Kind of always low-key irritated by the fact that third world as a term has now been so divorced from it’s original political context and basically been used by the west as a ranking/income system when it originated in the cold war as a way of describing postcolonial countries who refused to align themselves with the capitalist first world and the communist second world by being a third way out aka the anti imperialist non-alignment movement

Confronting Anti-Black Racism in The Arab World (Important Read)

In response to an essay I wrote recently regarding the “essential blackness” of the Palestinian struggle, I received this reaction, among others: “What about Arab anti-black racism? Or the Arab slave trade?”

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history and anti-black racism is a fact of current reality, a shameful thing that must be confronted in Arab societies. Though I claim no expertise on the subject, I think that applying notions of racism as it exists in the US will preclude a real understanding of the subject in the Arab world.

I spent much of much of my youth in the Arab world and I do not recall having a race consciousness until I came to the United States at the age of 13. My knowledge of Arab anti-black racism comes predominantly from Arab Americans. Like other immigrant communities, they adopt the prevailing racist sentiments of the power structure in the US, which decidedly holds African-Americans in contempt.

This attitude is also becoming more prevalent in Arab countries for various reasons, but mostly because Arab governments, particularly those that import foreign labour from Africa and Southeast Asia, have failed to implement or enforce anti-discrimination and anti-exploitation laws.

In many Arab nations, including Kuwait where I was born, workers are lured into menial jobs where their passports are confiscated upon arrival and they are forced into humiliating and often inhuman working conditions. They have little to no protection under the law and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, including extraordinarily long working hours, withholding of salaries, sexual, mental, and physical abuse, and denial of travel.

The recent case of Alem Dechesa brought to light the horrors faced by migrant workers in Lebanon. Dechesa, a domestic worker from Ethiopia, committed suicide after suffering terrible mental and physical abuse at the hands of her Lebanese employers, whose savage beating of her in front of the Ethiopian Consulate went viral last year.

Defining beauty

An extension to Arab anti-black racism is an aspiration to all that our former - and current - colonisers possess. Individuals aspire to what is powerful and rich, and the images of that power and wealth have light skin, straight hair, small noses, ruddy cheeks and tall, skinny bodies. That image rejects melanin-rich skin, coiled hair, broad or pointy noses, short stature, broad hips and big legs. So we, too, reject these features, despising them in others and in ourselves as symbols of inferiority, laziness, and poverty. That’s why the anglicising industries of skin bleaching and hair straightening are so profitable.

And yet, when Palestine went to the UN for recognition of statehood, the vast majority of nations who voted yes were southern nations. The same is true when Palestine asked for admission to UNESCO. In fact, when the US cut off funding to UNESCO in response to its members’ democratic vote to admit Palestine, it was the African nation of Gabon that immediately stepped up with a $2m donation to UNESCO to help offset the loss of income.

It was not Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, or Qatar, or Lebanon, or Sweden, or France. It was Gabon. How many Palestinians know that, much less expressed gratitude for it?

So concerned are Palestinians with what the European Union and the United States think of us. So engrossed are we in grovelling for their favour and handouts as they support a system of Jewish supremacy pushing our ancient society into extinction. We dance like clowns any time a European leader spares us a thought. Have we no sense of history? No sense of pride? No comprehension of who is truly standing with us and who is sabotaging us?

In a world order that peddles notions of entire continents or regions as irreducible monoliths, the conversation among Arabs becomes a dichotomous “Arab” versus “African”, ignoring millennia of shared histories ranging from extensive trade and commerce, to the horrors of the Arab slave trade, to the solidarity of African-Arab anti-colonial unity, to the current state of ignorance that does not know history and cannot connect the dots when it comes to national liberation struggles.

Arab slave trade

When I was researching the subject of the Arab slave trade, I came upon a veritable treasure of a website established by The African Holocaust Society, or Mafaa [Swahili for “holocaust”], a non-profit organisation of scholars, artists, filmmakers, academics, and activists dedicated to reclaiming the narratives of African histories, cultures, and identities. Included in this great body of scholarly works is a comprehensive section on the Arab slave trade, as well as the Jewish slave trade, African-Arab relations over the centuries, and more, by Owen Alik Shahadah, an activist, scholar and filmmaker.

Reading this part of our shared history, we can see how a large proportion of Arabs, including those among us who harbour anti-black racism, are the sons and daughters of African women, who were kidnapped from Eastern African nations as sex slaves.

Unlike the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade was not an important feature of Arab economies and it predominantly targeted women, who became members of harems and whose children were full heirs to their father’s names, legacies and fortunes, without regard to their physical features. The enslaved were not bought and sold as chattel the way we understand the slave trade here, but were captured in warfare, or kidnapped outright and hauled across the Sahara.

Race was not a defining line and enslaved peoples were not locked into a single fate, but had opportunity for upward mobility though various means, including bearing children or conversion to Islam. No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs, but one need only look at ourselves to see the shadows of these African mothers who gave birth to us and lost their African identities.

But while African scholars at the Mafaa Society make important distinctions between the Arab and European slave trades, enslavement of human beings is a horror of incomprehensible proportions by any standard, and that’s what it was in the Arab world as it was - or is - anywhere. There are some who argue that the Arab slave traders were themselves indistinguishable from those whom they enslaved because the word “Arab” had cultural relevance, not racial.

One-way street

This argument goes hand-in-hand with the discredited excuse that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade, with warring tribes capturing and selling each other. But no matter how you look at it, the slave trade was a one-way street, with Africans always the enslaved victims. I know of no African tribe that kidnapped Europeans and put them in bondage for generations; nor do I know of an African tribe that captured Arab women for centuries and made them sex slaves.

I think humanity has truly never known a holocaust of greater magnitude, savagery, or longevity than that perpetrated against the peoples of Africa. This Mafaa has never been fully acknowledged and certainly never atoned for - not that the wounds or enduring legacies of turning human beings into chattel for centuries can ever be fully comprehended or atoned for. But one must try, because just as we inherit privilege from our ancestors, so do we inherit their sins and the responsibility for those sins.

Gaddafi’s role

The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi understood this and he used his power and wealth to try to redeem our shared history. He was the first Arab leader to apologise on behalf of Arab peoples to our African brothers and sisters for the Arab slave trade and the Arab role in the European slave trade.

He funnelled money into the African Union and used Libya’s wealth to empower the African continent and promote pan-Africanism. He was a force of reconciliation, socialism, and empowerment for both African and Arab peoples. Gaddafi’s actions threatened to renew African-Arab reconciliation and alliances similar to that which occurred at the height of the Non-Aligned Movement during the presidencies of Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.  

Thus, NATO’s urgency to prevent “massacres” and “slaughter” in Libya was manufactured and sold wholesale. The fear of African-Arab solidarity can be seen in the way the US-backed Libyan insurgency spread rumours that “black African” mercenaries were committing atrocities against Libyans. Gaddafi became an even bigger threat when an agreement was reached with the great anti-imperialist force in South America, Hugo Chavez, to mediate a solution to the uprising in Libya.

Now both of these champions of their people are gone, and the so-called Libyan revolutionaries are executing “black Africans” throughout the country. Gone, too, is NATO’s worry about slaughter in Libya, and another high-functioning Arab nation lies in ruin, waste and civil strife - primed for rampant corporate looting.

I wrote previously that the Palestinian struggle against the erasure of our existence, history and identity was spiritually and politically black in nature. So, too, are other struggles, like that of migrant workers throughout many Arab nations. These are our comrades. They are the wretched, exploited, robbed, and/or, at last, liberated.

I refer to Black as a political term, not necessarily a racial or ethnic descriptor. In the words of Owen Alik Shehadah: “Black People is a construction which articulates a recent social-political reality of people of colour (pigmented people). Black is not a racial family, an ethnic group or a super-ethnic group. Political Blackness is thus not an identity but moreover a social-political consequence of a world which after colonialism and slavery existed in those colour terms. The word "Black” has no historical or cultural association, it was a name born when Africans were broken down into transferable labour units and transported as chattel to the Americas.“

But that word has been reclaimed, redefined, and injected with all the power, love, defiance, and beauty that is Africa. For the rest of us, and without appropriating the word, "black” is a phenomenon of resistance, steadfastness - what we Palestinians call sumud - and the beauty of culture that is reborn out of bondage and oppression.

Right to look the other way

Finally, solidarity from Africans is not equivalent to that which comes from our European comrades, whose governments are responsible for the ongoing erasure of Palestine. African peoples have every reason to look the other way. Ethiopians have every reason to say: “You deserve what you get for the centuries of enslavement and neo-enslavement industry by your Arab neighbours.” African Americans have every reason to say: “Why should I show solidarity with Arabs who come here to treat us like white people do, and sometimes worse?”

Malcolm X once said: “If I was that [anti-American], I’d have a right to be that - after what America has done to us. This government should feel lucky that our people aren’t anti-American.”

We can substitute the word “Arab” for “American” in that sentence and it would be a valid statement. And yet, Africa is right there with us. African American intellectuals are the greatest champions of our struggle in the United States. The impact of solidarity from four particular individuals - Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Cynthia McKinney - can never be overestimated.

Last month, the former South African ambassador to Israel refused a “certificate” from Israel confirming the planting of trees in his name. In his letter, he called Israel a racist, apartheid state and said the gift was an “offence to my dignity and integrity”. He added: “I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of ‘18 trees’, in my 'honour’, on expropriated and stolen land.”

I would like my countrymen to think long and hard about this until they truly comprehend the humbling beauty of this solidarity from people who have every reason to be anti-Arab. I wish my countrymen could look through my eyes. They would see that black is profoundly beautiful. They would see that Africa runs through our veins, too. Our enslaved African foremothers deserve to be honoured and loved by their Arab children. And it is for us to redeem their pain with the recognition and atonement long owed.

Arriving at this understanding is a good starting place for reciprocal solidarity with nations and peoples who are standing with us, in heart and in action.


Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010). She is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO for children.

Follow her on Twitter: @sjabulhawa

Source: Al Jazeera 


The Arabic Slave Trade is something that is rarely spoken about and often goes unheard of. When we speak of the enslavement of Africans, many of us like to connect it with Europeans, which is fine, but we should never forget they were not the only ones. For over 900 years, Africans were enslaved by Arabic slave traders. They would take Africans from all over the continent including West, East, and North Africa forcing them to march thousands of miles to Slave Markets. The Men, Women, and Children were bound together by the waist and neck so that if one died the rest could drag him or her along. These walks became known as the “Death Marches” and an estimated 20 million Africans died on these walks alone. The Arabs believed it was God’s wish to see Africans enslaved and believed they were uncivilized animals. Sound Familiar? Slaves were beaten and abused regularly. Many African Women, young Girls, and Boys would be used as Sex slaves for their owners. Islamic Slave holders would stick their swords and other weapons into the Vagina’s of Black Women and cut off the penis of African Men. This was done because they believed Africans had an uncontrollable sex drive. Many Africans would be forced to convert to Islam believing if they shared the same religion, it would stop the abuse. Muslim slave traders would also promise them Freedom after conversion. This did not stop the abuse nor did it gain them their freedom. In Fact, one can argue it made them even more enslaved. When Europeans entered the slave industry, Muslim Slave traders would use the religion to exploit Islamic Africans to bring them other Africans. These Africans would then be sold to Europeans. Slavery in the holy city of Mecca would not be outlawed until 1966 and in all other Arabic countries until 1990. The Islamic Slave Trade began almost 500 years before the Europeans would come to Africa. It would be a catalyst for the dismantling of the continent and the massive expansion of the Religion. Had it not been for Islam, European Chattel Slavery may never have occurred. History is quite a teacher and once again as the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke once said, “Africa has no friends. If you want a friend, look in the mirror.”

Written by @KingKwajo - Via: SanCopha League

The Belgrade Phantom

In what is widely considered to be the first public act of opposition in former communist Yugoslavia, a man nicknamed “The Phantom” stole a white Porsche 911 Targa and raced it through the streets of Belgrade for ten consecutive nights, to the delight of thousands of onlookers and the dismay of police, who were powerless to stop him. 

Vladimir Vasiljević, also known as Vasa Opel or Vasa ‘The Key’, was a car enthusiast in his late twenties, famous in parts of Belgrade for his unparalleled ability to unlock any car, no matter the make or model. Another contributor to his fame was his nightly habit of doing it to cars that weren’t his, taking them for a ride, then returning them to their rightful owners with a full tank of gas. 

The event that would turn him from a local character into a nationwide sensation happened in September of 1979, while President Tito was on a state visit to Cuba for a Non-Aligned Movement Summit. It was then that Vasiljević managed to hotwire a white Porsche convertible, belonging to tennis player Ivko Plećković. After ‘borrowing’ it, Vasiljević would drive it at breakneck speed around Belgrade city centre every night after 10 PM, attracting more and more spectators with every lap. 

Pictured: Belgraders gathering to watch the Phantom race.

Towards the end of his ten day adventure, several thousand people would congregate on the streets, night after night, just to watch Vasiljević do stunts. He would announce his route every night by calling into a local radio station, taunting police who were unaware of his identity and under pressure to capture and punish him before Tito returned from the Summit.

Pictured: The only existing photograph of the Phantom.

The cars available to police in ‘70s Yugoslavia couldn’t match the Porsche’s speed, so they had no chance of catching up to him during his nightly races around the city centre, and the people of Belgrade, who thought of Vasiljević as a rebel and a hero, kept quiet about his identity in spite of their probing. A photographer with the daily newspaper Politika captured the above image of the Phantom in action, but chose not to publish it in order to protect Vasiljević from police repercussions.

This spectacle went on for ten nights, until the police set up a trap at Slavija Square, using several city buses to block the Phantom’s path. The Porsche crashed into the police blockade, but Vasiljević managed to jump out of the car at the last minute and disappear into the mass of people who had gathered to watch. The crowd, ever on his side, shielded him from the police and allowed him to escape, unharmed.

Pictured: The famous white Porsche crashing into the blockade.

However, a couple of days after the crash, someone tipped the police off to the Phantom’s true identity (some of his contemporaries contest this and claim he turned himself in). He was arrested and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

By all accounts, Vasiljević was a model prisoner. The only instance of him misbehaving during his incarceration was when, one day, after his sister’s visit, he escaped through a vent, then came back to prison of his own accord three days later. He claimed he had had to go for “just one more drive”, “to show the cops they hadn’t won”. For this, he was sentenced to 30 days in solitary, then served the rest of his prison sentence in peace and without incident.

Unfortunately, the story of the Phantom doesn’t have a happy ending. He died in a car accident under mysterious circumstances in 1982, not long after his release from prison. Some believe the police never forgave him for how he had humiliated them for those ten days in 1979 and either tampered with his brakes or sent someone to purposely crash into him. 

The remnants of Vasiljević’s car following his fatal accident.

Whatever the truth may be, even though Vladimir Vasiljević’s life was cut short many years ago at just 32 years old, the story of his reckless bravery and racing prowess lives on in the legend of the Belgrade Phantom.



By Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson, International League of Peoples Struggle, November 26, 2016

We, in the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, express our most heartfelt condolences to the Castro family, the Cuban people, the Communist Party of Cuba and government of Cuba over the passing away of Comrade Fidel Castro, the great revolutionary leader of the Cuban people and founder of the Communist Party of Cuba.

We pay the highest tribute to him for leading the revolutionary struggles of his people and achieving great victories in upholding national sovereignty and independence, advancing the cause of socialism, contributing to the worldwide struggles for national and social liberation and inspiring the people of the world to persevere in the struggle for socialism and communism against US imperialism and all reaction.

The greatness of the Cuban revolution under the leadership of Fidel Castro is immediately recognized by considering the fact that Cuba is a small country that is only 90 miles away from the US and yet the Cuban people have succeeded in liberating themselves from this imperialist monster, in defeating its aggressive actions such as that in the Bay of Pigs, countering the threat of nuclear attack, frustrating countless acts of sabotage and the hundreds of assassination attempts on Fidel Castro and prevailing over the most sustained embargo ever waged by US imperialism against any country.

The Cuban revolution has been victorious because of the correspondence of Fidel Castro’s indomitable revolutionary spirit, mastery of strategy and tactics, daring and perseverance to the needs and demands of the Cuban people and their determination to fight and win when aroused, organized and mobilized. As a university student of law from a landed family, Fidel Castro sided with the oppressed and exploited people, opposed the brutal and corrupt dictatorship of Batista and founded an underground revolutionary socialist group called The Movement.

The Movement launched an attack on the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953. It failed as a military operation but it succeeded in sparking the spirit of resistance among the youth and people. Fidel Castro together with many other participants in the Moncada attack were arrested. Imprisonment gave him the chance to read revolutionary works, including those of Marx, Lenin and Marti. His speech in court, “History Will Absolve Me”, became a powerful piece of propaganda.

Castro was released from prison in 1955 and left Cuba for Mexico. He regrouped The Movement and eventually renamed it as the July 26 Movement in honor of the Moncada attack. With his Argentine comrade Ernesto “Che” Guevara and others, he set sail for Cuba on the Granma in order to wage guerrilla warfare against the Batista regime. Under his strategic direction, the few guerrillas grew from small to big, from weak to strong, by destroying the 5000-troop backbone of the Batista army piece by piece at the Sierra Maestra.

In coordination with the revolutionary mass movement in the urban areas, the July 26 Movement won total victory on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro proclaimed victory and proceeded to transform Cuba by ending Batista’s rule of terror, carrying out land reform and wealth redistribution, eliminating illiteracy and expanding education, realizing universal health care of high quality and providing other social services. He nationalized US-owned companies, refineries and land and thus earned the wrath of the almighty USA.

The US Central Intelligence Agency launched the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. This was thoroughly defeated and the revolutionary prestige of Castro and the Cuban revolution resounded throughout the world. Next came the 1962 Missile Crisis which exposed the vulnerabilities of the US to Soviet nuclear power on various geographic scales during the Cold War. It is estimated that Castro himself became the target of at least 638 assassination attempts and Cuba to countless destabilization attempts, aside from the relentless economic, trade and financial embargo.

Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, the revolutionary proletariat and people of Cuba have stood out as the most formidable revolutionary force inspiring the people of Latin America to fight for national independence, democracy and socialism against US imperialism. They have not wavered in taking the road of anti-imperialist resistance even during the “special period” when drastic adjustments had to be made in the face of the disintegration of revisionist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union no less.

Up to recent times, they have cooperated with Venezuela and other Latin American countries in building the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) in accordance with the principles of social welfare and mutual economic aid and in opposition to imperialist and reactionary policies, especially neoliberalism, subversion and military intervention. They are known for outstanding policies and acts of internationalism not only in Latin America but also on a far wider scale.

They have played a major role in the tricontinental movement of anti-imperialist governments and peoples earlier inspired by the Bandung Conference and then by the Non-Aligned Movement. Under the direction of Fidel Castro, Cuba played a major role in fighting the forces of imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism. As an outstanding example, Cuban troops frustrated the armed forces of the South African apartheid regime and made way for the national independence of the people of South Africa. In several countries, Cuban doctors, agricultural specialists and teachers have helped on humanitarian missions.

When Fidel Castro became seriously ill in July 2006, he relinquished his presidential duties to the vice president Raul Castro, his revolutionary comrade and brother.. As soon as he regained physical strength, he wrote letters and articles on global issues and continued to influence Cuban policy. At the final session of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party on April 19, 2016, he referred to his ripe age of 90 and declared, “This may be one of the last times that I speak in this room, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, by working with fervor and dignity, we can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need”.

Fidel Castro will always be remembered as a great revolutionary leader who held his ground in Cuba, accomplished what was possible and continued to fight for the cause of national and social liberation, for socialism and for the ultimate goal of communism despite the dismal conditions resulting from the betrayal of socialism by the modern revisionists, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent ideological, political, economic and military offensives of the US and its imperialist allies. He understood that we are now in a period of unprecedented worsening of capitalist crisis and inter-imperialist wars in transition to a new upsurge of revolutionary struggles on a global scale.

so i recently found out that #blackout is not the only rad black thing happening today, as it is also Ghana’s independence day. shouts out to Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana, founding member of the Organisation fo African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement (one of the dopest things to emerge during the cold war).