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.

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.

 

 

#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.

Hip-Hoponomics & Rapitalism

HipHopEd Unit1

Hip-Hoponomics & Rapitalism

By Professor A.L.I.

The Wu Tang Clan helped popularize the acronym C.R.E.A.M., meaning, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”, and perhaps a more appropriate phrase summarizing what some would call the “rap game” has never been spoken. Hip-Hop as a ‘kulture’ began in response to the simple fact that the doors to mainstream forms of entertainment were closed and so “the people” sought alternative routes. The barrier before them was socio-economic in nature and the forums that arose, they created to serve those for whom the traditional doors would not open. Those who were weaving this ‘kulture’ together presented a form of communal economic resistance to the norms established by the mainstream. The community center at Sedgewick Avenue, block parties, and gatherings in abandoned lots were an affront to the clubs and established entertainment centers; and as Hip-Hop grew, this new venue/paradigm shift began to transform into an economically viable one in its own right. Cash did indeed rule, and it began to become a growing factor in the dissemination of this ‘kulture’.

As money mixed with the music, it enforced a pimping dynamic upon the progenitors of this ‘kulture’, exacerbated existing social inequities, seeded and exploited division and violence for profit and finally exported real Hip-Hop ‘kulture’ overseas while a minute sliver of original Hip-Hop ‘kulture’ remained alive in independent artistry. Rapitalism is a unit in my Hip-Hop History course, and also describes a quartet of songs on the XFactor album in which Hip-Hop Economics is the central theme (King Solomon’s Mines feat. Kam, Hip-Hoponomics feat. Chino XL, Beef Stew feat. Canibus, and Pimperialism).

Part I: Historic Overview of the Development of Rapitalism

Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which trade and/or industry is operated for profit. Rapitalism is a term that I am using to describe a historical process in which the kultural expressions of Hip-Hop started to be operated solely for predatory profit and as the system took hold, Hip-Hop would cease to exist in its original form, which was founded in opposition to the closed doors of the status quo’s economic structures. Hip-Hop, and specifically the expression of music, in a period from 1971 to 1979, started to become recognized as salient product worthy of monetary exchange. This was the first phase of Rapitalism.

This initial phase inserted a wholly new motive to the lyricism and deejaying that helped produce music and the intention for production began to shift to create something economically viable. In the initial stages it was to produce something for the local community. This was a time that small businesses like Winley Records or Sylvia Robinson’s Sugarhill started to make money and cut or create a new market share in music sales in urban markets. This attracted commercial interests and radio play that went beyond a DJ Hollywood spinning records Uptown or Mr. Magic’s late night/early morning show. This created Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack and it led to the creation of records like Afrika Bambaata’s Soulsonic Force and the Sugarhill Gang’s hit “Rapper’s Delight”.

As the music became commercial and its appeal grew, it was in the economic interests of small businesses, and then larger corporations to market it to larger more economically viable audiences. In the process, it was increasingly important for these corporations to make sure that the content that was produced would have the widest appeal.

Rapitalism is therefore the commodification of an art form, which includes a process to divest it of a localized message in order to make sure it has a wide appeal. The effect of Rapitalism on the community is also one that it provides inurement to local artists that it should then build these communities up, however confronted with the realities of living in economically and socially disenfranchised spaces, these artists leave. Whether this is caused by the threat of living in a space while a hyperbolic illusion of wealth is perpetrated into the media and thereby where one lives, or whether the process of producing this economically viable product lures these artists out of their communities outright, the end result is the same, which is one of divestment.

Finally, the entire process was modeled on the same economic relationship as was prevalent in urban centers in the United States in the 1970’s, that of the pimp. Record companies, who themselves were often subsidiaries of larger corporations, began to pimp artists and their material for profit. Often times these relationships led to the artist being left with very little, not even their own intellectual property, and the record labels became rich. Even the early demise of an artist did not lead to a loss of profit because of the ownership of intellectual property and in some instances even created more profit; furthermore if an artist died, there was so much available in hungry talent in the inner-city that it did not matter.

Part II. The Rise of Pimperialism

Pimperialism is a term coined by me to describe a process that is akin to imperialism, which is the policy of extending a nation-state’s power/influence through diplomacy or military force. The word pimperialism is imagined to mean the process by which an individual or a corporate entity extends their power/influence over other human beings through manipulation or force, for the purpose of economic exploitation. It is no accident that the word contains within it the term ‘pimp’, for a pimp’s ultimate goal is to use their power/influence in order to control other human beings in order to inure economic benefit through their exploitation.

Pimperialism has three parts and the first examines the concept of “pimping” in its most essentially brutal form. This is a historic analysis and does not indulge in the argument that the word has been reclaimed, since it still retains the original definition alongside other vernacular interpretations. So the first verse of the song opens with etymology and history: “the etymology of pimp, origin: Middle French: a scoundrel to be lynched, a wimp, and a snitch; In Swahili in the sixties, its impimpsi: insensitivity to a symphony of sins (see); simply dollar signs, ignore greater signs, the science behind the mind, slaves to life of crime…” The verse goes on to describe the process of dehumanizing another in order to make profit off of their suffering. This is essentially the occupation of a pimp, but it doesn’t describe being a pimp in the context of the global realities that created the position in the first place. The hook, further elaborates on the meaning and begins to foreshadow how the term begins to transition into one used to describe a figure or object to be admired stating “to be pimp is to floss, but its a façade; a definition that was born of pimpin’ Hip-Hop. To pimp, is to signify materialism, but they pimp your material, that’s Pimperialism.”

Pimperialism is ultimately a method of programming, in which the subject begins to relate to the oppressor and the oppression and begins to use language and methods that repeat the same level of oppression in order to achieve perceived social mobility; so to argue that it could be construed as having been produced by a Stockholm-esque Syndrome, is not, in my mind far from the truth. The second verse continues to delve into the historical context and uses Iceberg Slim’s text Pimp for lyrical fuel, analyzing the motivations of the characters as well as the context that Slim so masterfully weaves into his autobiographical tale stating, “So peep this allegory, its Sweet’s (referring to a Master Pimp in the story) rundown: ocelot on his lap, royalty uncrowned. He spits truth to an Iceberg, about pimpin’, in this white man’s world; he claimed to have flipped it. “The black woman’s raped already, since slavery, they oversee: pimpin’ your whole family tree, supposebly free, one step from being hung on a tree, learn they’re methods, get a pimpin’ degree and charge a fee. So we can be, where we ought to be; Slim dreams: he’s rich, beating women, till his momma screams.” This verse traces the arch lessons behind pimping, taught to Slim, and juxtaposes it with the cost it bears on his psyche, but underlying it all is that pimping is a learned occupation in the black community and has antebellum origins.

Pimping, is as old a profession, I imagine as prostitution—however the argument that modern pimping, is derived in its urban application from practices born during chattel slavery finds its roots in the way captives or slaves where broken and how slave masters profited off of their suffering.

This context is crucial in order to understand the third verse and ultimately the core argument of this lyrical essay. Quoting from Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royale, which would later become chapter two of his seminal work Invisible Man in alternating lines of this Pimperialism verse, contrasting with the imagery of Hip-Hop’s relationship with the music industry it becomes abundantly clear that Ellison’s formula for the dehumanization of the black man for the entertainment of whites, describes pimping in its essential form, and this formula is the precise blueprint for how Hip-Hop, like Rock, Blues and Jazz, was pimped by corporations for profit—essentially profiting off of the suffering of black artists, who create art, only for it to be taken from them, so that the pimp can profit. “An invisible man, a man of substance, flesh and bone, Hip-Hop was sub-altern, till that Sugarhill song. A scholarship awaits him, at a white mans club. Hip-Hop got into clubs, based off its buzz. First they objectify a woman, sexualize her form. Hip-Hop video vixens, and pimpin’ verses are born. They make him fight his brothers, physical display. Beef between artists, (the) Labels still get paid. They throw counterfeit currency on a carpet, targets, contracts promise, but leave nothing for the artist. Electrified, they shriek, fried, they ask him to speak, left weak, Hip-Hop, became pop in defeat.” The song ends in the grand irony of the word pimp becoming a term to aspire to within the Hip-Hop genre and in urban communities. Beyond the imagery of Ice-T or Schooly D verses, the term pimp in Hip-Hop slowly became one not of exploitation but of endearment and just like the blackexploitation films of the 1970’s, was so visually hyperbolic, that the pimp became an almost superhero or mythic figure. Imagine that, a superhero whose superpower was his (since the term is essentially paternalistic) ability to exploit his own people economically—see Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ as an example and search his life and relationship with Def Jam for the irony.

Coming soon:

Part III: King Solomon’s Mines: The Wealth of Knowledge of Self 

Part IV: Preparing Beef Stew: Low Intensity Exploitation and Economics

Part V: Summarizing Hip-Hoponomics with Chino XL

Islamophobia: An irrational fear for the religion I hold dear

They Kill MeIslamophobia: An irrational fear for the religion I hold dear

by Professor A.L.I.

 

As a Muslim educator and artist, times like this past week, which included terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Beirut, Paris and Nigeria are especially challenging. I find solace in the fact that I can be there for young people, who are still navigating their identity while that identity is being stereotyped by these events, homogenized with its perpetrators, then marginalized and attacked. I rather I be the face of Islam in these moments than them and I rather I be the target of hate, then them. However, I know it is a burden, that all Muslims have to share—especially those who live in the West.

Recently, Donald Trump who campaigning for in the Republican primaries made the assertion that Muslims should wear identification badges. Sadly, in the xenophobic reality that is present day America, ones American identity is questioned by ones head covering or facial hair. Ask any practicing adherent of the Sikh faith and they will affirm this truth. The assertion made by Trump was made in an effort to connect with voters, since it is a feeling held by many. People in America look at Paris and they don’t feel safe. They look at Paris and remember the Boston Marathon and 9/11. I know this because when I look at the events of Baghdad, Beirut, Paris and Nigeria, I remember Boston, New York and D.C. I remember how I felt, violated as an American and how I felt doubly violated, when, my fellow Americans began to associate me with those who had carried out these disgusting acts.

If you are not a Muslim or Sikh or can pass for not being one due to your ability to blend in, then you may not know the fear we feel in these moments. It’s caught in the eyes of Alia Ansari, a 37-year old mother of six, in between the flashes of gunshots, as she was gunned down in front of her home in Fremont, California, in 2006. imgres

Her only distinguishing quality, the headscarf she wore. I live in the Fremont area, an area known for a large Muslim population and I feel the fear. I live here with my wife and children, and the fear is real, everyday and its heightened after global tragedies.

The fear I feel is responsive. It’s fear in response to the irrational fear, i.e. phobia that grips my nation in times like this. It isn’t the irrational fear of the stranger (i.e. Xenophobia) alone, but the irrational fear of Islam and Muslims, known as Islamophobia. I use the term irrational to juxtapose it with rational, in order for people to distinguish between groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and Al Qaeda versus people like me. You should fear ISIS and their ilk. I fear them. This is a rational fear. They’re stated goal is to create fear through terror. They want to kill you and me and they have carried out gruesome acts of violence to showcase their resolve. This fear is like the fear of a venomous snake. It makes sense. When you combine this fear with ignorance, however you get phobia, or irrational fear. Irrational fear is the fear of any Muslim or of Islam in general. It’s the fear mongering of presidential hopeful Donald Trump. It’s the motivation behind the profiling of Sikhs and Muslims. It’s the compounded tragedy found the tragic death of Alia Ansari.

Fear of “any old Muslim” is like fear of “any old snake” and not just the venomous ones. It is irrational fear and its irrationality holds me hostage in my own country for my constitutionally protected beliefs. The only way to combat irrational fear and hate is by diminishing the ignorance that fuels it with knowledge so one can discern between the ISIS’s of the world from the vast majority of Muslims who are just peace-loving average citizens and by washing away hate with love—loving those who are doubly impacted by these tragedies and who have to fear for their lives because of the way they are perceived in times of fear.

Islamophobia Article

This is a challenging thing to do. The challenge is that ISIS and its ilk claim to do what they are doing in the name of Islam emboldened by their interpretations of the faith. People ask me all the time, how they can tell the difference between these extremist groups and the average Muslim. I can respond to this question by breaking down a movement that began in the latter half of the 18th century called Wahhabism and how it morphed into Salafism in the 20th century and how its from this octopus that the tentacles of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, etc. have come. I can break down the motivations and the global realities that have created these groups and even take it further to analyze mental illness, the lack of education, poverty and unemployment that helps fuel the zeal of its adherents. I can break down how such an interpretation of Islam ever truly began and breakdown the event of Karbala, which is a clear delineation between the Islam (characterized as a religion of peace) and the Islam of ISIS, which is clearly one of war and conquest. However the simplest way to discern is to know that Islam is an Abrahamic faith and that the killing of innocent people is a fundamental no-no—“Thou shalt not kill” is a universal belief shared amongst the majority of Muslims—and not of ISIS.

ISIS isn’t even a logical extension of faith. It is faithless. I find the best description of this false consciousness in the words of my brother Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “For me, religion—no matter which one—is ultimately about people wanting to live humble, moral lives that create a harmonious community and promote tolerance and friendship with those outside the religious community. Any religious rules should be in service of this goal. The Islam I learned and practice does just that.”

I hope the people who need to read this read this and I invite you to share it. I need my fellow Americans to understand it for the sake of young people growing up in a world filled with fear, who share “my look”, if not my faith. I pray that my children can grow up in a world filled with love and knowledge, so that hearts and minds can stay connected in moments of tragedies as opposed to divided at odds with each other

I leave you with two spoken word pieces I wrote to be read at the Athenian School, for students and colleagues in my role as an educator there. I read the first part, which I wrote during and shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. I never intended to publish it and it is provided here, unedited—capturing the angst I felt at the time. I was moved to tears as I read it in front of the entire school and I have not edited since. I didn’t intend to write a second part, but after this last week, I felt the need to do so again. Perhaps it’s the spirit of Kurt Hahn that pervades the Athenian Campus that compelled me to do so, to speak out against terror again—or maybe its my way of engaging in therapy to set myself whole, but I shared it the second part with my colleagues and students and I share it with you for I truly believe that I am you and you are me and that only together are we PEACE.

BostonMarathon

Who Am I?

By Professor A.L.I.

(Unedited and written less than 24 hours, after the Boston Marathon bombings)

I am an American as the news flashes:

“Boston Marathon, Bomb blasts!!!”

Cell phone in hand, I call and text,

My friends in Boston; slow, cold sweat.

Are you ok? Is everything all right?

Fingers twitch nervously as I type.

Sadness and anger grip the nation:

Social Media, Twitter Feed speculation.

I am a Muslim, that’s all the world sees.

A news correspondent tweets:

“Yes they’re evil, Kill them all!”

I scroll up, he says Muslims, kill them all?!

140 characters of vitriolic hate.

Muslim is trending. My insides ache.

I am not the Muslim runner or the Muslim spectator.

I am not the Muslim imam who opened his door for those affected.

Boston PD on the look out for dark skin and an accent.

A tweeter tells me to go back to the desert.

Expletives, and expressions of anger;

Yesterday, I was an American; today I’m a stranger?

The sun reflects off of my iPhone screen,

But instead of my own reflection I see,

The image of the words defining me;

I am the terrorist they want me to be,

For “they” cannot see me;

I am a just a human being.

And our humanity cries for those innocent souls;

But should our creed be a reason for our innocence sold?

I am the Sikh or Hindu mistaken for a Muslim during these times.

I am the Pakistani-American kid killed for foreign crimes.

I am you,

And you are me.

And together, we are PEACE.

 

Who Am I? (Part II)

By Professor A.L.I.

(Written 2 days after the ISIS terrorist attacks carried out on Paris, Beirut and Baghdad)

Refugees on rough seas, with smugglers rolling dices;

Irrelevant in our newsfeed, do we only care about oil prices?

When reflecting on the Middle East, the riddle of social media.

Muslim is trending again, for Paris lays bleeding and

Beirut the day before; Baghdad on previous weekend.

The news chooses its stories, as broken families are weeping.

All attacked, innocents killed and the culprit signals crisis,

Practicing a fundamentalist interpretation and called ISIS.

Like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and the Taliban,

These organizations, attack the image of Islam,

So now every Muslim, of a billion, is seen as a threat,

And yet, these groups also mark innocent Muslims for death.

They kill them in the Middle East and then they kill them here.

They kill me, by filling my children’s future with fear.

The weight of labels and prejudice create Islamophobia.

And what is the definition of a phobia?

It’s an irrational fear.

Islamophobia is an irrational fear of a religion I hold dear.

Yes, I am a Muslim; it is the faith I practice.

So I look upon bomb blasts as doubly tragic:

The loss of innocent lives; where innocence dies.

I also brace myself for impact of a stereotype.

This is why, like my colleagues, I became an educator.

To end the debate between “us” and ignorance and hate.

By extinguishing ignorance with knowledge,

And washing away hate with affection and love.

That’s why we teach, so we can live in a world full of light and hope.

We are like Kurt Hahn facing Hitler, like David facing Goliath;

And we will only survive as people, if we can stay United.

I am you,

And you are me.

And together we are PEACE.

Intelligent Movement for Ignorant Times

“Intelligent movement in ignorant times” – This statement is why many argue that Hip-Hop is dead, or that it has been dead. A part of me would argue that Hip-Hop died on September 13th, 1996; but that wouldn’t be fair to the thousands of artists who have tried to evoke intelligent movement in their artistry, including me—but the thought lingers, because there was a time and Kendrick Lamar may be one examples of the few exceptions, when studio backed albums still held content that was of value and connected to the community from which these artists came. Why 2pac was so instrumental was that he was both erudite and thought provoking at the same time—and he did this by mastering coded language and the art of rhyming. For the most part, this type of artistry lives in independent Hip-Hop and I’m happy to be a part of that movement—and this was the impetus behind this show, held on May Day, in Oakland, at the end of a long day of solidarity with #Baltimore & #Ferguson and anywhere where there is a question of brutality & systemic abuse by law enforcement.

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.

The Martyr’s Song From the Audubon

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I was honored to write & perform this piece as part of the official #XLegacy commemoration event for #MX50 at #UCBerkeley, on the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of #MalcolmX; #MX50Forever… This was the next chapter to Malcolm X inspired/homage album/curriculum entitled #XFactor by Professor A.L.I.

The Martyr’s Song from the Audubon
by Professor A.L.I.

An Introduction: (taken from these three perspectives: a witness in the crowd, the family lawyer and the Audubon Ballroom Director)

Sharon Shabazz was 19, she sat in the Audubon and heard a commotion
She thought it was drunks, till Shots rang out; like mini explosions
She sees Betty scream hysterically, “They’re killing my husband”
She saw Malcolm fall, blood flowing in front of four little orphans

The family lawyer said, “Malcolm died broke, no insurance policy”
Others collected his royalties from books and articles in magazines
Who cared for this family? As the roots were severed from tree
Where was the crowd, to play the role of a husband and daddy

No outline where Malcolm fell, no crime scene police tape
A dance was sponsored later at the Audubon, that very day
3 cleaning women scrubbed the blood from the hardwood away
And instruments were carefully placed upon the same stage

***

The scent of Mecca, lingers upon, his metaphysical form
It fills the Audubon, as he delivers to warn,
A message, Islam, for bullets we’d mourn
They hiss, ripping thru the shell of his form.
His spirit has flown, our spirits are blown
Like gun barrels, while his soul drifts to the throne
Target, cuz he worshipped the Most High alone
He shines, a prince returnin’ to his spiritual home

Hard-bottoms tap in rhythm on the ballroom floor
To hear Malcolm Speak, strengthens ones Spiritual core
The flavor of sustenance, he delivers, lingers in minds
Devoid of swine, Afro-American U-N-I-T-Y
Amongst these 400 hundred people lingers the spy
Snitches and snakes; serpents serving Satan’s side
The brisk February coldness makes visible breath
The audience would be in the presence from a visit with death
Waiting for Malcolm to speak, ushers silence
As the mic static, gives way to knowledge, then violence
3:03 to 3:10 what happened in those seven minutes?
Momentary distraction, gave way to a sanctioned hit
An assassination of an icon, he falls, and they shoot on
Women clamber towards his corpse, blood fills the Audubon
Your last breath paves way for the coldness of your flesh
You died at 3:10, but became more alive through death

The scent of Mecca, lingers upon, his metaphysical form
It fills the Audubon, as he delivers to warn,
A message, Islam, for bullets we’d mourn
They hiss, ripping thru the shell of his form.
His spirit has flown, our spirits are blown
Like gun barrels, while his soul drifts to the throne
Target, cuz he worshipped the Most High alone
He shines, a prince returnin’ to his spiritual home

Look into his family’s eyes, sift thru memory flashes
That spark like the hammer of the pistol pulled back
His spit, paints the picture, definition of blackness
Strategic in his vision, textbook precision in tactic
A man of action, who spins around the kaaba like an atom
The building block of faith, no hate, just compassion
Who could kill such a man? Who could shred this flower?
From the garden of righteous souls; in this very hour?
Fifty years ago, what mother birthed these demons
Who could bring themselves to murder our beacon
It’s not the hand, but who put the money in the pockets
Is the question we should ask, if we ever want to solve this
His faith was like pure water, amidst polluted seas
He was the breathe fresh air, we all needed to breath
Yet in that moment I’m asthmatic, sawed off shotgun blast
I’m his orphan, horrified; where is my father, I ask?

The scent of Mecca, lingers upon, his metaphysical form
It fills the Audubon, as he delivers to warn,
A message, Islam, for bullets we’d mourn
They hiss, ripping thru the shell of his form.
His spirit has flown, our spirits are blown
Like gun barrels, while his soul drifts to the throne
Target, cuz he worshipped the Most High alone
He shines, a prince returnin’ to his spiritual home

The guns spit, tear thru clothing layers and burn skin
The soul separates, so your face widens to grin
21 gunshot wounds left in your chest, yet heart beats
Within your six seeds, your deeds and those you still lead
Your corpse smiles, as it shares Yuri’s breath
Yet the air she gave escapes through holes in your chest
In death you bore witness, the definition of martyr
Sister Betty would forever be haunted by your slaughter
And six little girls would forever long for their father
Like the tears of Hajar birthed the Zamzam water
As she ran in between Safa and Marwa mountains
The tears of Malcolm’s daughters, formed fountains
Attallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah and Gamilah are orphans
And Malikah and Malak are fatherless, unborn
2 daughters cling to womb, 4 weep over your tomb
Now you sleep next to Betty, and your grandson, Malcolm

The scent of Mecca, lingers upon, his metaphysical form
It fills the Audubon, as he delivers to warn,
A message, Islam, for bullets we’d mourn
They hiss, ripping thru the shell of his form.
His spirit has flown, our spirits are blown
Like gun barrels, while his soul drifts to the throne
Target, cuz he worshipped the Most High alone
He shines, a prince returnin’ to his spiritual home

meandmaclolm

Taking The Next Generation To School; Professor A.L.I.’s Innovative Hip-Hop Curriculum, Is The First Of Its Kind

The X in “XFactor” pays homage to the personage and legacy of Malcolm X, while invoking the idea of the “unknown variable”.  The goal of the curricular album is to invite the listener to discover what that variable is in reference to Hip-Hop. 

1/06/2015 (BERKELEY, CA) – U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Davis Law School alumnus, Moorish Hip-Hop artist and educator, Professor A.L.I. has shifted the paradigm of how music can be used in the high school classroom.  His “XFactor” double length album is integrated as part of a unique Hip-Hop history curriculum offered this spring at The Athenian School in Danville, College Preparatory School in Oakland., The Urban School and Lick Wilmerding in San Francisco, and Marin Academy and the course is being offered for U.C. approved history credit.

Professor A.L.I. states the idea of merging Hip-Hop and Education to enhance curriculum was born in his mind in a Native American Law class offered at U.C. Davis and taught by Professor Arturo Gandara.  He stated that while at U.C. Davis, “Professor Gandara would allow me to submit verses or raps instead of essays for my weekly reflections based on our case readings.  He would offer feedback and appreciated the level of depth of my lyrics and often asked me to open class by rapping—which added so much depth to our overall discussion.”

The “Xfactor” album delves into Hip-Hop’s history and discusses its future and does not shy away from sensitive topics like misogyny, racism and homophobia, instead Professor A.L.I. tackles them head-on—showcasing a profound understanding for the role played by Hip-Hop and using it as a lens to initiate this study.

The course is unique, in that it teaches history from a thematic perspective, weaving in the expanse of oral histories in West Africa, the Middle Passage, the Abolitionist Movement, The Jim Crow South, The Civil Rights Movement, Colonialism/Post-Colonial realities and modern day social dynamics in the urban community.  Hip-Hop in essence becomes the thread by which all these historical events are studied and students are invited to respond to the units by writing and recording their own raps to the same instrumentals that Professor A.L.I. uses in the “XFactor.”

“Nothing like it is out there—believe me, I’ve looked.  While academics have written Hip-Hop pedagogies, and there are courses offered at the University level, no one has thought about bringing it to this type of education to the high school level nor offering it as a robust curriculum at that.  While some innovative unit plans exist that weave in Hip-Hop in literature curricula, never before has an instructor stepped so firmly into the space of authenticity that Hip-Hop itself demands and record an album in order to advance the curricular and pedagogical objectives of a course—and this is why I was so inspired to be the first,”  stated Professor A.L.I. anticipating this January 6th, album release date.

An example of the fiery lyrical content can be taken from the eponymous track “XFactor”, which takes a jab at the controversial cover image choices made by Nicki Minaj last year that was disrespectful to the personage and legacy of Malcolm X.  The Professor then takes us through a truly eXistential view of history while explaining who Malcolm was to Hip-Hop, “He’s placenta to Hip-Hop’s birth, so discarded, yet his knowledge provided nutrition for these artists.”

The album features guest vocals from long standing Professor A.L.I. collaborators in Raekwon of the Wu Tang ClanPlanet AsiaBlitz the AmbassadorSadat X of Brand NubianDead Prez, and Canibus and as well includes, in two parts as interludes, a never before heard, full length interview conducted by Professor A.L.I. with his late friend Malcolm Shabazz before he was murdered in Mexico City in 2013.

#HipHopEd