Posts from April 2016

Why I applaud Beyoncé

April 30, 2016

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I have never, even in the days when I listened to music religiously, been a fan of Beyoncé. I recognized she was extremely talented, watched her videos and bought one of her albums. But nothing about her, her message or lack there of, caused me to be deeply invested. But the Beyoncé that seems to be forming today is not the Beyoncé of the past. With my lost of interest in music in general and my lack of interest in her as an artist it’s been years since I listened to a Beyoncé song, until Formation. From Jordan I still keep up with the news to some degree, when I heard of Beyoncé’s allegedly pro- back anti police song causing a stir, I took a listen. Besides a few nods to pro blackness –like loving her baby’s hair with “baby hair and afro” and liking her “negro nose” I found the song overwhelmingly vulgar. Then I watched the video and saw images from her Super Bowl performance. They were beyond pro black, they were dangerously black. Many black activists and activist groups have been white washed to the point where they have become caricature teddy bear images of themselves –Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman; for example, one man who has never been fully whitewashed (though some in the Muslim community make their most earnest attempt) is Malcolm X. The same can be said for the activist group, The Black Panthers. Their very names strike fear in to the mainstream. To black people they are heroes, to mainstream America they are monsters –Beyoncé celebrated both.

In her video she continues her visual activism, with images of a young black boy dancing in front of police, her laying on top a drowning police car, a graffiti sign that says ‘stop shooting us’, whoa. These images, were she not already Queen B, could ruin one’s career immediately. And even the most successful black people with seemingly nothing to lose –Oprah, for example, stay very far away from ever speaking up for black people, blackness and black issues. While we don’t have a technical system in the U.S. where one can apply to be white after reaching a certain degree of wealth, it is implied. Wealthy black people are expected to keep their distance from their blackness. People who don’t understand racism (or pretend not to) think that if you’re wealthy you no longer are connected to or have to deal with the issues an everyday black person faces. I’m sure there is a degree of truth to this, as long as Beyoncé is recognized as Beyoncé when she goes, for example, shopping in a high-end store, no one will accuse her of shop lifting or assume she’s a thief. But is it really possible to truly disconnect one’s self from the struggles people who share your skin color, history and ancestry face?

Some can, the ones we call ‘sell outs’, pretend that racism isn’t really the issue, black people just need to spread more love –as Common suggested, or we just need to change our behavior –as Cosby suggested or maybe we just need to work harder –as Jamie Fox says. These people see their wealth and success as a result of their individual goodness and character and think that if other black people would just do the same they too can reach the promise land. Others recognize –while black people just like everyone else, are not perfect, we also have serious systematic issues that impede our ability to be collectively successful. Beyoncé –to my knowledge, has been silent and it’d be hard to guess until the release of Formation, where exactly she stands on any of these issues. Formation and the subsequent release of Lemonade suggest that she too sees the systemic racism perpetrated on black people. That she is choosing not to accept the idea that her distance from the everyday black experience must divorce her from the struggle of everyday black people, that is a big deal.

So while, as a Muslim woman, it is difficult to promote anything dripping with vulgarity, immorality and lewdness, it is –as a black women, impossible to not stand up and applaud a woman who does not have to care about black issues but chooses to. I get that it’s very tricky territory but I think that if you live in black skin, witness the historical and present day black nightmare and the relative silence of far too many of our people who have an impact to at least lend their voice, you too would stand up and cheer.

The deeds that live on

April 24, 2016

“If you disclose your Sadaqaat (almsgiving), it is well; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, that is better for you.” [Quran 2:271]

Header-Prince-628x378There are many reasons why a man like Prince should be remembered, if he did nothing but make the movie ‘Purple Rain’ and its accompanying album he would be remembered forever. His exceptional guitar skills, his continued impact on the music world, his eclectic style, his strong faith, his soft spoken activism and his many albums after Purple Rain are reason enough to remember this amazing soul. But one thing we would not be able to know about him until his untimely death was his charity.

Because of his faith, humility, modesty, he gave innumerable charity to various causes out of the public eye. There is an Islamic saying about giving charity so secretively that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, Prince embodied this. When we die, the world has to reflect on our lives, what we meant to them and they get to choose how we are remembered, what is better than being remembered as one who made the world a better place? As Imam Al Ghazali quotes the prophet, peace to him, as saying “The earth itself weeps when it loses them”.

The Undiscovered Mind

April 9, 2016

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I’m currently reading Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and The Undiscovered Mind by John Horgan. The former I’ve read previously and the latter is a new discovery.

Jerry Mander makes the point of his book quite clear. Before I began re-reading it -I first read it about two years ago, I flipped to the back and read the last section. I remembered that it was the last section that struck me the most. After giving a presentation to a group of fifth graders about the effects of technology on society and the individual, I remembered Jerry Mander recalling in the last section of his book that despite many reading his book and agreeing with him they still thought themselves powerless. “Are you really going to advocate its elimination?” one interlocutor asks Mander. Despite having laid out the harms of television so clearly -it’s harms to our health, to democracy, human experience and many other factors it seems we are still faced with the same question when anyone proposes that we ought to not watch TV or professes to not watch it themselves.

But in all honestly not watching TV is less rare today, not because we’ve finally awaken to its harms, but because the internet on its various devices has replaced it. The reasons to not watch TV don’t all relate to the Internet -the idea of the few talking to the many is not eliminated but it is not as present in the medium, it may in fact be among the most democratic mediums. But many of the other issues he spoke about against TV do apply to the Internet as well. I’ve read a chapter of The Shallows and it will probably be the next book I read, it seems to be the most appropriate next choice.

The Undiscovered Mind is about the limitation of science when it comes to the brain. It’s not just amazing how little we know but how little progress has been made in the field of neuroscience. One thing I dislike about our access to constant streams of information is that it allows us to believe we know so much and it’s only a matter of time before we know it all. The truth is quite the opposite. Why did a steel pole get rammed in to a man’s head and he retained complete functionality except that his personality changed dramatically? Why is it that the left hemisphere of a young boy was so deformed it had to be removed and somehow 10 months later he could speak? (Neuroscientists promoted the idea that the left side of the brain is responsible for language). Why do lobotomizes make some patients catatonic and others lose control? One quote I love from the book so far:

Because every individual is comprised of a singular combination of physiology, social identity, and personal values, in effect each patient constitutes a unique experience.

Since I’ve read The Four Arguments… already I can highly recommend it. The Undiscovered Mind is excellent so far. To make a small note, besides being enthusiastic about both these books I also find it extremely important to read books. Reading books, long form reading that required from the author a painstaking time commitment, research and well thought out philosophies are extremely valuable. For example I knew I had a hate-love relationship with TV before reading Jerry Mander’s book but his research and conviction of the subject helped to give me an even deeper perspective. I love reading blog posts, essays, magazine articles, etc. but there is no equivalent to sitting down quietly with a book -preferably a paper book that can’t distract you with Facebook notifications, to intimately take in the authors words, to pause, to reflect.

They’ve been announcing the “death of books” for some time now but I’m almost certain that the day this is true will be the day a part of humanity dies. One thing that stands out about modern society more than others is our mass literacy, we should not take it for granted.

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♣ Available for purchase below ♣

The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

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