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Transnational Anti-Racist Movements

Session III-13, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Friday, December 2 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • Where does Jazz figure in the Lebanese leftist experience? What are the limitations and possibilities in appropriating or adapting cultural elements specific to African-American liberation and Black Power in a space and historical context ostensibly different from those within which such styles emerged? My research focuses on songs by leftist artists like Ziad, Khaled Habre, Ahmad Kaabour, Marcel Khalife and Omayma Khalil who achieved prominence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) as embodiments of a leftist militant counter-cultural ethos for creative expression. I explore how political militancy gets to be understood and translated in the public sphere through creative expression propagated via mass-media. Beyond the particularities of Lebanon, I situate leftist artists within the transnational context of the global sixties. I examine Beirut as a nodal site of transnational revolutionary politics, informed by the radical rhetoric of the Palestinian liberation movement and the Lebanese left that integrated the “Arab Hanoi” within global solidarity networks from Cuba to Vietnam, Oakland to Paris. Blurring the boundaries between artistic expression and political praxis, leftist artists were also in conversation and contention with global forms of cultural production and expression. Aesthetically, their works integrate elements from diverse musical schools including jazz, rock n roll, French political songs, and Latin American styles. Nevertheless, this engagement with global musical forms was neither unidimensional nor a passive reception of globalized culture. Artists diverge from blindly importing prepackaged formulas of franji (western) music, while carefully incorporating other components, like jazz, funk, and soul — all of which point towards African-American culture and black liberation. In my talk I explore the logics influencing such a bifurcated engagement with American culture in Lebanon during the 70s and 80s. How was the struggle of African-Americans and its cultural articulations being adapted and represented in the works of leftist militant artists in Lebanon? I engage with the problematic of race and class, and the modes in which it was being understood and translated through an Arab Internationalism which sought tools of creative and aesthetic dissent from around the world that corresponded effectively to the particular and specific experience of Lebanon.
  • When El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (who had previously identified as Malcolm X) traveled to Egypt and Lebanon in the spring and summer of 1964, he attracted regional press coverage whose tone speaks to areas of both overlap and incongruity between his project of Islamic Black nationalism, on the one hand, and the populist-authoritarian movements that were rising to prominence across the decolonized world, on the other. In particular, coverage of his visits in the Syrian press, free from specific logistical items related to his itinerary, serves as a unique case study of the ways that a nascent Ba’athist state discussed el-Shabazz’s work within a confrontational “Third Worldist” frame. References to his visit in "al-Thawra", a newspaper affiliated with the Syrian Ba’ath Party, as well as that publication’s coverage of the American Civil Rights Movement, described the question of anti-Black racism as solely a reflection of flaws in the American nation-state. The religious nature of el-Shabazz’s attempts to internationalize his movement went unmentioned and, though "al-Thawra" framed most other Syrian domestic issues through a putative commitment to socialist worker mobilization, coverage of these issues contained few mentions of Black Americans as workers per se. The specifics of el-Shabazz’s efforts to court support from organizations affiliated with the Egyptian and Saudi governments, both of which attracted differing degrees of wariness from the Syrian Ba’ath Party during this period, also went unnoticed. While el-Shabazz spent this period grappling with a perceived blindness toward anti-Black racism within pan-Islamist and pan-Arabist communities, these examinations go unnoted as well in Syrian press coverage of his travels in the region. The specificities of el-Shabazz’s pleas for support to American Black liberation movements were lost, as the man and his movement became stand-ins for the failings of the state undergirding the global political-economic structures against which the writers of "al-Thawra" cast themselves.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, Black, Palestinian, and Jewish organizations, under the banner of Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine Coalition, led a campaign in Durham, North Carolina that successfully passed a city council resolution prohibiting US police exchanges with Israel. Based on direct interviews with the activists that led the campaign, this article sets out to trace the history of the Demilitarize! effort detailing its chronological developments with an eye on highlighting how Black-Palestinian solidarity continues to function as an anti-imperial analytic. In doing so, the article will offer and preserve a movement archive developed by activists in Durham. The Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine Coalition is built upon a rich legacy of local Palestine solidarity activism and its coalitionary efforts focused on a narrative of racialized state violence that directly connected increasing militarization of U.S. law enforcement to trainings in Israel thus illuminating the local manifestations of U.S. empire. This intervention will also help enhance a robust and growing literature on the militarization of US law enforcement. Such literature straddles two distinct approaches- on the one hand are those authors that insist that there is no distinction between domestic law enforcement and international militarism as they are inextricable from one another and better understood as performing a singular function of violence work. This approach understands US law enforcement as a paramilitary force, further illuminating the U.S.’s colonial nature. On the other hand, is a that traces the militarization of US law enforcement to as early as the 19th century when the US triumph over Spain in the Spanish-American War made it a colonial power in the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, among other territories. Imperial imperatives transformed the U.S. military into an imperial-military - concerned with counterinsurgency and domination. These transformations formatively reshaped U.S. law enforcement, during a period of reform and transformed the police from an organization concerned with regulating social order to one aimed at crime prevention. In this narration, U.S. law enforcement has continuously been militarized since the early 19th century, most significantly during the Vietnam War as well as later in the early nineties during the advent of the 1033 program, and most recently US police training in Israel. This article also seeks to use the movement archive together with existing literature on state violence to consider how seemingly formidable circuits of state violence that undergird imperial domination are simultaneously vulnerable to attack and dismantlement.
  • This paper articulates a gap in current scholarship by looking at the relationship of immigrants to the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples they now live on. An overview of overlapping fields reveals that scholars are actively engaged in the vital work of documenting the historical relationship between foreign settlers and indigenous peoples, as well as the ongoing violence indigenous peoples continue to face in the US. In addition, much has been written about the struggles of immigrants facing various forms of discrimination as they settle in the US. There is also work on shared solidarity between Black and Indigenous historical justice movements and Palestinian resistance movements. Additionally, however, if scholars are to take seriously the process of decolonization, the role immigrants play and have played in relation to the land they live on must be part of this conversation. What does it mean for an immigrant to live ethically on this land? What kinds of solidarity movements currently exist or should exist among indigenous and immigrant peoples? How do immigrants understand their roles as they build lives on land that is itself stolen from its traditional caretakers?  This paper presents an approach to building a digital space for a reading group composed of academics and non-academics who come together as a group of immigrants focused on their relationship to the histories and the lands they build their livelihoods on. Using this reading group as a starting point, other initiatives are also considered including educational initiatives for immigrants on the violent histories of the US, decolonial projects carried out by immigrant coalitions/groups, and speculative and futurist imaginings of solidarity and coalition among immigrant and Indigenous groups.
  • On a sunny January afternoon, pan-Africanist activist Shirley Graham Du Bois reported joining “hundreds of women of many lands” as they “paraded through the downtown district of Cairo… with people cheering them along the way.”[1]In this letter sent to her husband, W.E.B. Du Bois, she was referring to a march at the first Afro-Asian Women’s Conference which was organized by the Cairo-based Afro-Arab People’s Solidarity Organization. It was in this metropole that Du Bois remembers “being greeted with smiles and nods and soft words from these perfect strangers” to whom she responded “cordially in kind because they did not seem like ‘strangers.’ For these people on the Cairo street were colored.. I might just as well have been walking along a street on the South Side, Chicago! And I felt an instant kinship with them.” By this point, it was 1961 and in the wake of Bandung, Cairo was becoming a star destination for those with African liberation in mind. This project is concerned with building on transnational histories of Afro-Arab engagement during the mid-20th century by exploring Nasserist Cairo as a node in Black internationalist networks. Specifically, this paper will explore conceptions of liberation and anti-colonial Pan-African and Afro-Arab solidarities by studying how the Du Bois family (W.E.B., Shirley, and David Graham) engaged with Egypt both intellectually and historically through their experiences, work, relationships, political friendships, and publications in and about Cairo. W.E.B. Du Bois’s correspondence with Cairo University professors, Shirley Graham’s biography on Nasser and frequent commentary on the Suez Crisis, and David Graham’s editorship of publications like the Egyptian Gazette, the Arab Observer, and Radio Cairo, in addition to his semi-autobiographical novel And Bid Him Sing, comprise a rich archive to illustrate the contours of Cairo as a metropole for Black internationalism. Beyond a limited number of key texts, the Egyptian Afro-Arab project has largely been largely under-historicized. This paper seeks to remedy this gap by examining the understudied history of African Americans involved in African decolonization from Egypt and write them into modern Egyptian and Third World internationalist histories.