When the popular Ugandan singer and opposition politician Bobi Wine was arrested last week, his nation erupted. A huge crowd had gathered in Luuka, just east of the capital Kampala, to hear him speak, when security forces suddenly began firing not only tear gas canisters but also live bullets into the crowd and beating away Wine’s bodyguards with batons and pepper spray.
Wine was driven off in a police van and detained for two days without access to his family, doctors, or lawyers. The charge? Holding a rally of more than two hundred people, in violation of Covid-19 social-distancing regulations—something that ruling party politicians, including Uganda’s strongman leader Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, have been doing with impunity.… Seguir leyendo »
The tale of Scheherazade is one of the cruelest stories about beauty and the vitality of artistic expression. It tells of the relationship between the artist and authority, suggesting that the creative act itself is an act of resistance; it conveys the message that there can be no authentic artistic act without personal risk. Although one of the oldest stories of artistic resistance, the legend of Scheherazade is an unlikely example of the genre. Might that be because at the heart of the metaphor stands a woman who, by telling stories, saves not only her own life, but the lives of the future victims of Shahryar the misogynist?… Seguir leyendo »
Criminal law and its enforcement are notoriously hypocritical. It is bad enough that, as Anatole France wrote in 1894, “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.” But now, more than a century later, even the pretense of equality before the law receives little more than lip service. For instance, while the US sends hundreds of thousands of poor people to prison every year, high-level corporate executives, with only the rarest of exceptions, have become effectively immune from any meaningful prosecution for crimes committed on behalf of their companies.… Seguir leyendo »
There’s an old blues metaphor. You know, Robert Johnson found his sound at the crossroad when he made a deal with the devil. It seems to me that the country is at a crossroad, whether we are going to continue to invest and double down on the ugliness of our racist commitments, or [we’ll] finally leave this behind.
—Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
The blues singer and guitarist Robert Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in 1911, grew up in Memphis, and was fatally poisoned by a jealous husband during a performance at a juke joint near Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1938. He recorded twenty-nine of his own songs for the Vocalion label in San Antonio in 1936 and in Dallas in 1937.… Seguir leyendo »
Salonica, the historic city on the Aegean Sea (now called Thessaloniki), was at the turn of the twentieth century probably as close to paradise as a European Jew was likely to get. The salon cultures of Berlin, Vienna, or Paris may have been more glittering, but there Jews sat uneasily on the edges of elite society and public life, warily eyeing growing anti-Semitism. In this vibrant, multicultural, and multiconfessional Mediterranean port, by contrast, Jews were the dominant population, preeminent in various commercial sectors, pillars of municipal life, and enjoying close relations with the ruling Ottoman Empire.
The pride felt by Salonican Jews in their Ottoman citizenship, civic stature, and cultural attainments is palpable in the epitaph on the tombstone of Sa’adi a-Levi (1820–1903), the patriarch of the Sephardic clan whose story is told by Sarah Abrevaya Stein in Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century.… Seguir leyendo »
“Whenever I go to North Korea,” Immanuel Kim told an interviewer in 2017, “I see people reading.” In the metro, in elevators, in buses and restaurants. But what were they reading, in a state unrivaled in the harshness of its censorship? As a graduate student at the University of California at Riverside studying Korean literature, Kim—who is now a professor at George Washington University specializing in North Korean culture—had become curious about North Korean fiction, which was usually dismissed as mind-numbing propaganda. There was a basis for this stereotype, it turned out, but after eight months of diligent reading, Kim began to find work that he genuinely liked.… Seguir leyendo »
Flying over the Andes in the dead of night, you know you’ve reached Bolivia because towns and villages become visible: neat crosshatches of light, every street illuminated. The terminal at El Alto International Airport may not have the best design or the most punctilious construction standards, but in the freezing predawn of this high plateau—the Andean altiplano—one could weep with gratitude that it is heated. Thirty years ago El Alto was not a city but a straggle of unpaved, unlit streets spreading out from a ramshackle improvisation of piled-up luggage and technology-free checkpoints. Visitors arriving to the shock of 13,000 feet above sea level gasped for air, stumbled into a taxi, and rattled their way down a pitted, hairpin road to the capital, La Paz.… Seguir leyendo »
They called him Canción because he used to be a butcher. Not because he was a musician. Not because he was a singer (he couldn’t even sing). But because when he got out of jail in Puerto Barrios, where he’d been sent for holding up a gas station, he worked for a time in Doña Susana’s meat shop, in a run-down neighborhood of Guatemala City. They say he was a good butcher. Very kind with the ladies from the neighborhood who bought cuts of beef and sausages there. And his nickname, then, was nothing more than an alliteration between the words in Spanish for butcher (carnicero) and song (canción).… Seguir leyendo »
My name is Jehad al-Saftawi. I am a photographer and journalist. For years, I clung to the idea of fleeing my country for the Western world. There is no free press in Gaza. Most of the news channels cater to political parties that use violence to silence opposition. I come from a place overflowing with weapons, where my father could easily buy a pistol and shoot it into the air while cruising the streets of our city. A place where, on any night, you could be awoken by a bomb exploding in your neighbor’s home, stored there by a member of their family who belonged to an armed faction.… Seguir leyendo »
I had no idea what we were doing was illegal.
I was six at the time.
And not well-versed in the milk pasteurization laws of Prince Edward Island.
And yet, there I was. With my grandfather and father. Three generations. Bandits all. Breaking the law.
My grandfather, for background, was born on his family’s farm in Sangsar, Iran, in 1911. In those days, the village had one street, one roundabout, narrow alleys, and small, clay-colored homes, all with brown doors.
That the village even existed was a miracle.
Two hours north were the lush green valleys and rainforests of Mazandaran Province on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea.… Seguir leyendo »
There had been other moments that promised closure, but this was set to be the big one. At 10 AM on October 29, 2020, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published the findings of its seventeen-month-long enquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party—an event that many hoped would, at last, conclude a melancholy episode that had played out for more than four long years. That hope was cherished most fondly by British Jews, who had found themselves in an unfamiliar position—at the center of domestic political controversy—and didn’t much like it. They looked to the EHRC not merely to vindicate the case most of them had been making, but also to draw a line under the whole sorry business.… Seguir leyendo »
On October 22, President Muhammadu Buhari, the former army general who was elected to office in 2015 and again in 2019, stunned Nigerian citizens with a televised twelve-minute speech. He began with a warning “to those who have hijacked and misdirected the…protest of some of our youths,” and ended by declaring that his government “will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace.” On social media, the response was mostly shock: Was that all he had to say?
Nigerians had demanded a statement from the government after people all over the world watched via Instagram Live on October 20 as the army opened fire on a crowd of young people demonstrating against police violence at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos.… Seguir leyendo »
When protests ricocheted across the country this past summer in response to then Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd, I marveled at what social movements on the left had built since Donald Trump’s election: bail funds, political education programs, mutual aid networks, movement lawyering shops, new grassroots organizations and campaigns. The slow and constant work of organizing had seeded a growing common sense, central to this year’s protests, that violence is at the heart of policing. Abolitionist and anticapitalist organizing has spread across the country, with more and more people arguing that throwing money at the police for new gadgets or trainings does nothing to decrease police violence.… Seguir leyendo »
How might we write about this election if it were happening anywhere but the United States? A former reality star who sought to claw his way out of debt ran for president in order to revive his brand and won despite millions more votes in favor of his opponent. His new rival is a familiar face with long ties to his party’s central organ; if elected, he would be the oldest president in the country’s history. The election will not be decided by the popular vote but by an antiquated system that privileges sparse and rural stretches of the country. Access to voting is unequal and patchy, a purposeful disparity upheld by the country’s increasingly right-wing judicial system.… Seguir leyendo »
If Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will be faced with a hundred pressing problems and a thousand things to repair from the Trump years. Nevertheless, he will have little choice but to concentrate on the climate crisis.
Until now, for most people the danger has remained at a distance, except for scientists who have done their best to warn us about the speed and power of the storm headed our way. But amid the smoking pall that still hangs over the West and the recovery in Louisiana, after two powerful hurricanes in less than two months, there is no longer any doubt about the immediacy of the danger.… Seguir leyendo »
I’m a pessimistic person, so I spend a good deal of time these days trying to envision a Trump victory. Trump himself has always been like a man hopping from ice floe to ice floe. He has no master plan for anything, including a second term. Yet one can make some guesses. Certainly there will be more golf, more tweets, and more rallies. Also more looting, more environmental damage, more Covid deaths, less and less restraint by the courts. Trump himself may remain at the helm for years. Or his evident mental and physical decline may worsen, leaving us with a de facto regent: Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, or (worst of all) William Barr.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2018, Guinean asylum-seeker Aboubacar Soumah was presented with an opportunity to get out of immigration detention under the United States immigration bail bond system. The opportunity came with a price tag of $15,000. With “only $59 to his name,” as a public radio report put it, and no network of friends or relatives in the country, Soumah was forced to remain in detention indefinitely.
Soumah’s case is far from unique. As in the US criminal justice system, an immigration bond can be offered to a person in custody at the discretion of a judge as a way of securing their release while their case is pending.… Seguir leyendo »
Donald Trump embodies the worst in us. By “us” I mean both the human species generally and the American people in particular, since the salient qualities of Trump’s personality, without exception, are extreme examples of tendencies to which anyone who grows up breathing the polluted air of American capitalism might fall prey. The dogma that all publicity is good publicity. The uncritical worship of money, coupled with a deranged financial recklessness and the certainty that a fall guy can always be found when things go awry. The belief that any display of humility, uncertainty, or compassion is an admission of weakness.… Seguir leyendo »
Ellen K. Pao was an unlikely troublemaker. A graduate of Princeton, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School, she was hired in 2005 by Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins. Before very long, this electrical engineer, lawyer, and Mandarin speaker made partner.
So far, so expected. But in 2012, after she and other women executives were passed over for promotion, Pao filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company, claiming among things, sexual harassment, exclusion, and retaliation.
Three years later, the case finally went to trial. In the media reporting of that pre-#MeToo moment, Pao found herself depicted as an entitled ingrate who was taking advantage of discrimination laws meant to protect the less privileged.… Seguir leyendo »
Two recent archival projects documenting Black life in America coincided in 2014. First, the Museum of Modern Art premiered the restoration of the 1913 Lime Kiln Club Field Day, the oldest surviving feature with an all-Black cast. Second, the African American Home Movie Archive was created as a space to collect, digitize, and provide access to home movie collections from the 1920s to the 1980s. Archival preservation efforts have become increasingly attentive to visual materials that have been systematically discounted, with home movies in particular recognized as a unique repository of intimate histories. They are especially important as private records of Black life, as rare examples of Black people exerting agency over how they’re documented, free from the demands of mainstream film circuits that have been historically bound by capital and white supremacy.… Seguir leyendo »