work much better for me. pls check them out if u haven’t already.

Garam Hava by M.S. Sathyu
This 1973 Indian feature by first-time director M.S. Sathyu takes place in the days immediately following the Indo-Pakistani partition, as a Muslim shoemaker (Balraj Sahni) in Agra, India, tries to resist the prejudice and economic pressure that tempt him to abandon his family business and emigrate to Pakistan. Sathyu brings a naturalist touch to this detailed family drama, shooting in color and on the streets, often with a handheld camera.

Charulata by Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray’s exquisite story of a woman’s artistic and romantic yearning takes place in late nineteenth-century, pre-independence India, in the gracious home of a liberal-minded, workaholic newspaper editor and his lonely wife, Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee). When her husband’s poet cousin (Soumitra Chatterjee) comes to stay with them, Charulata finds herself both creatively inspired and dangerously drawn to him. Based on a novella by the great Rabindranath Tagore, Charulata is a work of subtle textures, a delicate tale of a marriage in jeopardy and a woman taking the first steps toward establishing her own voice.

Close-up by Abbas Kiarostami
This fiction-documentary hybrid uses a sensational real-life event — the arrest of a young man on charges that he fraudulently impersonated the well-known filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf — as the basis for a stunning, multilayered investigation into movies, identity, artistic creation, and existence, in which the real people from the case play themselves. With its universal themes and fascinating narrative knots, CLOSE-UP — one of Kiarostami’s most radical, brilliant works — has resonated with viewers around the world.

In The Mood For Love by Wong Kar-wai
The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo
Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa
Scenes From A Marriage by Ingmar Bergman
Miss Julie by Alf Sjöberg
Titus by Julie Taymor
Away From Her by Sarah Polley
The Sea Inside by Alejandro Amenábar
Moonlight by Barry Jenkins
Una mujer fantástica by Sebastián Lelio
Bab’Aziz by Nacer Khemir
Korkoro by Tony Gatlif
The Double Life of Veronique by Krzysztof Kie?lowski
Forever by Heddy Honigmann

i could go on:)

January 28, 2020
by mara.ahmed
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NYT’s attacks on Bernie

Tithi Bhattacharya: The NY Times attacks on Bernie are really nothing compared to what they will pull if he gets the nomination.

It is crucial that the Sanders campaign tack radically left right now and not try to prove his “electability” –(whatever the hell that is).

This means to emphasise, not downplay, the anti-racist, feminist and anti-imperialist aspects of our vision–rather than push/occlude them under banal universalities–like “we are for everyone”.

We are not for everyone–we are for the working class and the oppressed of this world.