Monday, December 22, 2014

The Time is Now for Unity Not Divisions

         It's tense. The air is thick. But we have to move through it. We need to move together but before we do that - we need to listen to one another.
         I find it ironic how we want to demonize an entire movement that's mantra is‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬, a movement in which the sanctity of life, the value of life including Black life is at its very core. I find it ironic that the very same people will say don't judge an entire political party, or faith community, or group of people by the despicable acts of a few - then are quick to blame hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters for the acts of a few. This movement has never been about revenge or vendettas, its always been about love. I have never felt more love in social justice movements than I have felt this year.
          People will say well why not then say ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬, and I will say it is not all lives who have to justify their value and why they matter. It is not all life that has to prove why they don't deserve to be treated as sub-human. We as a society have decided who matters and who doesn't and we have proved it in the way the system works or doesn't work, who it oppresses, which countries we choose to wage war with and the increase and nonchalant usage of the word "collateral damage."
          As Officers Liu and Ramos are laid to rest, leaving behind loved ones, and how difficult it must be for them that we must also remember there are families who go to bed every night without their loved ones who are also lost to senseless violence, including police violence. Sisters and brothers, we can mourn the death OF police and BY police. They are not mutually exclusive. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, taxi-cab driver, cashier, street vendor or police officer - ALL lives matter. I will not engage in selective outrage over murders of innocent people. We should be calling each other to a higher moral ground - not engage in a divisive, toxic downward spinning cycle which creates more hate and animosity. This will not help us move closer to a better city, a better country or a better world.
         I respect this time, the funerals and families of Ramos and Liu, but asking Black Americans and communities of color to "stop protesting" indefinitely is unreasonable. To engage in requests to elected officials to suppress the constitutional rights of segments of the American population makes you no better then the countries we are quick to criticize for lack of democracy. We have waged wars on countries in the Middle East and forced democracies down their throats meanwhile we are calling for the suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly right here in the United States. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Might as well just call ourselves Saudi America.
         Racism exists. Its real. It does not need to be your personal experience for it to be real. Justice has not been served - and we have a long way to go. If not people, protest, pressure and policy? HOW? Have we forgot our history? Did Black men win the right to vote by sitting back and waiting for the "system" to take care of it? Did we end segregation by smoking a cigarette hoping someone realized it was a bad idea? Women's right to vote? The list goes on. The system that many of you believe so much in - is the same system that treats many poor people and people of color unfairly.
         Your video, the one with about 25-30 people chanting "dead cops" will never win any argument that this movement supports violence. Are Black Americans than allowed to use video of KKK members spewing hate and racism against Blacks and people of color to represent an entire segment of American society? Will we then be allowed to use videos and comments by prominent elected officials and blame them for the rapes of hundreds of women a year? I'll be waiting for your answer.
          Let's step back, reflect, take a deep breath. No one ever said this was easy. Life is not easy. Change is not easy. Open your minds and hearts - listen to one another. Make an attempt to understand where people are coming from and then come together. This is OUR city, whether you are Black, White, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, poor or rich - we must work towards justice and healing. So as long as parts of our community are shut out of the system and are without justice and equality - we all lose.
          I may seem naive for being optimistic. I live and breathe HOPE. I believe in us, I believe in our potential. We just have to see beyond our emotions, imagine a better world, and work towards it. It is the ONLY way.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Facing Race Spotlight: Palestinian-American Activist Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American executive director of the Arab American Association in New York City, has had plenty to do this past year. As Gaza burned, and the media drumbeat of ISIS grew ever louder, people in the U.S. were grieving and responding to a spate of police killings of black men, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Sarsour’s longstanding work on law-enforcement accountability converged with her Arab-American civil rights work.
Two weeks ago, Sarsour joined a contingent of activists who traveled to Missouri to participate in Ferguson October and to speak with Arab and South Asian business owners in Ferguson. “We were thinking about what our role is as Arab-Americans and Muslims, as the children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves. What is our role in the larger conversation about race and racism in the U.S.?” 
For the last decade Sarsour has been pushing for an end to racial profiling in law enforcement, primarily around domestic surveillance programs run by the federal government and the NYPD that target American Muslims. She says that has required Arab-American communities to “build solidarity with people and communities who have been impacted for decades by police brutality, by racial profiling, by stop-and-frisk and by broken windows policing.”
November 15, in Dallas, Sarsour will break down racial injustice in the post-September 11 era at Facing Race, the biennial conference held by Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward. She spoke with Colorlines about how she spent her summer and the lessons and laughs she’s taken away from young people on social media.
Can you talk about what you took away from your time participating in Ferguson October?
What I took away from Ferguson was that it’s OK to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are each working against injustice. Injustice is supposed to make us angry. And that anger can be productive and translated into systemic change. I was proud to be angry, which is something we’re told not to be—angry Arab women or angry black women. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry, and we were angry alongside people around us who also showed you love. It was something I never felt before in my life.
These young people in Ferguson are not waiting for national leaders to come in and tell them how to organize, when to sit in the streets, what to occupy, how to chant, or what their demands are. These are young people who taught me that I don’t need anyone else to lead me or guide me, I’m going to do whatever feels right at that moment. Read More......

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Don't be shocked that the US spied on American Muslims. Get angry that it justifies spying on whomever it wants

my oped in The Guardian responding to expose by The Intercept.

What do a Republican candidate, a military veteran, a civil rights activist and a professor have in common? They are all American Muslims – and all have been subject to pervasive surveillance by the NSA and FBI.
A report published by The Intercept on Wednesday reveals that the two agencies used secretive procedures designed to catch terrorists and spies to monitor the email accounts of prominent American Muslim leaders. Among the documents supplied by Edward Snowden, a spreadsheet titled "FISA recap" contains 7,485 email addresses apparently monitored between 2002 and 2008. (The report also clearly documents how biased training by the FBI leads to biased surveillance, and that calling Muslims "ragheads" is everyday lingo at federal law enforcement agencies.)
These revelations demonstrate that there are two sets of laws in the United States: one designed for dissidents, political activists and American Muslims – and another for everybody else. But nobody is safe when one group is singled out: if our government can simply decide with little or no oversight to monitor the personal email account of an American Muslim Republican military veteran, then it can decide to monitor any of our emails, too. That should strike fear into the heart of every American who values our freedoms. Read More

Watch This Muslim-American Activist (Me) Take Down A Leading Islamophobe

A Muslim-American leader on Sunday criticized one of the right wing’s top traffickers of Islamophobia for exaggerating the threat that Muslims pose to the United States and for regularly linking the religion to terrorism.
Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel made news last week for berating a Muslim student at an event hosted by a conservative think-tank. “People like you need to be put in their place,” Gabriel later said to the student.
Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York — and recently recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House — challenged Gabriel on CNN’s Reliable Sources. “Ms. Gabriel speaks out of two sides of her mouth,” she said. “In one breath she’ll say the West must support moderate Muslims, and the moderate Muslims must speak out against terrorism and in the same breath she’ll say peaceful Muslims are irrelevant.”  Watch video here:

If the first thing you ask a Muslim woman is if she's American, you might be a bigot

my oped in response to the Heritage Foundation event, published in The Guardian on June 18th, 2014 

It took one American Muslim law student, Saba Ahmed, making one mild criticism during a conservative panel discussion of Benghazi, to get people foaming at the mouth at an event co-hosted by a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
What could she have said to deserve an upbraiding from the stage? "We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8bn followers of Islam. We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here." 
Watching the video of the panelists respond to Ahmed on Monday afternoon, you can almost hear the wheels turning in their heads: How dare this young American Muslim law student – in a hijab, no less – talk back to us? How out-of-line for her to assert that the majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful people and that society should not use a broad brush to demonize an entire faith based on the acts of a very tiny minority! Read more

Friday, August 1, 2014

Justice NOT Just-Us

     Sisters and brothers - what I am about to share with you is ‪#‎realtalk‬. I hope you are enlightened and accept my words as sound analysis, encouragement and advice to advance our causes and our community. This comes from a place of love. Please open your heart and mind, absorb, reflect.
     We are watching in horror as fellow human beings are being massacred by the scores in Gaza. We are outraged. We feel helpless. We continue to chastise our government for supporting such atrocities. We ask ourselves where is humanity, why are our leaders looking the other way. What are we doing wrong and how can we alleviate the suffering of our people.
     While we work to bring morality back to society and in to the political arena - let us keep in mind it is a slow and enduring process. We live in a country in which slavery was legal. Some people were seen as sub-human. The dehumanization of Blacks allowed slavery to continue for more than two centuries. It took blood, dead bodies, lynching, protesting, risk taking to recognize (first) a Black man as human and a citizen. This did not come over night. We went through segregation, Jim Crow South, The New Jim Crow/mass incarceration and remnants of it still remain.
     Brothers and sisters - every few years Gaza/Palestine comes under attack. Hundreds lay scattered in the streets, thousands injured, entire neighborhoods leveled to the ground. We rise up - we become outraged, conflict continues for a few weeks. It ends. Then silence.
     Our opposition has two weapons: persistency and consistency. What are we doing every day to build the political power and political will for our causes? Are you a reactionary activist? are you born in time of crisis but when the pictures and videos of dead babies are no longer the first few posts on your feed - you go back to your every day life?
     Our commitment to justice for all is a contract we make every day. If you want to fight injustice you must step up and keep your head in the game. We will not win against injustice if we only rise when the injustice is against us. As my friend Fahd Ahmed articulately says all the time: Its about JUSTICE not JUST-US.
     We need to see the liberation of the Palestinian people connected to the liberation of all oppressed people. We must build solidarity across communities, issues and causes. We must be sincere in our work to build these relations.
For those in Detroit that are outraged over Gaza: Did you attend rallies to stand in solidarity with your fellow Americans who have been without running water? Did you join rallies for Renisha McBride who was murdered in cold blood after she knocked on a White man's door for help?

For those in Chicago: Have you ever joined a rally as City Hall shuts down schools in poor communities by the dozens? Have you stood side by side with communities of color denouncing gun violence that take the lives of young people every day?

For those in Arizona: Have you stood against Sheriff Arpaio, a man who terrorizes immigrant communities, where the prisons he runs have hundreds of human rights violations, a man who supports profiling of those who are suspect of being undocumented (which means most of you on my FB list)?

For those in New York City: Have you stood with the countless families who have lost their loved ones at the hands of the NYPD like Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and Sean Bell? Stood side by side with families whose loved ones have been deported by the Obama Administration for "not having papers"? Stood with workers denied basic rights?
     Have you stood against the massacres in Syria? Against the oppression and persecution of Ahmaddiya Muslims? Shias? Persecution of Christians in Iraq? Killing of Muslims in Central African Republic? Burma? Stood to reform our nation's draconian immigration laws that tear families apart? discriminatory police practices? Drones? Guantanamo. The list goes on. You don't have to do it all. These are food for thought.
     Solidarity, building alliances are key to fighting injustice in all its forms and creating powerful coalitions that are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, interfaith and cross sector. This is POWER. This is where the shift begins.
     Mass mobilization. We need to be in the STREETS. We need to get out of the comfort of our homes, offices, neighborhoods and take it to the streets. We need to use mass mobilization to educate our fellow citizens about what is happening, about the injustice we are fighting against, and be clear about what we want and what people can do to join the fight. Mass mobilization sends a message to our government that we are angry and we won't take it anymore.
     Boycott Divestment Sanctions. It worked to end Apartheid in South Africa - why would it not work to pressure Israel to recognize the Palestinians, end military occupation and apartheid in Palestine?
     Electoral participation. How many of you have written an email to your Congressperson just to have your blood pressure rise? You angrily post about their response, you begin threatening them about reelection, then elections come around - what happens? Participating in elections are ONE WAY and a part of the larger puzzle. IT IS AN IMPORTANT PART of building power. If participation of communities of color wasn't something that threatened the political power dynamics - we would not be fighting voter suppression laws and practices across the country. The perfect candidate will not come during one election or in 4 years, it will take decades of organizing our community, our votes and our money. We have to be in it for the long haul.
     What I am saying Sisters and Brothers - stay engaged. Attend mass mobilizations, teach-ins, meet with your elected officials throughout the year not just when they are doing something wrong or a crisis is happening in the world, register to vote and VOTE on election day. Let's be reminded that our sisters and brothers in the Arab and Muslim world are being massacred for the chance at freedom and democracy - something that I cherish here in the United States as an American. By no means are we risking the same here. Shame on us when we let those few vote against our interests.
     For too often we stayed in our own bubbles. We lacked the strategy and the know-how to build new and fresh leadership and maintain momentum. Times are changing. Our time is now. Shift is happening. Don't walk away. Keep talking, keep walking, keep educating, keep building. The movement needs all of us.
     I want to take the time out to commend those who have invested so much in building the movement, committed themselves to justice and equality, sacrificed time with their families to make our world a better more just place. Your work does not go unnoticed. Gratitude and love to you all.
     It is now time to use our privileges and freedoms to be consistent, persistent, strategic social justice change makers. We have it in us. We need to RISE UP, STAY UP and not come down till everyone is able to RISE UP.

#Gaza #Palestine #changetheNYPD #timeisnow 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Huffington Post Live "Women Making News" w/ fellow guest @FeministaJones

Check out this awesome episode of Huffington Post Live on "Women Making News" where we discuss anti-women bills across the country w/ a focus on Ohio, a new controversial documentary about violence against women in Muslim majority societies funded by an islamophobic group - The Clarion Fund,  a NY Times piece that proposes a "salary negotiating guide for women" that tells us how we need to be feminine about it (WTF), and the departure of Chelsea Handler from late-night television.