Feb 26, 2006

Divide and Conquer

The sectarian fighting between Shia's and Sunnis in Iraq has spiralled unto a whole other bloody level. After last Wednesday's bombing of the al-Askari Shrine, the violence has intensified drastically. I can't help but wonder who the real "behind the scenes" people were. Then again, does it really matter? I don't think I need to get into the "deja vu" factor here. Sectarian fighting within colonized/occupied places is nothing new; and neither is the divide and conquer approach that underlies it.

For those that may not know, the al-Askari mosque is one (if not the most) sacred of places for Shia Muslims. Shia's travel to the city to worship at the sacred tombs of Ali al-Hadi and al-Hasan al-Askari (the 10th and 11th Shia Imams) and the site where the 12th Imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi (also known as the "hidden Imam") disappeared. Shia's pray at this mosque for the return of Imam al-Mahdi.

A day after the incident, I spoke with an Iraqi student of mine, who like me, had immigrated to Canada at a young age. I asked him about his feelings and thoughts on the bombing of the shrine. Even though he did not identify as a practicing Shia Muslim, he was devastated the same. For him, it wasn't so much about the shrine itself as it was about the destruction of his homeland and his people.

It was ironic, 18 years after the Iran and Iraq war, here I was talking to a student ten years younger than me, about the death of thousands and thousands of our people who, as "enemies" were killing one another. He wasn't even born yet during that era of war, but he got to experience the continuation of that hell through another war that immediately followed.

I didn't know what to say to this young man. I was out of words. We both just looked at each other with great saddness because we knew the deal. We knew our people were survivors and fighters, we knew they were resilient and strong, but we also knew the reality of what went on:
our people's lives were worth less than oil, money and power.


Feb 18, 2006

The Rap on Race and Identity Politics

There's been quite a bit of blogging around the politics of race and identity vis-a-vis notions of solidarity, discourses of racism, etc. I want to add my two cents...

I identify as a light-skinned woman of color. Lighter Shade of Brown (LSB) as my sister calls it. I have an olive tone that pales in comparison to some of my sisters of color. I have privileges because of this paleness, I know this. I also have complex negotiations of this understanding...afterall, I am not white. I don't identify as white.

The story I want to share with you is one that is close to my heart. It's the beginning of those complex articulations of identity and the discourses of race and racism that took place far before I identified as a "radical, woman of color", far before I had the tools (i.e. academic jargon) to articulate my experiences and those of the loved ones around me.

After moving to Canada in '87, my family settled in a predominantly WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant) neighbourhood, where having an "eye-ranian" family as a neighbour wasn't taken too well. Of course, in the proper bourgeois, Victorian manner of vancouverite wasps, the racism was never overt, but subtle in its cruelty...it stung nevertheless.

Dealing with cultural gaps and language barriers, I became a bit of a loner, watched a lot of TV (which helped my English!) and had few friends for the remainder of the elementary school years. I was the FOB girl who the "cool" kids teased but were equally fascinated with (i.e. did you ride camels?). Of course, no boys crushed on me, unless they were asking me out as a funny joke (or a dare, as it happened on one occasion).

I moved on to junior high school and realized I had to fit in. I was tired of being anti-social, there was so much of me to share with people. At this point, I had become close with a couple of Iranian girls (who had lived in Canada longer than me) who helped "de-Fob" me...showed me the path to "assimilation." We breathed the same need/desire to fit in, albeit we exhaled it differently. We ended up in different cliques in different parts of town, however, each of us having to deal with a lot of privileged white kids.

At this point in time, I became obsessed with "coolness" and tried fitting in within a group of very (very) privileged white girls at my pre-dominantly white school. Went through brief phases of rock, grunge and folk/hippie...all the while, not relating! I didn't get them, and I knew they wouldn't get me (if they'd gotten to know the 'real' me, that is). I didn't look like them, they didn't look like me. They didn't carry the "ethnic baggage" I did. They didn't wear the ethnicity I wore (no matter how hard I tried to hide it).

This is where music played a crucial role in my life. From my b-boying cousins in Iran and my "canadian" cousins who listened to Public Enemy, NWA, BDP and EPMD, I was well aware of the grassroots culture of resistance that cultivated Hip Hop music. This is the time when Hip Hop wasn't as trendy and commercial, when whities hadn't fully caught on yet but were slowly beginning to.

Inevitably, I gravitated towards the Hip Hop scene...all ages jams, shows, concerts, tapes, tapes and more tapes (I'm talking pre-CD era of 1990). I entered a space where whiteness was challenged. It was a space for people of color, made by people of color - namely, Blacks and Latinos. It was (is, and always will be) a space owned by people of color. This space invited me in, welcomed me and allowed me to belong (as much as I could). Dope beats and rhymes, graffiti and breaking became the tools to articulate politics of identity, race, racism, oppression, privilege...

Your ethnicity (particularly how you wore it in terms of skin color, features, etc.) was at the core of this scene I grew up in. If you were ambiguously brown like me, then you often got the "What are you?" question: "hispanic?" "half-Indian?" "Arab?"

The farther from white, the more legit your presence in that space. That's how it was. A radical space where white kids were challenged...they were called out on their privilege...they had to "prove" themselves worthy to be in that space.

Mind you, I've shared with you my particular experience of a particular era in a particular city. Unlike Toronto (where I am now), Vancouver is a city which reeks of middle-class whiteness. Also, this was a time when the race politics were much much much more overt in rap music.

I still say it, Hip Hop is a space created by people of color for people of color: a grassroots culture of resistance through artistic expression. White folks were/are welcome to this space but they did not/will never have ownership over this space. White hip hoppers (i.e. nerd hopping, back-packer white boys/girls) need to recognize their privilege in terms of owning dominant spaces in society and how those spaces actively, systematically exclude people of color. This is how they should enter the space. White people also need to recognize the roots of this culture and how, and by whom, it came to exist. This is how they should take part in the space.

Anyway, just ranting away...

I guess all this partly came out of the fact that I missed an incredible show with M1 (from Dead Prez) and other talented conscious artists. A group of us went down there, and found that tickets were sold out. What sucked though wasn't just not getting in, but watching a crew of white activists (I'd done union activism with) get in to the show. These were the same white folks who, a while back, attempted to silence me for calling out their racism/sexism within the activist, union space. The bitter irony of watching them get into the show, and not me, stung man, it really did.

Oh well.
Es la vida, no?


Feb 15, 2006

Radical Women of Color...Oh So Fascinating!

It had been a few days since I'd blogged, so the first thing I did today was visit my favorite blogs to see what everyone had been up to (so many blogs, so little time!). Originally, I had planned to make this post about my understanding of the term "radical", but then I read one of Brownfemipower's posts and was totally annoyed/enraged/upset by a comment from a random blogger. After ranting about how sickened he was by BFP's post regarding her husband's vasectomy, the blogger stated:

"I simply cannot stay away from the whole racialist/feminist/multiculturalist blog-ring. I find you all to be utterly fascinating!"

Disgust and Fascination. The first two words that come to mind are "fuck you," which are then followed by "fuck off." Ugh. Here is a moment where the blogosphere becomes a space of intrusion, where the reactionary words/politics of a white, straight, man attempt to colonize a space that does not invite him nor welcome him - in fact, the very place that challenges him.

It's not such a nice feeling to know there are people like reactionary white dude who are reading our blogs. Which takes me back to a post I was working on a while back for the first Blog Carnival submissions. I was trying to work through my thoughts on the blogosphere as not being a "safe space" for women of color.

Anyway, this is more of a rant than a post (!) but I'd like to know your thoughts on the issue of "safe space" in relation to your blogs.

On a final note, I'm all about dialogue and discussing differeing points of views - I mean, god forbid, I wouldn't want to purposely exclude or silence reactionary straight white guys in my blog space! ;)


Feb 11, 2006


I just heard the sad sad news. Man, that's messed up.
J Dilla (Jay Dee) was an incredibly talented and influential artist, and will be greatly missed by so many of us. The music world just lost one of the greatest ever.

Feb 7, 2006

Cuba Si?

Have you ever had this sudden urge to say "fuck it", take all the money you've been saving, go online, check last minute deals to some far away place and just take off for a week or two, or maybe more?

Not worrying about your commitments (whatever they may be),
Not caring about what others will say,
Not freaking out about "what will I do when I get back and have no money or job?"
a damn.

Hmmmm...that thought had me going for about a half hour earlier tonight...I was thinking a backpack, my guitar and cuba...ok, minus the guitar (who am I kidding?)...and also backpacks aren't really my thing...I mean where would I put all the hair-removal devices to soothe my internalized (brown-girl-hairiness) issues? And besides, would they even let me take a backpack with all that shit in it on the plane (you know, security precautions and all, just in case the crazy, eye-ranian woman tries anything funny)? I can just see it, "I'm sorry miss, but we're gonna have to confiscate the epilady, the tweezers, the wax strips, the threads, the nair cream, and the shavers.

It's nice to day dream though. The long, cold winter months really put me in a funk...and when you stir in a tablespoon of personal issues, and another spoonful of current global politics, well then you definitely need some form of escape...even if the fantasy lasts for a few minutes.

I even went as far as checking my calendar...

Reality Check:
Need to get a job.
Living off savings = not good.

Pues, Cuba si?
Ummm...Cuba no.

Feb 3, 2006

Ok, there's definitely some wierd shit going on with my blog...I've edited this post a number of times in attempts to get my blurb about Sade and her Lover's Rock album on here...but for some reason, it's deleting whatever I write!! So, i'll try this again...
Just wanted to draw attention to Sade's Lover's Rock album because I feel it's one of her underrated albums...to me it's got some of her best work in terms of its emotional rawness and intensity...really taps into some deep layers through the sounds and lyrics...
Most of her albums have resonted with a particular transitional phase in my life, and Lover's Rock is the one i'm feeling the most at this point in time...so i've picked it up again, and been listening to it...
I'm posting part of the lyrics for one my favorite tracks on the album...

King of Sorrow (by Sade)

I'm crying everyone's tears
And there inside our private
war I died the night before
And all of these remnants
of joy and disaster
What am I supposed to do
I want to cook you a soup that
warms your soul
But nothing would change
nothing would change at all
It's just a day that brings
it all about
Just another day
And nothing's any good

The DJ's playing the
same song
I have so much to do
I have to carry on
I wonder if this grief will
ever let me go
I feel like
I am the king
of sorrow
The king of sorrow

The first edition is out! The first of many more to come!

Radical Women of Color Carnival - Issue #1

Feb 1, 2006

Favorite Dish

I didn't mention (in tagging post below) that one of my favorite dishes was Khoresht-e Fesenjaan. There's just so much that I like that it's hard to pick a top 3! So, I'm dedicating this post to this favorite dish of mine.

Pomegranate Stew with Chicken (Khoresh Fesenjan)

Chicken, onions, finely processed walnuts, and pomegranate juice are simmered to perfection. The sauce should be as thick as a good chili. Serve with saffron steamed basmati rice. If you prefer, substitute angelica powder for cardamom; instead of pomegranate juice, you can substitute 1/2 cup pomegranate paste diluted in 2 cups water.

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Ready In: 2 Hours 45 Minutes
Servings: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken legs, cut up
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound walnuts, toasted and finely ground in a food processor
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken and onions in skillet, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in pureed walnuts, salt, pomegranate juice, and cardamom. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (If the sauce becomes too thick, stir in 1/4 cup warm water.) Mix in sugar, adjust seasoning, and simmer 30 minutes more.
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