A Call for a Cultural Approach to Violence Prevention

For decades, research has shown that the most effective violence prevention programs for African Americans focus on cultural transmission. Black scholars like Robert Jagers, Phillip Bowman, Nzinga Warfield-Coppock, myself, and others have written extensively about the importance of violence prevention programs cultivating tools of self-sufficiency, self-empowerment, and ethnic pride among African Americans especially young, Black males. Still, most anti-violence initiatives lack cultural elements.               Today’s violence prevention programs need to incorporate activities that highlight major events of oppression of African people, e.g., the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the middle passage, the dehumanizing process of African people being sold as chattel, Jim Crow segregation, and police brutality. Young Black males must be educated on the atrocities committed against their people to better appreciate their ancestors’ strength, who endured such human suffering so that the knowledge is transferred to them to stress the resistance of institutional racism and oppression.

We Will Not Stop Talking About Palestine

Moments after President Biden thanked his team for their efforts in “bringing about a cease-fire” (that was actually brought about by Palestinian resistance), the social media posts of Palestinian and Arab American progressives across the U.S. echoed a similar sentiment: “We will not stop talking about Palestine just because a cease-fire was announced.” Two assumptions underpin this sentiment. First, for Arab Americans, the concept of “cease-fire” is meaningless as long as Israel continues colonizing Palestine.  As we have learned from history, after every cease-fire, Israel has continued to expand its borders far beyond the areas of land it confiscated from Palestinians since 1947 by expelling and dispossessing Palestinians from their homes, as we saw in Sheikh Jarrah and intentionally killing Palestinians en masse. Second, Arab Americans are exceptionally aware that the struggle over Palestine is a battle over narratives. In other words, a persistent pro-Israeli doctrine stifles criticism of Israel in nearly every sector of public debate from the corporate media, to social media, education, and the non-profit industry.  As Israel and the U.S. have institutionalized the idea of Israel as the victim, killing Palestinians only out of self-defense, Palestinian and Arab American social movement agendas have prioritized breaking the silence, shifting the narrative, and continuing to talk about Palestine.                    Over the last few weeks, the necessity of breaking the silence has been more urgent than ever before.

Blatant Racism Against Muslims Is Still With Us

Shortly after his inauguration, President Joe Biden reversed former President’s Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, stating those actions are a stain on our national conscience.” This stance aligns with that of the tens of thousands of protesters who, at the time the first Muslim Travel Ban was enacted in January 2017, took to the streets and to airports across the country with slogans such as, “We are all Immigrants,” “Standing with Muslims against Islamophobia,” and “Stop Hatred against Muslims.” To be sure, the Muslim Travel Ban is a racist policy. It seeks to keep out or deport people perceived to be Muslim based upon the racist assumption that “they” are violent potential terrorist enemies of the U.S. nation. The ban was an executive order that prevented individuals from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from many African countries, from entering the United States. Yet ending the Muslim Ban only scratches the surface of a much larger problem. If progressives really want to end anti-Muslim racism, we are going to need a more radical approach, that requires, as Angela Davis reminds us, “grasping things at the root.” The root cause of the Muslim Ban is anti-Muslim racism, which has many roots.

Many Puerto Ricans See Solidarity With Palestinians

Thunderous battles escalate in the skies above Israel and the ground below Gaza City, as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis continues to unleash death and destruction. Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators are marching on the streets of  Chicago and across the United States condemning what they say is indiscriminate bombing by Israel. Among the hundreds of “Free Palestine” signs and waving Palestinian flags are Puerto Rican flags peppered throughout the crowd shouting, “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go.”

Many Puerto Ricans stand in solidarity with Palestinians against what they see as a common enemy: settler colonialism. “During the recent uprisings we continue the long tradition of protesting and demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” declared the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago in a statement on social media. “We will continue to fight until Palestine, Puerto Rico, and everyone is free.”

Following the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States in 1899.

Housing Is A Human Right

No one should have to choose between decent, safe, affordable housing and one that is insecure, unhealthy, or worse – be forced into homelessness. Accessing suitable housing not only meets an individual’s social needs, but also bulldozes barriers to fair employment, education, and health care ensuring community strength and growth for the entire populous. Over decades in the making, Chicago’s housing crisis has only been intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic with the increased threat of evictions, foreclosures, and bankruptcy. Despite declines due to the pandemic, Chicago’s average rent is just under $2,000 and the median home sale price is $253,000, according to residential real estate platforms. Those listings vary considerably in North and South Side neighborhoods. While data varies, after you factor in the cost of living expenses such as utilities and groceries, a renter needs to bring in a salary of around $95,000 a year and $85,000 a year for a homeowner.

Latino Muslims Put Their Faith Into Action

The temperature drops faster than the setting sun on a Friday evening that feels more like Autumn than Spring. Car after car with members of the Ojala Foundation roll into the parking lot of Fairplay Foods on the Southwest Side for the weekly “Neighborly Deeds Initiative” of passing out food to the homeless. “As-salamu alaikum,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you” is followed by “Wa-alaikum As-salaam,” ”And peace be onto you” as volunteers greet one another. For some members of the Latino Muslim group, this will be their first time earning their hasanat, or reward for good deeds; others have been donating their time since the program began three years ago. Members of the Ojalá Foundation enjoy iftaar, the evening meal in the parking lot of FairPlay Foods, 2200 S. Western Ave.

University Needs To Do Better When Identifying Race

After decades of institutionalized racism against people perceived to be Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim in the U.S., it is a great disappointment that the University of Illinois continues to categorize Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) students as racially white in data, surveys, and university records. These populations face significant levels of racism across the U.S., in the state of Illinois, and on college campuses. To fight racism and discrimination and quantify it, this group must have its own designation separate from white. Currently, these students are classified as white, even as they are targeted as distinctly different from and inferior to whites, portrayed and treated as potential terrorists, enemies of the U.S. nation, and too frequently attacked for belonging to what bigots crudely deem a misogynist and backwards culture and religion (Islam). This institutionalizes their invisibility — meaning although they face racial adversity, they are denied recognition as a racial/ethnic group that has the legitimacy to advocate for racial justice, resources, and rights or simply be recognized, known about, and understood as having a distinct experience of race/ethnicity in the U.S. Perhaps institutionalizing their invisibility is intentional.

El Saadawi Was Much More Than News Media Portrayed

On March 22, 2021, renowned Egyptian Arab feminist Nawal El Saadawi died of natural causes. A former comrade, she authored more than 50 books and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. It is no surprise that many corporate media obituaries have misrepresented her contributions, focusing only on aspects of her work that align with the sensationalized racist ideas that circulate across U.S. society about Arab and Muslim women. In the Washington Post, for example, the story goes like this: El Saadawi fought for women’s rights and against female genital mutilation (FGM), and received death threats for criticizing Islam.  To be sure, El Saadawi fought for women’s rights, against FGM, and received death threats. Yet she fought through the framework of international socialist feminism, arguing that patriarchy is strengthened by international capitalism, not necessarily Islam.

Fairness of Redistricting Being Questioned by West Siders

Some West Side Chicago residents fear this year’s redistricting cycle could leave their communities without needed representation and resources. The fear isn’t new. But this year it comes amid a lack of transparency and public engagement, according to Valerie Leonard, a North Lawndale resident and the co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance, which addresses issues of concern through community organizing, advocacy and community outreach. And as legislators gear up to redraw the state’s legislative boundaries to reflect population changes documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, Leonard and members of Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting, a coalition of community leaders and stakeholders, have also raised concerns about how their districts will be redrawn. Districts are redrawn every 10 years using population data provided by the Census Bureau.