Animal Farm

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by Professor A.L.I.

George Orwell’s seminal text, is an allegory that remains as pertinent to our status quo, as it was in the time he penned it.  Orwell intended his eponymous farm to be symbolic, and in interviews, spoke to his intention to speak to the Russian Revolution through his novel.  The story explores the tensions of the worker through the lens of animals, and the role of the ruling class through a farmer’s tyranny.  Sadly, this very dialectic and tension is exacerbated now, and the past ten years have seen movements from Occupy Wallstreet, to economic tensions leading to extreme polarization that brought about the elections of Trump, Brexit and nearly wrought France under the leadership of Le Pen.  Those on the bottom, exemplified by the domesticated beasts in the text, are the people, and it is to this population I wanted to speak to, and address the very realistic tensions that we face in this day and age.

For this reason, I remixed and re-released Animal Farm, to pay homage to this text, and to the tensions we face currently—and combined with the beautiful cover art by Adam Hunter Peck, hope to draw attention to the core message—that change is needed.

Early in the song, I state: “The battle of righteous souls, versus those sick, like a war in Benghazi, the blood of Qaddafi…” referring to a tension I notice daily on my social media timeline, which seems to between principled people and a polarizing media programming.  Global events are spun to be about one thing, when in truth, they are motivated by the same base desires as the farmer in the Orwellian framing, which is an insatiable desire for profit, or greed.

Later, I talk about how this tension, leads to coalition building by those who are divested, and are seeking change.  This group has symbolic leadership, which I speak to with the lines, “I carry Malcolm’s martyrdom, like Yuri Kochiyama,” and further emphasize this with the lines “I’m Caeser with Montablan, Conquest, part five,” which invokes the classic Planet of the Apes film where the Apes rebel and takeover. The idea of a revolution, is change, and when one is seemingly imprisoned by economics, or by politics, breaking free is a part of that change.  This is why I say, “like an ambulance Assata used to escape from prison, I seek a vehicle like Hagar’s quest for a vision.”

Escape from a practical system of economic servitude that the masses participate in is the whole, point, which brings us to the hook: “this world we live upon, is an animal farm; choose to be livestock, or choose to be armed; raise the alarm, like these Beasts of England; because their feast’s beginning, with our children.”

That chorus needs no explanation, as it invokes Animal Farm, the text, specifically—even referencing the song “Beasts of England,” which is the revolutionary song the animals in the book sing as they takeover.  I further elaborate the point, about oppression and tyranny with the lines, “we are the Injuns that feed their engine, brown spots in their field of vision; like colors in prisms, light division, sufficient, yet white imprisons; in missions, hacienda’s, (migrant) farms and plantations; globalization, this life is leased to own by corporations.”

It is truly a tension between corporations and people, where the people are beasts of burden, and in this framing, they are destined to come together as a result, since they are all being victimized.  Thus, the lines, “red; yellow, brown and black, given cancer and heart attacks; alcohol & cigarette packs, secret police, infrared tags; on minarets, prayer halls, even ten Gurus on the walls; doesn’t matter as long, as beard is long, silent prayer calls; whether in turban or veiled by curtain, were just beasts of burden.”

I hope this piece, helps spark that coalition building of all oppressed people, so we cease to be beasts of burden, and help usher in a better world together.

Peace.

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How To Kill A Troll

HowToKillATroll

Dissecting the Troll

J.K. Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien have taught me one undeniable truth about trolls; that the lack intellectual capacity.  Furthermore, in childhood I learned from simple legends and lore, that trolls lurk under bridges.  Therefore, I should be unsurprised that as an educator, artist, and human being, in the habit of building bridges, and combatting ignorance, that I would attract the attention of these dimwitted beasts.

Most recently, in pieces dedicated to eradicating Islamoracism/Islamophobia or satire critiquing colonial constructions that remain a part of the framework of our status quo, I’ve attracted these trolls.  They lurk on social media, where I share these articles, and songs, and share their ineloquent hatred of me under the bridges I lay with these public posts.  The most common phrase is “go back to where you came from,” which is ironic, in that I am a product of the colonial monster that was set into motion by the wicked wizards that also created these trolls—I would gladly go back to the royalty of my ancestral roots, if they too would recede into the coal-lined-caves from where toxic DNA emerged.

Name-calling doesn’t work on trolls—since words usually go over their heads.   They understand our world only in black and white terms, in which they see what they are as purely good, and whatever is “other” as existing to serve them.  Ignoring these trolls does not sit well with the educator in me either.  I recognize that beneath their grotesque form, mutated by bad magic, and a long-standing legacy of hatred, that they are simplistic beings, who are merely frightened.  To this end, Wordsmyths was born—to educate, annihilate ignorance, and unify that strand of humanity within all of us, my acknowledging the divinity in us all—and by extension our connection to the universe.

WordsmythsWhat does Wordsmyths mean?

A wordsmith is a colloquialism for an individual with deep diction and proficiency with language.  I spell it, purposefully with “myth” replacing “-mith” in order to convey a different meaning.  Specifically, I was speaking to the “mythology” that created trolls in the first place.  Myths, created by “Wordsmyths” to help control ignorant, blind followers, and distract them from the reality of our connection.  The refrain in the song about “One God” is about the “one reality” that binds us all—that the notion of separation is not real, but truly a construction of simplistic minds.

This song is not a critique on religion, or any dogma, but a critique on ignorance.  It is also critique on patriarchy and colonialism (which are also based on and supported by falsified social construction).  The lines “Like the sun and moon, swimming in their own orbits,” refer to the Quranic verses about theses celestial bodies in a chapter, that has an oft-repeated refrain, “which of the favors of your Lord do you deny.”  It’s a chapter that reveals to the reader, in depth of reflection, that the entire universe is one reality and that we are all connected to the many miraculous things in it.  I follow the lines with “our suns and moons, left upon strange doorsteps, African origins…”  These lines are a clear critique of the social construction of race, of colonial realities and chattel slavery—it posits the notion that we are all truly African, coming from one place of origin as homo sapiens.

The lines “phantom opera mask, covers our Moorish features…” refers to the idea that those constructed as “others,” must don masks in order to be relevant in a farcically socially constructed society, such as ours.  Death is referenced, as is life, in creating a sense of liminality throughout this piece.  The lines “Last days, face east, it’s gorgeous, sunset, earth flipped, cats are sorted” refers to the scientific phenomena of pole shift (where magnetic poles shift their positivity and negativity) ostensibly shifting what we consider North and South, as well as lines in Abrahamic faith based traditions about the last days.  The lines “On horizon, I see a cubed Borg ship.” is a nod to Gene Roddenberry and my inner fanboy, while at the same time, envisioning a cube, or Kaaba, as a vehicle for cosmic travel.

Later I say, “religion constructed; pay the doorman, life distorted, rather be a free man like Morgan; yet forging our own chains on purpose; burn bill of rights and habeas corpus, freedom forfeit…”  These lines specifically call out the idea of religion as a construction, and the idea of the promise of freedom of religion, something that chains us to the idea that this is a reality, furthering our separation from the idea of the oneness of the divine and hence our reality, and therefore ourselves.  The verse takes a political turn, when I speak to the truth of what this can mean to a subsection of a population, victimized by Islamoracism, by saying, “unsupported, innocent souls are deported, to an island (Guantanamo), tortured and water boarded, truth serum injected, falsehoods recorded, justifying barrels, oil barons have hoarded, this America, hegemons have exported…”

These lines specifically call out the trolls to respond to a reality that is a clear violation of that document they choose to hold dear, as they champion this land—it is this egregious hypocrisy that not only leads to Guantanamo but to “Muslim Bans” and the dignity of those racialized as “Muslims” in ignorant minds in a hate filled society.

The song finally ends with the argument that our unity, is not an extrapolation from any text, but something manifest in our minds, and the acceptance of the logic of this argument, that we are all connected, leads to peace, in soul and body: “Don’t dismiss it as, ‘Oh yeah, it’s from a core text.’ Process this; in your cerebral cortex. My body says PEACE, my Ka* says hotep.** Who will you worship? One God or wordsmiths?”

PEACE

Professor A.L.I.

*spirit in Kemetic/**peace in Kemetic

p.s. So how do you kill a Troll?  By making them bob their head to knowledge manifest on the mic.

I Am a Muslim Because of Saint Thomas

saintthomas

Dear World,

If I you label me a Christian, due to my love for Jesus Christ and Mary, my adherence to the lessons taught by him, it is because I learned Christianity not from colonizers but from Saint Thomas.

Saint Thomas was the apostle of Jesus who migrated to South Asia and guided many towards the love of Jesus, and worship of God almighty.  What he taught was so close to the principles in the Old Testament that when Western Christians encountered the Malabar and Tamil Christians they exclaimed that these Christians were too Jewish in their practice.  They avoided pork and observed the Sabbath and these were qualities that seemed far from the practice of Roman Catholicism.

The Christians in Asia at that point had not been edited by the Council of Nicea, nor were they split in thought by a break in Eastern Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, and they also weren’t part of the narrative that would see Martin Luther and John Calvin amongst others challenge the power of the Church.  King James hadn’t issued the Bible they were reading and somehow they were coexisting alongside the oldest Jewish Community of the Diaspora, Hindus of various practices and varnas, as well as Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims, not to mention Buddhists and Jains.  This was a pluralistic society that saw commonality and love.  This is the Christianity I know and practice, though you see my practice as a Muslim—the essence is the same.

I have Saint Thomas to thank for that, and to honor him, I created this piece:

Peace,

Ali

Merry Christmas.

Happy Tamil New Year! (Puthandu Vazthukal!)

Puthandu_Vazthukal_Tamil_New_Year

Puthandu Vazthukal! (Happy Tamil New Year!) by Professor A.L.I.

This morning my children awoke, like I did as a child, came downstairs with their sleepy eyes and looked upon the Tamil New Year display with mango, guava and green bananas representing the fruits of our people, betel leaves showing our fortune, turmeric for our health, gold jewelry passed down my family for generations, coins from places we as Tamil people have lived in the Diaspora, next to it is an open copy of the Tirukkural showcasing the spiritual knowledge of our people and a mirror to reflect on our past. Next to the table were gifts for my two children and this year we celebrated the new year of our people by playing Tamilmatic, a piece of art, telling the Tamil story of struggle, sacrifice and survival.

2pac in Tamil explores the impact of the Kavi, or poet on society

Tamilmatic, the album, is in a way, its own display for the Tamil New Year. For example we Tamils great each other on this day by saying “Puthandu Vazthukal!” or “Happy New Year!” and Tamilmatic opens with an introductory track that introduces the album, greeting the listener with a Sanskritic hymn/prayer that is cut short by a the nadaswaram, a Tamil clarinet, and affirmation of the Tamil culture. The rest of the album is like the Tamil New Year display itself. The song Vampire Kiss, talks about the history of the gold jewelry and Red Dot traverses the planet, like the coins on display, and speaks to the Diaspora of our people. The fruits of the album are Saint Thomas, Herstory, and Our Queen, which pay homage to figures from Tamil History who had a profound impact on humanity. Coolie High, Mappila! and Serendipitious showcase our survival and like the turmeric our health and longevity on this planet, in spite of the challenges we faced. 2pac in Tamil, which explores the power of words, of our Mahakavi, or greatest poet, Bharatiyar, and is like the holy text the Tirukkural; and Card Game, which tells the story of our people’s success, despite our hurdles and shows our fortune like the betel leaves in the New Year’s display. 

Our Queen tells the story of Queen Velu Nachiyar who defeated the British East India Company

Tamilmatic follows the following three branches of our global journey: the Coolie Slave trade, Post-Colonial migration and a refugee crisis stemming from a brutal war and it finds a way to remain upbeat and positive, like the impact our people have had on this planet. So please celebrate Tamil New Year with us by getting a copy of Tamilmatic on iTunes or Amazon, or streaming it for free on Spotify and through the music, walk the journey made by millions of Tamils.

 

 

Herstory

ValliammaHerstory by Professor A.L.I.

I have been duped; both my career and my education have been farcical parts of a grand lie that is perpetrated by an insidious system, which perpetually emboldens itself through the enforced inequity and disenfranchisement of its binary opposites.  Patriarchy is this evil, as it remains rooted in maintaining an illusion of male superiority in order to tip the scales in the favor of power structure and systems of knowledge that favor its interpretation of the world.  Like an overgrown and incessant vine, it chokes out the life of our mother earth, with the very umbilical cord that gave those who would champion its cause relevance in the first place.  Its branches can be seen in pronouns replicated by misogynists throughout time, the presumptions of normalcy of gendered language where words like MANkind means human being and HEroes are almost always “he’s”.  It manifests itself in the strange fruit of a gender wage gap and power imbalance.  The leaves of this evil plant spread from west to east, north and south, and the privilege of shade that it gives men is the strongest form of privilege globally, period.  This is why, under the weight of the realization of this, I find myself, as a man looking into the mirror and seeing the lie of my career choice to be an educator of history stare back at me—I was trained to be a HIStorian, meaning that I was actually trained to focus the light upon men, at the expense or at the absence of the feminine.  Herstory is therefore my attempt to not only make amends, but to help focus the light on those that deserve it and elucidate truths that are shrouded from the masses who unknowingly perpetuate a mirage of masculine superiority when they invariably participate in the systems manufactured by patriarchy for this purpose.  Herstory is a refocusing of the lens upon those who gave so much, never to be acknowledged for their contribution.  It is a challenged to “his” story, and a conscious attempt to rebalance the scales in favor of a just exposition of our collective human story.

Valliamma

Let us begin with the tale of Thillaiyadi Valliammai, who died, over a hundred years ago on February 22nd, 1914.  Known as Valliamma, she sparked a movement that had an impact upon the planet, yet her name is unknown to most.  She remains a footnote in the history of men who take credit for the inspiration she gave humanity and her profound impression upon the herstory of our planet is dismissed by pseudo-academics as unworthy of study.  She is hidden behind the aggrandized icon of a racist and shrewdly evil politician, who was also a sexual abuser of young women, yet is refashioned by HIStory as a wise sage and pundit, one to be revered and considered great, and a role model for all of huMANity.

This is her story:

Valliamma was a young Tamil woman and a daughter of Tamil migrants (who were part of an early Tamil diaspora, which saw slavery re-legalized in a new system called coolie labor and which led to the spread of Tamil people throughout the planet) who found themselves in the apartheid regime of South Africa and here is where her story begins.  Valliamma did not realize she lived in an apartheid state when she was young.  In the early 1900’s women could not even vote in America, let alone feel they had power in the colonial world, or within an apartheid regime at that—and yet as a teen, Valliamma found herself protesting laws that were directed, ultimately at her womb, and those of other women.  Anti-marriage laws (promoting Christian marriages) and anti-miscegenation laws were designed to reaffirm patriarchal power structures.  Valliamma’s Tamil community was disproportionately affected by the former and in a patriarchal society, where women were already powerless in so many ways, by creating a law that makes marriages null and void, women are doubly targeted since “unmarried” women, especially those who have children or are pregnant could be classified as prostitutes and thereby be abused, imprisoned and/or expelled from the country and the only way out of this predicament by subjecting oneself to a marriage in the church meant that women had to endure another layer of subjugation under the masculine power structure and iconography of the Christian church in South Africa.

Valliamma was a teenager who, along with her mother Mangalam, decided to march from Transvaal to Natal, with women protesting the apartheid state.  This march was illegal, as workers needed passes to even leave certain areas, and she was arrested.  It was here that Valliamma started to develop a conviction for the idea of non-violent resistance and begin hunger fasts.   This was long before Mandela, Bobby Sands, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mohandas K. Gandhi ever engaged in such practices.  Even Gandhi had to acknowledge the inspiration he took from Valliamma, who he’d consider the first satyagrahi (a practitioner of satyagraha, or “the force of truth”, aka non-violent resistance).

In subsequent protests she was arrested, sentenced to three months hard labor, and spent her last days in Martizburg prison.  She was offered clemency, but refused.  It was this conviction that compelled, Gandhi, a young lawyer in South Africa at the time to visit her.  He writes in his Satyagraha in South Africa:

“Valliamma R. Munuswami Mudaliar was a young girl of Johannesburg only sixteen years of age. She was confined to bed when I saw her. As she was a tall girl, her emaciated body was a terrible thing to behold.

‘Valliamma, you do not repent of your having gone to jail?’ I asked.

‘Repent? I am even now ready to go to jail again if I am arrested,’ said Valliamma.

“But what if it results in your death?’ I pursued.

‘I do not mind it. Who would not love to die for one’s motherland?’ was the reply.

“Within a few days after this conversation Valliamma was no more with us in the flesh, but she left us the heritage of an immortal name…. And the name of Valliamma will live in the history of South African Satyagraha as long as India lives.”

Some assert that Gandhi’s input in the creation of the modern flag of India, was designed with the color scheme of Valliamma’s sari, which she held up, not having a flag of her own during one of her non-violent protests.

Valliamma StampClearly Valliamma has had a profound impact in the way human beings could change the world—and her impact on South Africa, South Asia, and movements all over the world including our own Civil Rights movement have manifest in ending colonialism, segregation and ultimately apartheid, yet her simple grave is shadowed by the monoliths erected for the champions of those other movements, but none more so than Gandhi, who has become its symbol.

In this past century when the human being who had the greatest impact on those last hundred years was posed by TIME magazine, the finalists were Einstein and Gandhi and I found myself both incredulous and overwhelmed by the sheer weight of ignorance the world had about this man.

Gandhi was far from being the embodiment of truth that HIStory would have you believe—if you ever sat with my father, he would give you an earful on how Gandhi single-handedly destroyed any hopes for Tamil and Dravidian peoples for having their own state, lied to them and re-imposed an Indian (Hindi) based hegemonic structure over them—this of course is my personal bias towards the man, although it is bolstered by my detailed reading of his writings, which belie his shrewdness as a politician.  He was a lawyer by training and the great irony of him being called the founder of satyagraha is that he frequently spun lies to effectuate his desired effect on the concept of India.

Racist Gandhi

Gandhi is championed as a symbol for equality when he actually fought for the enforcement of inequity in South Africa and later in South Asia.  If you read his South African writings you will find a man who was clearly prejudiced towards blacks, and racist, in that he emboldened the systemic framing of the African in the eyes of the European colonial masters with whom he was “educated”.  He states in a writing dated Sept. 26th 1896 that “ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”  The term “kaffir” is akin to the n-word in the American context.  Yet even though Gandhi’s clear prejudice has come to light in his prolific writings, he remains a symbol for champion for a quality that he truly did not embody in mind or action.

For those of you who may feel my critique harsh and cite examples of how Gandhi championed the cause of the “untouchable” only further the argument.  It was Gandhi who first labeled this community as harijan, or “children of God” and many in the west clouded by white liberalism have praised this as an attempt to uplift a community that was downtrodden in South Asia.  The term harijan itself is highly problematic, at best it is a term that sweeps all Dalits (yes this is the proper term) in a Hindu hegemonic framing and at worst it is linked to an earlier term of devadasi/a, which ultimately means bastard.  It referred to the illegitimate children of the priestly class that often lingered near Hindu temples according to Dr. Velu Annamalai.  Gandhi was not interested in equity nor equality inasmuch as he was interested in the creation of an “India” that merely shifted control from European elites to Indian ones—a light brown patriarchy in exchange for a purely white one.

Finally there is Gandhi the saint—(trigger warning) who held a practice of sleeping with young, nude women often teenagers in his bed, which Gandhi argued increased his spiritual energies.  Gandhi did not engage in sexual intercourse with these women and some dismiss this as tantric practice but there are several expositions about these girls, who experienced all the after effects into adulthood of sexual abuse and molestation.

“Gandhi was married at age 13 to a girl about his own age and at age 37 took a vow of sexual abstinence. In spite of this vow, he found a need to fondle prepubescent and early adolescent girls. He took such girls to bed with him to overcome, he said, his “shivering fits” in the night. His female companions, who came from his inner circle — all certified virgins or young brides — entered his bed naked in order to warm him with their bodies. Some of them also administered enemas to him. Among the young girls, there was rivalry as to who would sleep with him, and one of his girl disciples reported that his bed companions had a difficult time in restraining their sexual impulses since he often rubbed against them and touched them in erotic places. Although his closemouthed house guardians were fearful of public reaction if news of these “pedophilic” sexual interactions were publicized, Gandhi continued to engage in them until his death. Gandhi did not have sexual intercourse with them, but obviously the touching and feeling were very important to him. If he had lived in the United States, he would have been sentenced as a child molester” (Bullough, 1981).

For those probing their minds for culturally relativist arguments, please re-holster your white liberalism for a moment and ask any person from South Asia if this behavior seems appropriate—and if you find no one from South Asia to ask, perhaps you should cut down on your chai lattes and references to yoga till you sort it out—Gandhi was a pedophile and sexual abuser, as well as a racist and political opportunist and so the real question is to ask yourself why he has been championed as a role model for the opposition of all these things?

Gandhi PedophileWhy Gandhi?

Gandhi represented patriarchy under the veil of inclusion and equity—and this, I argue is the very reason why he has been championed as a symbol, while Valliamma has been relegated to the annals of HIStory.  The Guardian, in an expose of his sexual abuse outlines his real relationship to femininity and feminine power:

“Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community [honor]. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of “shame”. Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, [labeling] Indian women who used them as whores.”

From victim blaming to the divestment of power holistically, Gandhi envisioned a world that was the most palatable to his male privilege.  One in which his own abuse of young girls would go unquestioned by his masses of followers for decades.  This is not his erudite narrative, but it is the effect of his influence that finds India, a country he helped to found, one of the lowest on global gender equity indices where rape culture runs through the fabric of social norms and behavior.  While Gandhi did not create the patriarchy he clearly benefits from, he reinforces its fervor and strength.

Now try and imagine a different world.  Imagine it is Valliamma, who is the symbol for equity, equality and justice that Gandhi is now.  Imagine she is the saint to be revered and cast as a role model.  Imagine it is her visage that appears on Indian money, just as her sari waves on the flags above its governmental buildings.  And imagine her words as the inspirational quotes that adorn trendy t-shirts worn by hipsters and are used by organizations like Challenge Day to effectuate change in the world.  What you have imagined is a world stripped of over-arching male privilege where honesty is championed and the mirage of masculine dominance fades away like the false illusion it is.

Herstorian

Story of Valliamma

No longer insult my intelligence by calling me a historian, a student of history or a history instructor—I no longer wish to sit within my male privilege and passively continue to advance a farce upon others through the usage of this nomenclature.  Instead, honor academics of this social science who step away from the subtleties of patriarchal exposition with a new title: herstorian.

In my effort to be a better herstorian, the first song off of my soon to be released Tamilmatic album is dedicated to the story of Valliamma, and it follows in my tradition as an artist of telling the stories of the women who never get credit for the impact they’ve made on the planet like Fatima bint Muhammad, Zaynab bint Ali, Assata Shakur and Nana Asmau, to name a few.

Herstory is Valliamma’s story but it is also to story of so many other women, relegated to the footnotes of HIStory– if they are ever mentioned at all. The lyrics track her narrative and rightfully dismiss those who would usurp her impact, as their own. The refrain extends beyond her singular narrative and poses question to the patriarchal hegemons, asking the following questions:

“Why does her name not in history?

Why does she threaten?

Why is she scary?

The power of her spirit, why do your fear it?”

And then goes onto predict emphatically, invoking both Abrahamic & eastern apocalyptic imagery, that “Your leadership [patriarchy] lost, for she [the feminine] shall inherit!”

Tamilmatic is an album that explores the contributions of Tamil people, and is slated for an April 14th, 2016 release date, which coincides with Tamil New Year 2016.

Professor A.L.I. is a socio-political Hip-Hop artist and educator from the Bay Area. His previous works include the following full-length albums: Carbon Cycle Diaries, Emerald Manifesto, Das Ka Rebel, X Factor and now, Tamilmatic.

Special thanks to Lauren Santo Domingo for editing.

 

 

#FreeZakzaky

freezakzaky

He may be alive, but if he ever emerges from his unknown cell, what will Zakzaky emerge to?  His six sons murdered, his wife tortured and most likely dead as well and a broken community hundreds dead, while worshipping–and yet a human being of his conviction, who calmly spoke on the phone as his house was being bombed may emerge like Zaynab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, did from her dungeon in Damascus, after being brutalized and watching her sons and remaining family slain, tortured and beheaded only to eloquently stand before the usurping caliph Yazeed (the ideological father of the Wahhabist thought that birthed ISIS and Boko Haram), and speak truth to power.

The preceding music video is dedicated to Sheikh Zakzaky, his followers and his family from an American educator and artist who has long admired his attempt to reform Islam in a region where it has been hijacked by the Wahhabist interests of Boko Haram and its ilk.  Feel free to download the song at the link below:

Read more about Zakzaky and the Zaria Massacre here.

Sheikh Zakzaky, though we have never met, you are in my prayers and I dedicated this piece to you and pray that you will be free soon.

–Professor A.L.I.

Fear the Fear Itself

shout

Fear the Fear Itself by Professor A.L.I.

By the time the second plane hit, I had shaved my beard and almost didn’t recognize the face that stared back at me in the mirror, save for the eyes. My countenance showed the familiar fear I’d grown up seeing in my rippled reflection off of muddy puddles shortly before being pushed in, atop pot-holed, elementary school blacktops, or in the afternoons as the school bus window caught a reflection of my face, while the kids behind me brutally flicked my ears, snatched my hat, or pulled my collar ‘till I choked on my asthmatic breath. I grew up being “the other” so when I walked back into my apartment after attending my intellectual property law class early that morning at King Hall, at U.C. Davis, to find my Persian-American roommate glued to the television, weakly holding a soggy bowl of fruit loops precariously over his precious Tabrizi rug, uncaring that I knew that the “othering” had already begun.

I sat down and watched the horrific scenes, wondering if this was life imitating a Hollywood movie, vaguely remembering a scene from the X-Files Lone Gunman series on precisely this type of attack: a plane used as a weapon against the World Trade Center to terrorize our nation. I didn’t have to wait for proof that “Muslims” were behind this since that perception was already in the air. My thoughts ran to the Jordanian-American man, who had been the prime suspect after the Oklahoma City bombing, which was masterminded and carried out by domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh. I remembered the bullying of my youth, being perceived as a Muslim ever before I became Muslim because of my brown skin; I was an American who was never truly seen as an American, due to my strange name and therefore I was constantly the other, only ever embraced by the black community.

I shuddered as I shaved my lengthy beard, which people jokingly said made me look like a black Rasputin (this was after all years before Rick Ross & James Harden made the look popular) and halfway through the process, I heard both commotion on the news playing and the audible gasp of my roommate, followed by the sound of a cereal bowl spilling; the second plane had hit. At this point, talks of an accident had been replaced by language of a coordinated attack; we then heard about the planes that crashed into the Pentagon and also in Pennsylvania. We heard of the flight plan for the two Boston flights, which were headed to California, and in that moment I couldn’t even wonder if people I knew were on those planes. I was so self-absorbed, so afraid, that I finished shaving before the buildings had fallen and returned, clean shaven, to watch in horror as they did. My thoughts went to my cousin in New York, my friends at NYU law school, that I had lost touch with in recent years, and others I cared about who lived in Manhattan and I was completely dumbstruck.

I thought about Oklahoma again, but this time it was Black Wall Street, and I remembered reading of its economic success and how a series of events set into motion whites to try and destroy it and reports of how planes may have been used to terrorize, by shooting and dropping incendiary devices on the black citizens of Tulsa in an event referred to in history as the Tulsa Race Riots. It was the first aerial attack on U.S. soil and could only topped in scope of aerial terror by the infamous bombing at Pearl Harbor and subsequent, yet failed Japanese attempts to bomb the west coast using weather balloon. I am what many would call a historical nerd, and as a student of the detailed minutia of U.S. history I was overwhelmed. The history of our nation is filled with reactions based on fear and actions that induce it. My mind naturally flooded with all of these images but in that moment they were overwhelmed by the din of the pen held by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he signed Executive Order 5066, which called for the internment of Japanese-Americans living on the lower 48 states. This was from the man who famously said that all we had “to fear was fear itself.” I could feel the sweat form on my brow as I began to imagine President Bush doing the same, I turned to my roommate, with whom I frequently debated on nearly every issue, and told him what I felt from my heart, just as the news firmly pointed fingers at Muslims as the perpetrators; in whispered tones I said, “they’re going to come for us!” and he surprisingly didn’t argue, instead he and I, silently barricaded the front door with the furniture in our living room.

Islamophobia

A Muslim in American Clothing

I converted to Islam in 1995, inspired by Malcolm X and Islamic references in Hip-Hop. The discipline of the faith attracted me – and as I became a Muslim, I became an instant demagogue amongst my social circle. People felt I betrayed them or that they no longer really knew who I was, or where my loyalties lay. My friends felt this “dramatic shift” in their opinion, was duplicitous; they saw it as a betrayal of our common values and a judgment of the friendship we shared. It also led to brutal arguments with my folks; arguments that were compounded by years of issues beyond choice of religious practice, and it eventually led to me becoming unwelcome for a time in their home. My father argued then that he didn’t mind that I had become Muslim, but asked me to stay away from the mosque and in my heated mind-state I wasn’t hearing his concern or what he was truly saying and adamantly refused. Years later, after both he and my mom died that I pondered their concern and have had to acknowledge in hindsight that it was perhaps their collective parenting that helped me stay guarded around the sheikhs (old-timers, taken as scholars) at various Bay Area masajid (mosques) who would encircle new Muslims and over time suggest to us that we needed to make hijra, or migration to Muslim countries. I balked back then at the idea of leaving the Bay, let alone California, and many years later, and again in hindsight when I heard news about the American Taliban I realized some of these same people were in the circles that likely hoodwinked a young John Walker Lindh.

In the short time between my conversion and law school, I’d become a known quantity in the Bay Area Islamic community. My work with the U.C. Berkeley MSA to leadership at a Sacramento mosque, led me to be the sometimes imam or prayer during Friday congregational prayer and khatib or lecturer for weekly programs. I wore a long beard on my face, covered my then long hair in a scarf that I wrapped like a pseudo-turban, and spent many days in spiritual fasting and nights in supplication. I was visibly Muslim and everyone on and around campus knew it. This was why, as those buildings fell that I felt so exposed. My roommate was a Muslim too, but he was white, and his Persian heritage manifested itself solely in his name. He had the privilege to blend in and even he was frightened—so it was unsurprising how fear gave me a precise to-do list in that moment. I’d taken care of the beard, and so next I sat and prayed. I prayed for my safety and that of my family. I prayed for the people in New York, my cousin, and my friends. I prayed for the families of the victims and then I called the one person who I knew would have something to say to make me feel better: my mom.

“Son, why did they do it?” she asked in a voice filled with a crackling fire’s warmth and empathy but it was question that I couldn’t answer. If I told her that they are not real Muslims, she would say that is what they claimed to be, and furthermore that in her eyes I wasn’t a real Muslim. If I told her nothing, she would use the opening to ask about why I had converted to such a faith and I didn’t want to cycle through my reasons in that moment, nor did I possess the words, to help her see the distinctions. So I said, “I don’t know.” I can’t recall how the conversation proceeded from there, but I remember how it ended, she told me my grandmother was taken to the hospital because she was sick and that I should stay safe.

I stayed in that apartment two days—and it took another horrible event, the death of my grandmother in New Jersey on 9/13 to bring me out into the sunlight, and it blinded me. The news jolted me from the encompassing fear; it was a shock that I wasn’t braced for, and provided a brief moment of clarity amidst the uncertainty that loomed throughout our nation. My tears fell will certainty and the sun warmed my face, as I walked passed our apartment complex towards the open grassy fields that lay beyond it. I wondered how this could happen to her, a woman who I had seemed Herculean in her strength. She had what I considered superhuman constitution; she had jet-black hair that had never been dyed and not a single strand of white. She gave birth to seven sons, six who survived to adulthood in British ruled Tamil lands and managed to overcome the withdrawal of the British, navigated post-colonial realties and migrated out of necessity to the North while being the primary caregiver for my father and uncles. My grandma gave birth to my dad when she was thirteen—let the weight of that sink in, and you begin to realize, if you haven’t done so already that this was one tough and resilient woman. I remain convinced that the reason she became sick in the first place was due to her worry over her favorite grandchild, my cousin, who looked a lot like her and lived in New York at the time. Her death was a shocker; everyone came for the funeral, travelling at one of the most arduous times in our nation’s history. My parents, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends all attended but there was one person who couldn’t get on a flight: me.

I would love to tell you the reason that I couldn’t board was due to the TSA, or some incident—but the reason I couldn’t attend was that I was still gripped with the fear of being victimized just like being bullied on the playgrounds of old, and I wasn’t in an emotional state—one that mourned the loss of a loved one and family matriarch, while I was trying to navigate how people would treat me for being Muslim. The clarity I had felt in my sorrow was being overcome by new waves of hate and violence, which rippled towards me, overwhelming me in a deluge of fear inducing imagery and pain. News of a Pakistani-American kid shot, walking on his way to another nearby campus didn’t help, nor did the news of altercations that singled out Sikhs and Muslims for their look, or the numerous attacks on mosques, Gurdwaras and Islamic Centers.

I couldn’t even visualize myself boarding a plane, exposing myself to being “othered” and so I hid. My uncle offered to fly me out, thinking it was a monetary issue, but it wasn’t. The combination of pain and fear paralyzed me and I found myself hiding, like I used to from the bullies on the playground. I hid under the weight of homework and papers and my general work as a student. I hid in my art, writing poetry and entries in long lost diaries. I hid in the act of lengthy prayer and recitation of supplications, and ultimately I hid within myself. The reflection in the mirror that stared back at me in those days looks more like the frightened kid on the blacktop than the man who writes these words now. I share these vignettes from my life shortly after 9/11 so you can understand how familiar the emotions were that governed my mental state and that in spite of my Muslim identity I acted as any human being would when gripped with fear.   

911footage

America No More

9/11 affected all Americans and many people throughout the world. It became the impetus for a new wave of military actions in the Middle East, new rules that changed the way we Americans could feel about our personal freedom, it pulled us into tough moral questions that we have yet to answer, like how we enabled what happened at Abu Ghuraib, the use of torture, such as water boarding, extra-judicial killings carried out by drones and the very existence of Guantanamo. 9/11 changed our nation in ways that made our country seem like the one envisioned by dystopian writers of yesteryear and we did so in fear. We feared for our safety and these were efforts taken to ensure that America would be safe. However in our effort to secure America, a significant group of Americans were locked out of the safe house we had constructed. American Muslims and Sikhs and anyone with skin-color and “a foreign Islamic or Arab look” fell prey to the machinations of the fear that encircled our nation like vultures, to find themselves not only barred from the safe house, but know that they are the reason for the construction of its construction in the first place.

Our nation did the things it felt it needed to protect itself, just like my roommate and I did, the first few days, worried about what would happen next. The difference was that for us the fear was doubled. I feared the Al-Qaeda’s, Taliban’s, and the ISIS/ISIL’s of the world too. To me they represent such backwards ignorance that it is hard for me to find a place for them in “Islam” though that is what they claim to follow. My study of Islam was in-depth and thorough. I’ve read the Qur’an in both literal, and phrase-by-phrase translations, in Arabic and various exegesis or tafaseers written by the pre-eminent scholars like Tabatabai, who help to contextualize verses to help the reader gain the most from the depth of the text. I’ve read the classic Arabic historians, cover-to-cover, Ibn-Kathir, Juvaini, and At-Tabari. I’ve picked apart Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, the Muwatta, along with Usul-E-Kafi, Bihar-Ul-Anwar and texts like Hiyat-Ul-Quloob while scrutinizing both their chain of narration as well as their content and measuring it up to the language and messaging in the Qur’an. I’ve studied the history of the Prophet Muhammad and his family, and looked at their example to help understand the Qur’an. I’ve done all of this under the tutelage of true academics like Dr. Hamid Algar, and by doing all of this I feel armed with the knowledge needed to say that ISIS/ISIL aka DAESH does not represent anything to do with Islam, and if one must be exact and precise, what they represent is Wahhabism.

This is why I continue to teach Middle Eastern History, Early-Islamic History in the academic setting and utilize art to educate, exemplified by this recent live performance of “An Ode To Zaynab” with Stephen Herrick of Jazz Horizons and Ian Heung, recounting the story of the family of Muhammad, and his granddaughter Zaynab, and how her shrine was recently attacked by ISIS/ISIL aka DAESH, and why her narrative, which represents the true Islam, remains a threat for these extremists to target:

However, despite all of this I understand, in my heart the fear my fellow Americans feel when they hear phrases like “sharia law” or “jihad” because Islamophobia is not a new thing, it is just a new name for a particular type of xenophobia that people who looked like Muslims had to deal with long before 9/11 ever happened—I mean just look at my life!

Hate Muslims, Love Islam

I was a Muslim kid throughout the 1980’s, post-hostage crisis, Libya, the wars we were involved in the Middle East and the Gulf War. People perceived me to be Muslim because of my dark brown skin hue, and the fact my parents and I spoke another language. They could not differentiate Tamil from Arabic through their xenophobic lenses and I found myself the victim of abuse as a result. If you ever look at my hands you’ll know that I’m product of public school since I have the callouses on my knuckles to prove it; I grew up hating Muslims because of all those battles I felt forced to fight and I believed then that they were the reason why I was getting bullied. The influx of Afghan refugees did not help, in the early 1990’s as this only exacerbated the tensions that had already existed. However a funny thing happened, even as I found myself hating Muslims, I began to fall in love with Islam. Malcolm X’s Autobiography wooed me, and as a Hip-Hop head Paris, Ice Cube and Public Enemy were doing dawah (inviting) with their lyrics.

I became Muslim as an eighteen year-old college student and if one person should be blamed for my conversion it should be Dr. Abbas Rana. I met Abbas at the Clark Kerr Campus Dorms at U.C. Berkeley on the first day of welcome week and we got into a huge debate about Muslims that lasted three hours. It would be the first of many debates, discussions and dialogue as our relationship would evolve from acquaintances to friends to eventually brothers. However that first meeting, when I was introduced to him by a mutual friend should’ve never have begun. I said something to Abbas, which was in my estimation, the most offensive thing I’ve ever said to another human being in my life, “…That name sounds Muslim, are you Muslim, because I (expletive) hate Muslims!” He was visibly taken aback by my words but thankfully didn’t let me off the hook, he challenged me for what I said, which was the first time I ever said something like that out loud and I became defensive. I spouted out every argument and half-truth I’d heard, used the idiosyncrasies of the Muslims I had known in my life, who were probably bad practitioners of the faith to continue my arguments, and he responded with empathy and intellect. I was attracted to his compassion and soon we’d become fast friends, transforming as I learned more about the faith, into brothers.

It’s when I divorced Islam from Muslims in my mind that I felt comfortable making the transition to becoming Muslim myself. In Abbas I saw a Muslim who was emblematic of what Islam taught, but the Muslims I had met through Hollywood, or were showcased in the media, or that I had met up until then were far outcries from the values of the faith. This was all before 9/11, when the ignorant tropes were magnified and the familiar image of a Muslim was that of a violent, gun or bomb-wielding villain who targeted innocent people. 9/11 merely helped America pull back the curtain, pun intended, on our assumptions of Islam. They gave Jack Shaheen more than he ever dreamed of in the stereotypical Arab in cinema. The media depictions and caricatures were Edward Said’s Orientalism on steroids. And yet the truth is that 9/11 only removed the façade, and that the bullying was always there. 9/11 merely transformed existing xenophobia into Islamophobia. Our efforts had transformed what had been existing xenophobia, and transformed it, with our reasoning behind those questionable decisions outlined above, into Islamophobia, the irrational fear of Islam. Islamophobia is equal parts fear of Islam and ignorance of Islam. It didn’t just bring down buildings it brought down our sense of what our values are and should be.

The world we live in one which is set up to doubly terrorize those with any affinity with Islam. We are terrorized by the act of terror, like our fellow citizens and then terrorized by our own because of their indiscriminant fear. Clarity only comes in moments when we are faced with a new tragedy and are forced to respond. For me after 9/11 it was the sudden death of my grandmother, for all of us it’ll be the death of an American Muslim, who we see as an American, more than as a Muslim whose inevitable victimization and God-forbid death will shake us to our senses. Today my social networking timeline is filled with abuse. I see a pig’s head on a mosque doorstep, bullied six graders, hijabis (scarf wearing) shot at and attacked. I see innocent Muslims and Sikhs illegally strip-searched, abused verbally and physically, and taken off of flights. I think about my kids and my wife. I think about my sister, niece and nephews. The fear I feel is real and it’s the same as I used to feel on the playground because it’s the same catalyst, it’s bullying plain and simple and we should not stand for it.

Fear

Fear “Fear Itself”

In the so called East, the combination of ignorance and fear has created Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Sepa-E-Sahaba, ISIS/ISIL aka DAESH, otherwise known as the tentacles of the same Wahhabi-Salafi Kraken that we support in Saudi Arabia, and we are being suffocated by their grip on our sense of safety. To put it more simply, they are the bullies of the Islamic world and their bullying, which terrorizes our planet has given birth to our own bullies like Marine La Pen, the English Defense League and Donald Trump. They gave birth to the new America we live in, one unrecognizable from the one I grew up in, when there was no NDAA, no TSA, no Guantanamo. It is a new America where book deals that homogenize over a billion people because of the gross violation of rights of a human being by a few, see Ayaan Hirse Ali. It gives Bill Maher fodder for his anti-religious views, which overly simplify the issue for lowbrow comedic effect. I am arguing that terrorists have created “Donald Trump for President”. His relevance is birthed by the fear caused by ISIS and the many tentacled beast described above. Every gunshot and explosion makes his candidacy more likely—his rhetoric is the protection that America is seeking—and it is not unlike the barricade I put up in that apartment on 9/11.

When I ran into that field of golden grass, out of my apartment for the first time in two days, I looked into the horizon and let the sun dry my tears and that is when I heard the siren. I saw a fire truck driving slowly through the neighborhood and saw people coming out toward the truck. I approached cautiously, pulled by the strings of my curiosity, fear replaced by a thirst for knowing. I walked closer to the street and what was happening became clear, the Fire Department of the City of Davis was collecting money for the first responders to 9/11. I dug in my pockets and without looking walked over to the truck, past my neighbors and others, and I gave. I remember the fireman smiled at me and I can’t remember if I smiled back, but I do remember that I didn’t feel the stares in that moment, in that moment I felt so American, and so at one with the sensation of sorrow stemming from the tragedy we all were reeling from.

While the clarity of that moment would diminish, because of the unchecked hate targeting people like me that followed it. It reminds me that the line between hope and despair is thin. While many of my social media associates have been busy “un-friending” Trump supporters, it’s given me pause to consider his candidacy in the context of world history. People keep comparing Trump to Hitler, but what makes Trump more compelling is that his rise is happening at a time where our nation is economically strong. In order to understand this one must understand the debilitating power that fear can have. Those that make the comparison, do so to make a compelling argument against Trump and ironically it’s seems the comparison itself is motivated by fear? I’ve lived through bullying, the ‘phobia after 9/11 and since then, and I do not find myself afraid like others do. I don’t fear Trump himself. I don’t fear his supporters or their reasons to support him. I do fear that which makes good people do bad things. I fear the “fear itself,” because it’s real and it is the culprit. F.D.R. was a hypocrite for signing Executive Order 5066, because the sole reason for signing it was for the fear of “fear itself.” Pearl Harbor was the catalyst, just as the Reichstag was for Hitler. 9/11 created this New America, but what will it take to put Trump into office? What is the fear to come? What is the fear itself? I’d argue that Trump is not Hitler, at least not yet.   What we should fear isn’t him, his rhetoric or his candidacy, but what his Reichstag might be.

History tells us that crazy things happen in times of fear. Executive order 5066 was a departure from American values and so are the NDAA, Guantanamo and the other changes we’ve made that walk the fine line of feeling pragmatically correct to safeguard against fear but ideologically wrong. We’ve created a world that is afraid of “too much toothpaste on flights”, belts and bottled water. We’ve given into fear wholeheartedly and it shows in the sheer ignorance that fuels it—like the analogy of targeting any snake for fear of a potentially venomous one seems an apt example to characterize Islamophobia, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of its madness. Half-truths, out-right lies and fabrications now circle around the life of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam and what Muslims believe. These then fuel the poison spit by bigots during these times of crisis and furthermore provide rationale for the Wahhabi-Salafi octopus, its tentacles, constituents and supporters for their crimes. There was a time, where I feared Islam too, because of the actions of Muslims, but that fear was dispelled by knowledge and I believe that feel that knowledge can help our nation, to discern what type of snake we should be afraid of and where its coil comes from.

Follow The Fear

My belief that knowledge reigns supreme was born from a Hip-Hop upbringing, a mom who put knowledge and the pursuit of it as the primary value she imbued me with, and a lifetime of welts and bruises given by the clenched fists of ignorance and stupidity. Knowledge was kryptonite to ignorance and this belief fueled my path in education. I started the City of Knowledge after-school intervention with the support of Principal Mireya Casarez at Cesar Chavez for students who were navigating post-9/11 realities as Muslim, Sikh or other students who had that look on playgrounds and buses on their way to and from school. It was an intervention, replete with coaching and advisory for students who were traversing the minefield of hate that had become America; I shared with them my narrative and how I had to code switch and assimilate to survive, and how those sacrifices made my people like me, were so we could be in a place of support for them so that they never had to shroud who they were in order to survive. It was a program that began with eight or nine kids then burgeoned to over forty students and then I went on to develop a multi-lingual inclusive program as an administrator in charter schools.

I believe in the phrase each-one-teach-one and truly believe that each of us can make a difference if we share our stories and the truths they hold. I continue to do this work as an educator and as an artist, through Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop Ed (#HipHopEd). Most of the work I’ve released speaks to the truth of the disenfranchised human being living in the shadows—In this moment its Muslims, and the story of our disenfranchisement fuels my craft. I leave you with a metaphor for our times, an-older piece, written to speak to core Islamic beliefs in the post-9/11 context. I recorded it and entitled it as a play on the Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri; the following piece is called the Divina Comedia: Part 2: Purge Story, and it is the middle part of a spoken word piece recorded in three parts on my first full-length solo album Carbon Cycle Diaries. This piece touched the creative mind of my colleague, and fellow artist, director and educator Stacey Goodman, who saw in it an even deeper narrative. The question I pose in the piece of “Who Do You Follow?” in repetition had another meaning in the times we lived in. It no longer is a question of faith, but a question of who follows you because of your faith. Stacey created a script that spoke to this intersection and worked with me to tell a multi-layered visual story of our fear-induced world, which questions not only “[whom] you follow,” but also as a result, “who follows you?”

 

 

Hussein Fatal, RIP… another Invisible Man?

Hussein Fatal RIP

INVISIBLE MAN was a track off of my first solo album, entitled Carbon Cycle Diaries… I feel like I’ve grown a lot as an artist & educator since, yet it was this album that helped launch my solo/independent artist career and it was through the encouragement of well-established artists like Lord Jamar, Killah Priest and the late Hussein Fatal that the project garnered steam and I felt both supported and validated as an M.C. & griot of our Hip-Hop kulture.

The track Invisible Man is multi-layered, it both hearkens to Ralph Ellison’s seminal work and that of H.G. Wells.  It also weaves in the idea of being invisible as an artist–paraphrasing the words of Hussein Fatal on the track and that of being invisible within a nation.  It weaves in a 2pac sample is probably the most upbeat track I’ve ever done.  Yet there is another layer to the track and its about being erased– and at a time in America where the world is finally noticing the erasing of black men and women from this plane of existence through police violence, the Hip-Hop community has to say goodbye to another icon and pillar of our kulture.

RIP Hussein Fatal aka brother Bruce Washington, Jr.  The news of your passing, caught me by surprise and I truly could not believe it.  We are both the same age, not only was I a fan of your work but you helped move along my artistic career, collaborated with me and helped brew within me a sense of confidence through your humility and kind words during our brief interaction.  After having to say goodbye to the Jack (the Jacka aka Shaheed Akbar) who was murdered earlier this year, to hear of a car accident that snuffed out your vibrancy is hard to bear.  My prayers and thoughts are with your spirit and your family and close friends, to whom my family offers our deepest condolences–you will rest in power & peace–and your words and your legacy will make it impossible for you to be “erased”… no in truth you will be more visible than ever.

I’m re-releasing & re-dedicating the song Invisible Man to you and yours. Stay blessed in heaven as you were in this life my dear brother and send my salaams to ‘Pac & Yaki in the heavenly abode.

Invisible no more.

#WestCoastHipHop #HusseinFatalRIP #HusseinFatal #Hussein #Fatal #Outlawz #2pac #RIP #InvisibleMan #blacklivesmatter

Beneath Mom’s Feet

Beneath Mom’s Feet by Professor A.L.I.

“When you were born,” my mother used to tell me, “you were like a little bird, so tiny.” I imagine her holding me close, easing my transition into this world and throughout my life, no one has done more for me, and especially as selflessly as she did and there hasn’t been a moment since she passed that I haven’t longed for her embrace—even though, as she breathed her last breath, she did so in my arms.

People who really know me know that every night I fall asleep longing to have a dream of her, to connect with an old memory or catch a metaphysical glimpse of her form. In many ways I feel her in my life, I see her in the expressions of my children and wonder how she was when she was growing up and I wish I could see her interacting with them.

She was a life long educator and she taught countless generations throughout her life how to read and write. So many students, that some of my most consistent memories of her were of her helping young children from the neighborhood in her spare time, wherever we were staying learn how to read–many of whom were ESL students and recent immigrants. I began tutoring because she did. I taught because she did and I turned into an educator to be like her.

I miss our walks together, her advice and ever-hopeful perspective on life. I miss her ability to make the bad days go away with a smile and hug. I miss her singing, her melodic voice, singing in the four or five languages she was fluent in as she worked around the home or when she gardened and made roses bloom more beautifully on the bushes she touched than anywhere else I have seen on the planet.

She was a humanist, who believed in the multiplicity of paths to the divine, and though she turned to an Islamic way of framing towards the end of her life, she remained a lover of Krishna, Jesus and other conduits to God. Through her I find the same connection to other human beings and I find, as the Prophet Muhammad instructed, in what could be my most favorite quote in the faith of Islam, that paradise is found beneath one’s mother’s feet.

Namaskaram Amma.

Me and my Mom

Asiatics and the Knowledge Resurrection

#HipHopEd

#HipHopEd

Above all else, I am in-equivocally an Asiatic Black Man.  Dravidian (Tamil) & West Indian narratives from my paternal and maternal respectively, coupled with a National Geographic DNA test that shows markers that link me with my brethren from Papua New Guinea, the Aboriginal human being from Australia & Tasmania, the Andamanese and other Dravidians and ultimately East Africa.  Along with the rest of my global black community, I am what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad would have called an “Original Man”.

Sharing this narrative was important for me to do for two important reasons.  First, it’s important to establish the motivation behind my weaving of this narrative into the oral storytelling of the song “Asiatics” featuring Planet Asia and understanding that it comes from a space of authenticity.  The second is to understand that the piece and the idea behind Asiatics its ultimately engaging in knowledge resurrection, knowing, in Foucaultian fashion that knowledge is everywhere and is layered, and that what we see is merely that which is erudite and accepted by the current systems of power and therefore cannot be a universal truth and can be, at best, one interpretation.

The knowledge I speak of, is that of “origin”.  Where do we originate from?  Why does our shared knowledge point us towards Europe, Athens or Rome then to the Crusades and the Renaissance, Empire, Colonialism and Global Conflict as defining settings for the narrative that answers that question–in spite of the insurmountable evidence of our African origins, of Black Athena, of the African wealth that fueled Rome, and the whitening of Jesus after the Crusades and the Renaissance, of the wealth of Africa that empowered the West and continues to… I mean is that coltan in the phone or tablet you are using to read this on?  Asiatics, therefore questions the accepted narrative and postulates that true knowledge, i.e. knowledge of self, that comes through deep inquiry and digging beyond erudite systems of information reveals a broader, more universal truth.

The irony is that this argument is put forth through Hip-Hop, an artform that reaches back into a method of preserving narratives in the shadows–such as the various oral traditions that ultimately come together in the Bronx, N.Y. in 1972 coalescing into a paradigm shift, essentially forming a new intelligent movement–a “hip” “hop”, which initially, before being co-opted for the most part, preserved the narratives that were discarded by the status quo and protected the truth brought to the surface by scholars like Frantz Fanon & Stokeley Carmichael, leaders like Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah and by activists like Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton.  Hip-Hop took that truth and retold it, keeping it alive, while crack & heroin flooded the urban community and Blackexploitation manipulated the image of Blackness, so recently rediscovered into one akin to the Jim Crow narrative–ultimately creating a new psyche, one which again re-oriented the Black Human towards Europe and Eurocentric framings.

This is why I reached out to Planet Asia, an artist who has been dedicated to the preservation of HIp-Hop as intelligent movement, in spite of corporate pressure to shift it into something devoid of intelligence altogether.  Planet Asia is an artist I’ve admired and as a fellow West Coast Muslim M.C., it felt appropriate and two years ago we put together a project that spoke to the youth in an African-American Literature course I was teaching at the summer at U.C. Berkeley.  It was almost as if Planet Asia was guest lecturing for the project and the song Asiatics was born from it, a remix of the original joint that created a back-and-forth conversation that conveyed the message that truth lay underneath the surface and that knowledge was key.

This is Foucaultian, Intelligent Movement to the fullest, this is in the words of my sister, Aisha Fukushima, “Raptivism” of the mind–it is Hip-Hop to the core and moreover it is Hip-Hop-Ed… a genre that was created because they have hijacked Hip-Hop with the likes of Iggy and Drake…

P.E.A.C.E.

A.L.I.