Sep 112014
 

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Arab-American life post 9/11
Never Forget

By Nana Sabra

Never forget they say. As a Lebanese-Puerto Rican-American who was raised with two faiths; Islam and Catholicism, I can assure you, I will never forget. As a New Yorker who stood on the pier at 69th street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, watching the towers come crumbling down just across the river while the whole city suddenly turned into a huge dust and smoke cloud, I will never forget. Showing up late to school on the day of the attack, only to be greeted by FBI agents surrounding our high school, and being denied entrance, I will never forget. One thing I still can’t understand is why they chose my school. It’s probably because it was located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is home to a huge Arab, most who are Muslim, population. Being abruptly awoken from my sleep at 4am by the sonic boom of F16 fighter jets flying above my home, thinking we were once again under attack, while having my heart all but fall out of my chest, I will never forget. Being born to an Arab Muslim father, ME? Forget? How could I ever forget?!

While many Americans suddenly adopted a new sense of patriotism after the September 11th attacks, I must admit, my sense of Arabism which was always there, suddenly grew stronger. This was not because I condoned the terrorist attacks which occurred that day; yes, we also consider the people who carried out these crimes to be terrorists. It was more because suddenly I was made to feel that I was not “American” enough. We all know how the saying goes, “Get in where you fit in”. So basically, that’s what I did.

It’s a shame when you are born and raised in a country and know no other home for the first 18 years of your life, that an event such as those of September 11th, 2001 occurs, and suddenly you no longer feel at home. You no longer feel welcome. You are on the train, sitting across from a woman wearing a hijab. You notice everyone staring at her with looks of hate and disgust, looking like they are ready to assault her. Although they are not doing the same to me, I feel her pain. I look at her and give her a friendly smile. I’m pretty sure she understood that I was just like her minus the religious head scarf. Then there was the time when myself and 3 friends, one Caucasian American and two Palestinian Americans, were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our order. The waitress was kind and friendly to all of us. That is until she heard me say something in Arabic. Suddenly her attitude towards me took a whole new direction. When serving us our food, she pretty much threw my food down at me. I was not very keen on eating it, since I could only think, well who knows what she could have done to it before bringing it out to me.

I sit back and think off all the times I had to explain to people that while yes my father is Muslim, we are not “those kinds of Muslims”, in an attempt to put as much distance as possible between myself and extremists. I realize, now, that I still have to make this ridiculous speech even in the present day. It’s gotten pretty annoying. It’s also annoying when people ask you what your views on September 11th are, as if I’m somehow going to come out protesting my love and adoration of Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. In all honesty, I think Arabs and Muslims in general loathe these monsters more than anyone in the whole world. While I personally did not lose anyone that tragic day, I must say, it’s as if our identity was stolen and hijacked by these brainwashed radicals and we are now forced to wear theirs, even though it’s the last thing we want. We weren’t given an option.

Until recently, I always kept my Pro-Palestinian views off of social media. Sure I would throw in the random “Free Palestine” status, Palestinian flag, or YouTube video showing what it’s like to live under constant siege and occupation. It was never a secret that I supported the Palestinian cause. I kept it to a minimum though. It’s tedious work trying to explain to ignorant people why you support Palestine when all they see them as is terrorist Muslims who want to wipe Israel off of the map for good.

After the most recent wave of war crimes carried out against the Palestinians by the Israeli Occupation Forces, I felt enough was enough. I no longer cared if you misunderstood me. I no longer cared who was offended and who was not. I was offended that this was still happening to my people and not a soul in the world cared. Notice I didn’t refer to the Israeli armed forces by their actual name, IDF, which stands for Israeli Defense Forces. They are not defending anything. Stealing land to colonize it with settlers from anywhere in the world, as long as they pray the right way, then saying you are there to protect the settlers, that is absurd. They are only there to occupy the land and terrorize each and every Palestinian life in the hopes that they will just get sick of the harassment and leave. Anyway, that is neither here nor there. The point is that just a few weeks ago, while at a protest in Times Square, NYC, where we were calling for an end to the massacre in Gaza, a group of Israeli Zionists came right to where I was standing. All they could do was boo us, curse out an Orthodox Jewish man who was standing there in solidarity with the Palestinians, then suddenly one screams out, “You are 9/11. These are the people who did 9/11”, in broken English. She kept repeating it to everyone walking by. While I know this is not true, it did bother me, because I know that the average Joe walking by would probably believe it.

There are so many instances I can think of. I will throw out just a few more because believe me, I could sit here and write a 10 page story telling you all about my experiences post 9/11. Have you ever wanted to donate to a charity but had to think twice, maybe three or four times about what the result might be if you did? I have. If you donate to a charity in the Middle East, let’s say a charity to benefit those injured in Gaza, you are risking having the FBI come knock at your door to ask you if you are funding terrorism. I personally know at least a handful of people who have had this experience after simply sending some money back home to help out their relatives.

To be greeted in the morning by your boss and coworkers with the following sentence; “The terrorist is here. Good. Now I know today is not the day they blow up Grand Central. If it was, she wouldn’t be here. She has the inside connection so I’m sure she wouldn’t come to work that day”. Or how about this one, “So hey listen, the day that you and your Palestinian cousin over there both call out sick, I am definitely not coming in. If you’re both not here, that definitely means there is something up”. Or just straight to the point out of left field, “I don’t respect you, because you are Muslim”. I can promise you that this really happened. While many people advised me to record it and sue, I didn’t have the energy for that. I just picked up my pride and quit. I never looked back. Best decision of my life. It was very liberating. My pride was not going to be sold for a nice paycheck.

I will never apologize for being who I am. I embrace it. I am proud to be me; unique, unlike anyone you have ever met. It gives me great pleasure knowing that I can communicate with people in both Spanish and Arabic. One day you will catch me rolling grape leaves, the next day I might be cooking rice and beans, overdoing it with the adobo. If you’re at one of our celebrations, I might grab your hand and lead you to the dabke line one minute, and if the next song happens to be a Spanish one, we’re dancing salsa. I will no longer explain myself to anyone. I am not the one with the identity crisis. I know exactly who and what I am. I will never again try to sugarcoat the term Muslim or Arab. I am proud to be my father’s daughter.

So next time you hear someone refer to 9/11/2001 and then say never forget, please always remember that we also can never forget. While for many of you, it’s on your mind for a few days before and after the anniversary, please remember that it haunts us all the time. It’s an unfortunate burden we will always have to carry around with us. Every time we meet someone new and introduce ourselves, the whole “What’s your name? What kind of name is that? Well what’s your nickname/American name”, situation comes up. “Oh, so you’re Arab? Definitely not Muslim, right? I mean Muslims don’t let their women work or drive, etc…”. We can never forget because we also lived through it and continue to feel the negative effects it had on us as a people. Maybe one day, the “real Americans” will let us forget; just a little.

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Aug 262014
 

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SATURDAY AUGUST 30TH

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Presents the Black August Film Festival and the Black August Art Exhibit on 8/30/14 at the National Black Theatre in Harlem.

Located at 2031 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10035 / $10 / 3PM to 10PM.

FILMS:

Free Angela by Shola Lynch

Afraid of Dark by Mya B

Herman’s House by Angad Singh Bhalla

Hip Hop is Bigger Than the Occupation by Nana Dankwa & Existence is Resistance

MIND Up by Kevin Lopez

And More.

ART BY:

Shabaam Sahdeeq

Elton Leonard

Marthalicia Matarrita

Austin Green

Monifa Skerritt-Perry

And More.

Live Music by DJ Johnnito Cienfuegos

Aug 262014
 

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By Hasan Salaam

Blaming Hip-Hop for the problems in and out of our community is some real Stockholm Syndrome shit.

We are not to blame for the systematic attacks on our people. Long before Kool Herc spun at a party or the world heard Rappers Delight the police were killing us in cold blood. From Camden to Watts and Chicago to New Orleans there have been countless cases of police terrorism and lynchings in this country over the past 500 years.

Wearing a SnapBack doesn’t give the police a right to harass and beat you, same as Trayvon wearing a hoodie shouldn’t give predators like Zimmerman a pass to kill a child.

The true problem is that this country built itself and still feeds itself off of Black Death. Hip-Hop music was not there when slaves attempting to escape were tied to horses and quartered in front of the entire plantation to strike fear in men, women and children. The music was not there when Emmett Till was snatched from his bed or when the freedom riders were attacked by the side of the road.

Rap music didn’t assassinate our leaders based on COINTELPRO documents and the eradication of a possible Black Messiah, the FBI did that. Hip-Hop didn’t create crack cocaine and flood it into Black & Brown neighborhoods, the CIA did that.

Blaming our music ignores the fact that this is nothing new, it has been updated to suit the times but it’s nothing but Jim Crow 2.0.

Hip-Hop is not the problem, in fact it has been a powerful tool to spread the truth about the injustices committed against us here in America since it’s inception. The system attempts to co-opt it based on the power it has. Hip-Hop is has spread all over the world and appealed to all as a music of the counter culture, a buck back at the system and a rise against oppression.

The spirit of our culture is as brave as the Spirituals we sung on the plantation laden with hidden messages leading us from bondage.

It’s as genius as Jazz and the flatted 5th’s we played from memory and improvisation while the society that danced to it wouldn’t allow itself to believe we had the mental capacity to compose it.

Rock & Roll, Doo-Wop, Soul, R&B, House, Go-Go, Hip-Hop and every other musical form we have created in America has been a powerful tool in our fight for Freedom, Justice and Equality.

Use it.

Aug 262014
 

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Show your support and attend this event in NYC tomorrow at B.B. King.

From Rebel Diaz:

With all thats going on in Ferguson, MO and even here in NYC we thought it was the right move to make to support a Freedom Ride: NYC to Ferguson Caravan!!!

Our goal is still to ‪#‎packoutbbkings‬ but this time for a cause we hold close to our hearts. Ferguson, MO needs all the solidarity it can get at this moment….

Join Us! Wednesday August 27th as we #PackOutBBKings ‪#‎TimesSquareTakeover‬

GET ON THE BUS!!!!

Interested in going to Ferguson?

We will have an info booth and will be signing people up…..

You do not want to miss this show!!!

Its gonna be super dope.

Same amazing line up plus probably some super dope guests….

Performing Live!!!

Rebel Diaz
w/ Dirty Delorean
The ReMINDers
YC The Cynic
Hosted by Flaco Navaja
Opening DJ set by: DJ Charlie Hustle

We got pre sale tickets at $1O and we can go and meet you or you can come and pick them up in The South Bronx……

You can also go on the website and get them at:

http://www.bbkingblues.com/bio.php?id=4348

Facebook Event Page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1548461635372703/?ref=22

Aug 242014
 

As many of you know, I have been spending the past month or so in and out of the hospitals in Jerusalem and Nablus where many wounded Palestinians are being brought for medical care during the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza. In between these visits I have been attending various demonstrations which always end with the Israeli Occupying Forces shooting live ammunition at everyone. In one demo which I wrote about in an earlier post over 281 people were shot including many of my friends which meant more hospitals….in the most recent demo 72 people were shot including two journalists. I can not explain the feeling of hopelessness I feel witnessing all of this. Then of course,, I feel bad complaining because I have the luxury of leaving any time.

A couple of days ago I came back to my home in Haifa to be with my family and of course to try and put together all these thoughts and feelings so that I can write about it with a clear mind. I am not a professional writer and for some reason I just can not collect myself in the way that I want, in order for me to be able to fully relay everything I am seeing.

I still have not and cannot process it all. For the past two days I have sat down with all my notes and all these pictures and tried to put it together but every single time I try it means I have to remember what personally happened to each of the people I visited as well as their pain….whether they showed it to me through smiles, laughs or tears, I saw it and it is past painful. It’s so painful, you become somewhat numb. Most of them don’t cry when they tell me about what they saw or about their loved ones being blown to pieces in front of them so I follow suit and swallow the hurt and anger and tears away. Now that I am alone, I don’t have their strength so I just switch off.

There are many people I want to tell you about and we still need donations to get the wounded and their families whatever they need while they are stuck in the hospitals with only the clothes on their back they left with….so here are a few of the most recent people I have been visiting frequently.

14 year old Mohammed Amin Siyam from Rafah stole my heart. While I was checking in on other kids I had been visiting for a few weeks, I noticed Mohammed was new in their room. He was in extreme pain and every time he would scream or attempt to cry I would look up and he would see me and stop. As if he didn’t want to cry in front of me. I walked over and told him its ok to cry if he is in pain. His grandfather who was the only guardian with him looked up at me, smiled and teared up. I had to leave for a minute so I could go slap myself in the bathroom to fight back my tears and returned to hear his story.

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Mohammed was wounded when the house next door to his home was rocketed by an Israeli F16. The first rocket hit and the windows in his home shattered. The second, third and fourth rockets hit  and Mohammed lost his leg. The doctors saved his right arm but the nerves are all damaged which means he cannot move that arm from the shoulder down.

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Mohammeds grandfather told me there has never been any presence of resistance fighters in their area. Mohammed asked me for a Dishdasha and to make sure it was long so it would cover his missing leg. The next day I went with a friend Alaa from Ramallah, picked out the best dishdasha and brought it for him from the kind donations everyone has been making.

10 month old Ahmad AbedJawad Abutala is from Rafah. His mother was breastfeeding him when 5 rockets within minutes of each other hit their home. His mother who is still in Gaza lost her legs and her arms and chest were burnt so his grandmother accompanied him to Jerusalem.

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Ahmad lost his right eye, has shrapnel in his head, broken leg and arm and shrapnel in his other leg.

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Youseff Astal, 16 years old. He told me how his father had been murdered by Israel a couple of days before his injuries. Youseffs father had been targeted by an F16 whilst he was in the back yard of his brothers home. Youseff found him. A few days later Youseff was filling water from a barrel when Israel rocketed him too. He said the only thing that saved him was the barrel. He sustained injuries to his arms and face as well as shrapnel in his stomach. Youseff also lost a kidney which was torn to shreds by the shrapnel.

 

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Youseff asked me for a cell phone which we brought him also from the donations people have been making.

There are so many more stories and pictures I want to share with you and I will. Inshallah in the coming days.

In one week I will return to the hospitals and spend another three weeks with the wounded. We truly hope that people will continue to donate as new injuries are being brought in daily. No matter how small or large your donation, it all makes a difference. Please donate directly via paypal to Questions@Existenceisresistance.org or email us if you want to send a check at the same email address.

Thank you for all the support everyone has been sending. It’s not over until its over.