“The black flag of anarchism . . . expresses one’s solidarity with those most abused by the state, by capital, and by religion. . . . ‘Boricua’ . . . [is] more about a collective identity of resistance – in short, a distinct form of antiauthoritarianism rooted in the island people’s collective nationality against colonialism” (Shaffer, 15 &17). “Black Flag Boricuas”
When people think of anarchism, the most common generalizations consist of youth destroying private property, disregard for authority, and a world burning in chaos. Yet, in spite of these misunderstandings, the general public forgets that anarchism stemmed from the struggles of marginalized communities throughout the world. In “Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897 – 1921,” by Kirwin R. Shaffer, the author explores the role of anarchism in the Caribbean and its interrelationship with other Puerto Ricans and other activist groups in Cuba, Florida, and New York. This book also serves to unite readers under a black flag that evokes the humanity of people affected by authoritarian forms of government.
Spanish colonialism, U.S. invasion, poor living conditions andlow wages are some of the ingredients that led to the dissemination of radical consciousness and change in Puerto Rico. Anarchist thought was facilitated by the arrival of Spanish migrant workers to the island in the late 19th century. Their message resonated with the tobacco industries of Caguas, Bayamon, and San Juan, Puerto Rico which had “most of the leading anarchist writers and activists” (Shaffer, 3). Places like Havana, Tampa, and New York were also known tobacco cities; destinations that provided Puerto Rican migrants with more opportunities for income and for networking and mobilizing with fellow comrades. In order to build solidarity with and learn from transnational anarchists, anarchists in the island began to publish newspapers and write articles for American and Cuban periodicals “which helped to internationalize the movement wherever they went and to discuss international topics” (Shaffer, 5). These are just a few of the examples of dissidence that represent Puerto Ricans’ struggle for autonomy from foreign and domestic exploitation and social injustice.
“Black Flag Boricuas” provides a breadth of information and is a good introduction to the history of anarchism in the late 19th and early 20th century Puerto Rico.
If you are interested in learning more about anarchism around the world, you can check out “Zen Anarchism: The Egalitarian Dharma of Uchiyama Gudo” from the International and Area Studies Library. It is a collection of translated essays by a Zen Buddhist priest and anarcho-socialist activist that provide an interesting insight into Buddhist history in Japan.
“The Organic Globalizer: Hip Hop, Political Development, and Movement Culture,” edited by Christopher Malone and George Martinez, Jr., is a compilation of essays that explore the ways in which hip hop culture serves as an “organic globalizer.” In the opening chapter, Malone and Martinez define organic globalizer as a movement which “builds a network of grassroots institutions geared toward social justice and political participation both locally and globally” (Malone and Martinez, Jr., 5). Hip hop developed during the early 1970s “among African Americans and immigrant populations in the urban United States” (Flaherty, 131) and has ever since traveled throughout the world, giving other marginalized communities a voice to raise social awareness and promote change.
The authors explore hip hop as a “means of expression for groups that are historically marginalized and outside of traditional political, institutional access to power” (Flaherty, 131-32) from America’s inner-cities and industrial prison complex to the colonized lands of Palestine, Australia, Africa, and Latin America. From the socio-economic disparities and injustices endured by these transnational communities, the authors propose that “hip hop, rooted in a movement culture, has been an artistic medium used to foster awareness, build and transform social institutions, and/or encourage political activism in local communities that have largely found themselves marginalized” (Malone and Martinez, Jr., 15). Therefore, hip hop unites the struggles of international peoples and serves as a force for political engagement, cultural awareness, and social justice on a global scale.
In May 16, 2001, the United Nations sponsored and recognized hip hop as an international culture through the Hip Hop Declaration of Peace. This declaration lists 18 principles which “seek to maintain the dignity and respect of individuals, cultures, tribes, and peoples of the globe . . . [and to promote hip hop] as a veritable source of conflict resolution” (Malone and Martinez, Jr., 11). To honor the message of “The Organic Globalizer” and the forthcoming Hip Hop Awareness Week, I encourage you to visit the International and Area Studies Library to check out “The Organic Globalizer” and the rest of our collection and resources. And, make sure you watch the following videos by artists I consider organic globalizers: Aisha Fukushima, DAM, and Nomadic Massive.
Vocalist, speaker, RAPtivist, instructor and international artist Aisha Fukushima hails from Seattle, Washington/ Yokohama, Japan. She navigates and explores the intersections between hip hop and social justice through her project RAPtivism, public performances, and speeches. The following video further elaborates on her accomplishments and the work that she has done.
“Hip Hop Lives–Raptivism Around the World: Aisha Fukushima at TEDxSitka”
Da Arabian MC’s (Suhell Nafar, Tamer Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri) are known as the first Palestinian hip hop group from a neighborhood called Lyd/Lod. Their work speaks to the struggles of the Palestinian people living under occupation, challenging ethnic and cultural stereotypes, and raising social awareness. Recently, DAM added a new member to the group, Maysa Daw, and they have worked on a new project through a joint effort with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which addresses the oppression of patriarchal structures. Here is the group’s new video for their single “Who R You?”:
“#Who_You_R (Official Video)”
Nomadic Massive a Montreal-based hip hop group composed of 8 members: Vox Sambou, Nantali Indongo, Lou Piensa, Waahli, Ali Sepu, Meryem Saci, Rawgged MC, and Butta Beats. This super, multicultural and multilingual group of artists conveys their messages in French, English, Creole, Arabic, and Spanish. They have given workshops and worked with international communities, like Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, etc. The following video speaks about the origins of the group and their work to empower and build sustainable communities through hip hop culture.
“TEDxConcordia – Nomadic Massive”
If you are interested in learning more, the following links will direct you to University of Illinois professors, and their curriculum vitas (CVs), for a list of interdisciplinary presentations and publications on hip hop culture.
United Electrical Workers (UE) and Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT) mural on the UE Hall at 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607.
Women’s History Month may be coming to an end, but why not continue recognizing and celebrating the women that have shaped our lives and the direction of international hip-hop culture. In this week’s blog, I provide a sample of female hip-hop artists from throughout the world. Each artist has a distinct story and background that they share with the public, whether it’s through music or interviews. The list is inspired by a Hip-Hop Feminism course I took my first semester in the University of Illinois and I encourage the readers to take the leap to learn more about the artists listed below.
I remind you, this is not a comprehensive list, but rather a slight push to help you discover more about these women and hip-hop, motivate you to find other female hip-hop artists, and most importantly, support female MCs.
Algerian born, singer/songwriter/MC Meryem Saci is part of a multicultural hip-hop group called Nomadic Massive based in Montreal, Canada. She and her mother fled Algeria due to a civil war and immigrated to Montreal. Saci has not released an album, but she has worked with many international artists and is currently in the process of releasing her first solo project. She is also part of the multimedia agency ‘The Medium’ which includes a roster of other independent artists working together to produce an art form that is free from corporate influence. The following video is an interview with Meryem Saci, who talks about her journey from Algeria to Canada and her experience as a female artist.
“MERYEM SACI – Singer, Songwriter & MC”
Chilean-French singer/songwriter/MC Ana Tijoux first collaborated with a hip-hop group named Mazika. Afterwards, she went solo and was recognized for her single “1977”, which was also featured in the television series ‘Breaking Bad’. The messages in her albums are in Spanish and vary from love, politics, challenging patriarchal systems, birth, motherhood, and more. Tijoux has five albums, which includes her 2014 release ‘Vengo’ which is known for the singles “Vengo” and “Somos Sur.” The video below is a 30 minute interview from Democracy Now.
“Chilean Musician Ana Tijoux on Politics, Feminism, Motherhood & Hip-Hop as ‘Land for the Landless”
London-based, Jamaican-bred, Hip-Hop/spoken word duo ‘Poetic Pilgrimage’ have produced music for many years. Recently, they have been recognized by social media and news outlets such as Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, HipHopDX, Huffington Post, and many more. As a hip-hop group, Munira Rashida and Sukina Abdul Noor identify as Muslim, and have been working to show the public the similarities shared between their Islamic faith, cultural and ethnic background, and hip-hop culture. Poetic Pilgrimage have released ‘Star Women: The Mixtape’ followed by their 21 track mixtape ‘Star Women,’ including other singles and spoken word releases. The following link is from Aljazeera’s program The Stream that interviews Poetic Pilgrimage, welcomes other Muslim artists, and encourages the public to use social media to become a part of the discussion.
“The Stream – Poetic Pilgrimage rappers strike a chord with Islam”
British-Palestinian artist Shadia Mansour, the “First Lady of Arabic Hip-Hop,” is well-known for her outspoken demeanor and politically charged lyrics. Her songs deal with issues of the oppression and discrimination experienced by underrepresented communities, especially Arabs. She has traveled to Latin America, and has also worked with the non-profit organization ‘Existence is Resistance’ to work and perform with other hip-hop artists and youth in Palestine. Mansour has yet to release an album, but has many singles under her belt, including her most recent track “El Kofeyye Arabeyye” (the Arabic Kufiyyeh). The video below is a short interview of Shadia Mansour by the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
“Shadia Mansour on creative freedom in Britain”
Filipino-American journalist/instructor/activist/hip-hop artist Rocky Rivera has written articles for magazines such as Rolling Stone and The Source, to name a few. She is the first woman in the record label BeatRock Music and is a feminist gangster MC, just check out her discography and music videos. The last album she released was ‘Gangster of Love’ and a free mixtape ‘Rock & Roz Present Rose Gold.’ The following video is an interview by radio show host Miss Special, who interviews Rocky Rivera about her career from journalist to independent hip-hop artist and involvement in her local community.
“Rocky Rivera Interview”
Soosan Firooz is an Afghani actress hip-hop artist who fled Afghanistan with her family from the Taliban. She lived as a refugee in Iran and Pakistan, and has returned to her home in Afghanistan where she raps about the oppression of Afghan women. Firooz is “Afghanistan’s first female rapper”, but Firooz’s publicity has led to death threats and rejection from some family members. However, she continues to make music with the support of her father and with the conviction to change society and continue to provide for her family. The following video gives the viewer a brief look at Firooz’s life in Afghanistan and the struggles she has to endure being a female artist and a provider for her family.
“Afghanistan’s first female rapper undeterred by threats”
Egyptian born Mayam Mahmoud took the public by surprise when she appeared in an American-inspired show, Arabs Got Talent, veiled and rapping on the microphone. A young woman in her early 20s, Ms. Mahmoud has taken it upon herself to rap with a purpose and convey a positive message as counterargument to commercial hip-hop and its debasing lyrics towards women. At a time when the Middle East, especially Egypt, continues to undergo social and political changes, Ms. Mahmoud’s public appearance and perseverance is a sign of her hope to transform misconceptions of women artists and raise awareness of injustices against women.
“Egypt’s first veiled rapper, Mayam Mahmoud”
If you are ready to take the next step, I encourage you to continue your search by visiting the following sites in order to discover more international female MCs:
The following link provides a list of 500+ female hip-hop artists compiled by a person of many hats, Davey D: journalist, adjunct professor, hip-hop historian, talk show host, radio programmer, producer, dee jay, media and community activist. Some links do not work, but do not be discouraged, there are many more artists to discover.
Nomadic Wax, is an event production company specializing in international hip-hop. The company recently released a free mixtape ‘World Hip Hop Women SoundSIStem Mixtape hosted by DJ Lajedi.’ The project includes 19 transnational MCs, and you can learn more about them by clicking on the following link:
The last article is a collection of Latin American female hip-hop artists. Although it is a small sample, the featured artists push borders and challenge the stereotypical image of Hispanic women endorsed by corporate media and hip-hop:
While some may just know February for its untimely and unnatural spurt of roses and manufacturing of chocolate, it may also help to know that February 21st is known as the International Mother Language Day officiated in 1999 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The purpose of this celebration is to give recognition to an estimated 7,000 languages spoken internationally. This day, also known as Language Martyr’s Day, commemorates students who were killed by police in 1952 for demonstrating for the recognition of their main language, Bangla.
After the end of British rule over India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan was split into two and was separated by India: East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan). As the founder of the new government of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared Urdu the official language despite the fact that the majority of East Pakistan spoke Bangla. Then, on January 27, 1952, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin reiterated Ali Jinnah’s declaration of a state language which led to an organized demonstration by Bengali students. In a blog post from 2012, Dr. Salman Al-Azami describes the events as follows:
“The leaders of the ‘Language Action Committee’ in East Pakistan decided to call a hartal (general strike) and organized demonstrations and processions on 21 February throughout East Pakistan. The government imposed a ban on demonstrators, a ban the people defied. Police fired upon the defiant activists, killing several with more killed on the following day.”
Finally, on February 16, 1956, the National Assembly of Pakistan declared Urdu and Bangla as the official state languages.
So this February, let us not forget the people who sacrificed their lives to protect their mother language and for the opportunity to commemorate them through International Mother Language Day. Let’s celebrate everyday by speaking and learning the mother language of our ancestors and of our neighbors around the world.
Here are some recommended readings if you’d like to more about the Bangla Language movement and International Mother Language Day.
Finally, make sure to stop by the International and Area Studies Library on the 3rd floor of the Main Library, Room 321. We have a variety of relevant reference materials and Mara Thacker, subject specialist for South Asia, will be happy to help you with your research.
Omar Offendum and Alonso at FLOW in Amman, Jordan (12/17/2010).
Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American artist who has worked with various international hip-hop artists and has also been featured on many news outlets such as Aljazeera and PBS, to name a few. Offendum has also given speeches at academic institutions and has also worked to raise funds for non-profit organizations and raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. His concern for the future of the Middle East and humanity are also conveyed through his lyrics that carry a poetical message of hope, unity, and peace. As an artist, he also connects the American youth culture of hip-hop and incorporates Middle Eastern influences that invoke the similarities shared by both cultures through poetry and hip-hop.
Aljazeera broadcasted a series called Poets of Protest in 2012 about the lives, creative processes, and political events that have informed the content of the poetry of Arab and North African poets. The purpose of this show is to highlight the role of poetry in politics and the desire for a democratic reformation of foreign governments by its citizens. In this series, Aljazeera includes the stories of the poets Al Khadra, Ahmed Fouad Negm, Hala Mohammad, Yehia Jaber, Manal Al Sheikh, and Mazen Maarouf. Each poet represents a different country–Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Algeria –and offers a unique perspective of their role in Middle Eastern and North African society. This series was also the inspiration to the release of a free musical and poetical mix called “Offendum X Poets of Protest (Oo vs PP).” The collaborative project was produced by Omar Offendum and Filipino-American DJ Boo, who combined hip-hop instrumentals and samples of four poets from the series.
The importance of this mix is to combine the elements that people enjoy while listening to hip-hop, rhyme and music, and to enable the listener to connect with the poets’ stories and experiences. These two mediums of artistic expression are powerful because of their potential to inspire action and social change. Towards the end of the mix “Offendum X Poets of Protest”, Omar Offendum also offers an explanation of the historical significance of hip-hop and its relationship to Arab culture:
“hip-hop music . . . has really been about speaking to the issues that people are afraid to talk about, whether that’s here in the United States or talking about the political issues that plague the Middle East. Rap is a very direct way of doing that. Rap is a youth culture that has made its way around the globe, so it’s very powerful and it’s poetry at the end of the day . . . and that’ s something that the Arab culture can definitely associate itself with.”
While both forms of artistic creation and communication can be produced to entertain, they also have the capability to raise social awareness. Offendum and DJ Boo also elaborate on this idea by sharing this free soundscape, “Offendum X Poets of Protest (Oo vs PP),”in order to showcase the power that hip-hop and poetry have to unite, organize, inspire, and educate.
You are welcomed to listen and download Offendum and DJ Boo’s project “Offendum X Poets of Protest” for free by clicking on the link below: