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what is happening in Syria doesn’t just affect me as a fellow Syrian; it affects me as a person of conscience, and is both

heartbreaking and awe-inspiring to me at the same time. It’s heartbreaking in terms of the sectarianism and overall bloodshed, and

the sadistic nature of many of the crimes being committed against peaceful protesters, including women and children.

 

 

Omar Offendum: Soundtrack of the Revolution

Interview by Julia Pyper 

 

 

August 15, 2011

Omar Offendum almost lost his train of thought when he saw a video post on his Facebook wall, mid Skype interview, of his song "#Jan25" being played in Tahrir Square. It was July, months after the whirlwind revolution that brought down Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, but as the protests in the Middle East persist, Offendum’s lyrics of liberation continue to be part of an anthem of resistance around the world – both on and offline.

 The song features not only Offendum, but a cast of talented hip-hop artists, including Amir Sulaiman, The Narcicyst, Freeway and R&B singer Ayah. When "#Jan25" was released, just days before Mubarak stepped down, its plays on YouTube reached the thousands almost instantly. It was around 40,000 hits that Al Jazeera caught wind of the hip-hop phenomenon and invited Offendum to do an interview the day he incidentally arrived to perform in Qatar.

The Los Angeles-based Syrian-American rapper makes frequent trips back to the Middle East for shows and to visit family. He is all too aware of what’s taking place in his native Syria where President Bashar al-Assad is waging war on civilians from the air, ground and sea. While the violence has spurred Offendum and many other Arab artists to speak out, there’s a sense of concern that their words could one day be used against them or their family (Offendum’s mother and sister live still live in Syria). And yet, they continue to show solidarity through their art.

After taking part in a number of collaborative projects Offendum released his first solo album SyrianamericanA  last summer. He’s made three trips to perform in Canada already this year, and in October his work will take him halfway around the world to Australia for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. ArtThreat caught up with Omar Offendum to discuss the impact his song  “#Jan25,” the role of hip-hop in the recent revolutions and his reactions to the ongoing protests in the Middle East.

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Julia Pyper: How did you get involved with the "#Jan25" song?

Omar Offendum: My good friend Sami Matar, a Palestinian-American producer and composer, first sent me the instrumental track in early February and asked if I’d be interested in making a song about the revolution that was taking place in Egypt. Initially I hesitated—I’m not usually one to jump on “revolutionary bandwagons” so to speak. But the situation in Egypt was developing so quickly and on such a monumental scale that I felt compelled to speak on it.

I did my best to frame [my lyrics] within the context of a global struggle for peace and justice, by referencing quotes from Gandhi, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. I mentioned the roots of revolution in Tunisia and the potential to spread to other nations, etcetera. We completed the piece by reaching out to fellow artists in the U.S. and Canada and were able to emphasize the fact that it represented a cross-cultural solidarity with the Egyptian people in their quest for freedom and liberty.

Julia Pyper: Do you feel the protests in the Middle East are making progress?

Omar Offendum: Overall I would say yes. There is definitely progress being made in the sense that decades-long dictatorships have crumbled in the face of unprecedented protests. Seeing the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in a cage is certainly a testament to that. However, the euphoria of toppling the Mubarak regime in 18 days has passed, and the reality of what happens next, in terms of holding criminals accountable and reshaping civil society has slowly set in. Real lasting progress doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and is something you continuously work at.

The violent and protracted revolutions in countries like Syria and Libya also show just how difficult carving that path towards progress can be. Yet I’ve always maintained that witnessing the barriers of fear and silence get torn down in these nations by the sheer will of peaceful protesters is a triumph in and of itself. It’s something that I, and millions of Arabs around the world, never expected to see in our lifetime. When a tyrant’s statue gets toppled by youth-led grassroots movements fed up with the fatalism of their parents’ generation, it sends a much more powerful message to the world than what took place in Iraq several years ago as a result of a foreign military intervention.

Julia Pyper: How would you define Arab hip-hop?

Omar Offendum: Personally, I don’t like to label it as “Arab Hip-Hop.” I see myself as a participant in hip-hop culture in a more general sense—one who has sought to use this art form as a tool of self-expression and communication. So as long as I’m honest about my life experiences, the fact that I’m Arab will naturally make its way into my lyrics. This is something I hope other young people around the world will understand. Hip-hop culture gives us an opportunity to look past the borders that separate us and the nationalities that supposedly define us and focus on the real connections we have with one another.

That said, hip-hop, like all art, is at its best a reflection of the cultures and communities from which it emanates. So with respect to the Arab world, there are certainly lyrical and stylistic differences that can be seen from city to city. A Palestinian refugee living in the Gaza strip will naturally have something different to say than a young Emirati living in a Dubai high-rise. As long as they’re “keeping it real” I salute them all.

Julia Pyper: Would you call yourself a “socially conscious” rapper?

Omar Offendum: I’d like to think of myself as a “socially conscious person” and hope that my art naturally reflects that state of mind. By being aware of what’s happening in my community—both locally and abroad—I can use my lyrics to underscore the fact that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King).

I’ve always sought to build bridges between the two seemingly opposed sides of my identity as an Arab/Muslim and American/Westerner through my music and lyrics. I do this quite literally in my album SyrianamericanA by rapping in both English and Arabic and translating famous poems from each tradition for the other audience to appreciate (Nizar Qabbani into English/Langston Hughes into Arabic). The sonic, linguistic and thematic diversity of the record is a direct result of how I choose to live my life—looking past the difference each culture may have on the surface and celebrating the humanity we all share.

Julia Pyper: What’s the significance of the name “Offendum”?

Omar Offendum: I chose the name because it embodies the very misunderstandings and stereotypes I break down with my music. It references a Middle Eastern title of nobility “Effendi,” which effectively means “Sir / Lord / Master” in the Turkish language— “Effendim” being the possessive form of the word (“my master”). Yet when spelled with an “O” the name conjures up disrespectful and insulting imagery to an English-speaking audience (“offend them”). The fact that my name can mean something so noble on one side of the world, and so offensive on the other is a testament to the bridge-building I seek to accomplish as an artist.

Julia Pyper: What are your thoughts on the ongoing revolution and crackdown in Syria?

Omar Offendum: First, I would like to send my “sinsyrian” condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones during these uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria—and of course as a result of the constant turmoil in places like Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan. Anyone who is familiar with my music should be able to discern that I am, and have always been supportive of families struggling for peace, justice, and equality the world over.

Therefore, what is happening in Syria doesn’t just affect me as a fellow Syrian; it affects me as a person of conscience, and is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring to me at the same time. It’s heartbreaking in terms of the sectarianism and overall bloodshed, and the sadistic nature of many of the crimes being committed against peaceful protesters, including women and children. Also, the systematic use of torture, intimidation and collective punishment on entire cities and towns. And up until very recently, the general silence from much of the international community and especially the neighboring Arab states has been very disappointing.

It is, however, quite awe-inspiring to see that the overwhelming majority of protests have remained peaceful whilst up against these terrifying odds, and have in fact continued to grow and spread the more violent the crackdowns become—even in the Holy month of Ramadan. This [Syrian] regime had made it virtually impossible to criticize them publicly without fear of being censored, jailed, or kidnapped during the past four decades. So the fact that the Syrian people have broken that silence is a triumph in and of itself.

Julia Pyper: Do you think the "#Jan25" song helped break the silence?

Omar Offendum: I am proud of what we were able to accomplish with "#Jan25," but the real music of the revolution is being made by people on the ground who are experiencing it firsthand. Whether it’s created in a studio, or out on the streets in the form of a call and response chant, the fact that it’s born out of a natural desire for dignity, freedom and self-determination is what proves that the silence has been broken. While it may take several generations to really see these things through, the seeds have been planted, and the fruits of these struggles will be ripe in time for future generations to savor.

Omar Offendum’s Facebook / Twitter

Source: ArtThreat

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Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani ((21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998) was a Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher. His poetic style combines simplicity and elegance in exploring themes of love, eroticism, feminism, religion, and Arab nationalism. He is one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world. . . . When Qabbani was 15, his sister, who was 25 at the time, committed suicide because she refused to marry a man she did not love. During her funeral he decided to fight the social conditions he saw as causing her death. When asked whether he was a revolutionary, the poet answered: “Love in the Arab world is like a prisoner, and I want to set (it) free. I want to free the Arab soul, sense and body with my poetry. The relationships between men and women in our society are not healthy.” He is known as one of the most feminist and progressive intellectuals of his time. The city of Damascus remained a powerful muse in his poetry, most notably in the Jasmine Scent of Damascus. The 1967 Arab defeat also influenced his poetry and his lament for the Arab cause. The defeat marked a qualitative shift in Qabbani's work—from erotic love poems to poems with overt political themes of rejectionism and resistance. For instance, his poem Marginal Notes on the Book of Defeat, a stinging self-criticism of Arab inferiority, drew anger from both the right and left sides of the Arab political dialogue.—Wikipedia

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 Unlike many other Negro authors, [Langston] Hughes (1902-1967) neither wrote about the dull, cultured, intellectual elite, who are unpopular with students, nor did he glory in gory lynchings and sex perversions, which are unpopular with school boards. His writings are about poor, ordinary people but with a strong sense of humor. When asked what Negro writers they like, students invariably list Hughes. Langston Hughes is difficult to classify as a writer. He was among the leaders of the Negro Renaissance, but he continued to write later than most others of this period. He wrote poetry, short stories, novels, essays and edited many collections of Negro writings. Hughes had written a number of short story collections, among them Laughing to Keep from Crying (1952), Something in Common and Other Stories (1963), and The Ways of White Folks (1934). Most of the stories are humorous, but one always knows that much of the laughing is “to keep from crying.” Topics vary from white tourists in Harlem to brothels in Cuba to standard problems of getting a job and family spats. Although many of the stories deal with prostitutes and drinking and other forms of “low life,” these are not treated in an objectionable manner. more

#Jan25 EgyptOmar Offendum

Inspired by the resilience of Egyptian people during their recent uprising, several notable musicians from North America have teamed up to release a song of solidarity and empowerment. The track is fittingly titled "#Jan25" as a reference to both the date the protests officially began in Egypt, and its prominence as a trending topic on Twitter. Produced by Sami Matar, a Palestinian-American composer from Southern California, and featuring the likes of Freeway, The Narcicyst, Omar Offendum, HBO Def Poet Amir Sulaiman, and Canadian R&B vocalist Ayah—this track serves as a testament to the revolution's effect on the hearts and minds of today's youth, and the spirit of resistance it has come to symbolize for oppressed people worldwide.

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Omar Offendum—SyrianamericanA  / Omar Offendum—Destiny  / Omar Offendum—Finjan  

Omar Offendum—father's day  / Omar Offendum—Superhero  / Omar Offendum—Hustle On

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Obama calls for Syrian leader to step down—The demand for President Bashar Assad's ouster is echoed by the governments of Canada and the European Union. The U.S. also expands its sanctions. The pressure may have a limited effect, however. . . . Saudi Arabia, which has powerful influence with the Sunni Muslim majority of the Alawite-led country, also has condemned Assad and recently withdrew its ambassador. It did not react immediately to the U.S. and European actions.—LaTimes 

posted 19 August 2011 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Black Routes to Islam

Edited by Manning Marable and Hishaam D. Aidi

This collection brings together some of the best and most innovative scholars in the country, writing essays that are engaged, intellectually rigorous, and a pleasure to read. Black Routes to Islam is really about the broad canvas of American relationships to the Middle East -- with religion, race, and politics at the heart of the story. It tells a transnational history we need to know, and then brings that history into our current moment, showing how "war on terror" has come to American Muslim communities. This is a wonderful, timely, politically powerful book.—Melani McAlister

This impressive and sweeping collection of essays examines the hidden history of the ‘Muslim presence’ in North America that began with the enslavement of significant numbers of Muslim Africans.  It shows how the development of US racial categories and hierarchies has long been suffused with assumptions about the Muslim world. And, it powerfully suggests the historical centrality of Islamic discourse and practice to the sense of common oppression and linked fate central to the emergence of modern black freedom struggles.—Nikhil Pal Singh

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Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas

By Sylviane Diouf

Despite the explosion in work on African American and religious history, little is known about Black Muslims who came to America as slaves. Most assume that what Muslim faith any Africans did bring with them was quickly absorbed into the new Christian milieu. But, surprisingly, as Sylviane Diouf shows in this new, meticulously researched volume, Islam flourished during slavery on a large scale.

Servants of Allah presents a history of African Muslim slaves, following them from Africa to the Americas. It details how, even while enslaved many Black Muslims managed to follow most of the precepts of their religion. Literate, urban, and well traveled, Black Muslims drew on their organization and the strength of their beliefs to play a major part in the most well known slave uprisings. Though Islam did not survive in the Americas in its orthodox form, its mark can be found in certain religions, traditions, and artistic creations of people of African descent.

But for all their accomplishments and contributions to the cultures of the African Diaspora, the Muslim slaves have been largely ignored. Servants of Allah is the first book to examine the role of Islam in the lives of both individual practitioners and in the American slave community as a whole, while also shedding light on the legacy of Islam in today's American and Caribbean cultures.

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Book of Sins

By Nidaa Khoury

Khoury's poetry is fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when many of us feel unreal and often spiritually hollow.—Yair Huri, Ben-Gurion University 

Written in water and ink, in between the shed blood. Nidaa Khoury's poems take us to the bosom of an ancient woman  . . . an archetype revived. The secret she whispers is 'smaller than words.'—Karin Karakasli, author, Turkey

Nidaa Khoury was born in Fassouta, Upper Galilee, in 1959. Khoury is the author of seven books published in Arabic and several other languages, including The Barefoot River, which appeared in Arabic and Hebrew and The Bitter Crown, censored in Jordan. The Palestinian poet is studied in Israeli universities and widely reviewed by the Arab press. The founder of the Association of Survival, an NGO for minorities in Israel, Khoury has participated in over 30 international literary and human rights conferences and festivals. Khoury is the subject of the award-winning film, Nidaa Through Silence. Currently a senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, Khoury's poem Portal to the Orient is being produced by Sarab for Dance for performance in Palestine. Book of Sins introduces this important Middle Eastern poet to the Caribbean and the Americas.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 3 April 2012

 

 

 

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