Museum of Fine Arts: Boston Belonging and Poetic Witness
Facilitated by: Maytha Alhassen, Ph.D. and Mafaz Al-Suwaidan
What is it about the experience of extremity, whether in suffering or in ecstasy, that
pushes one into poetry? What is it about poetry that can both alleviate and amplify the
voices of the ecstatic and the sufferer alike? A revolutionary engaged with-ness of sorts,
poetry can afford access to both the poet and audience to alternative cartographic
imaginaries, transgressing borders and conventions, and opening new spaces to realize
what is possible. This workshop is an opportunity to experiment with your own creative
voice through poetry and explore your relationship to the City of Boston as both
residents and contributors to the city’s cultural and creative landscape through your
work at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and beyond. You will collectively explore and
contribute to a larger creative installation and create pathways for even more reciprocal
relationships with Boston’s diverse communities and neighborhoods.
Dovetailing with Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Artist-in-Residence Bouchra
Khalili’s 22 hours MFA exhibition on the legacy of the Black Panther Party in Boston,
this workshop explores the relationship between poetry, witness and alternative
cartographic imaginaries (“metaphysical freedom”) through the journeys of poets writing
through revolutions, poetry as a revolutionary act, and revolutionaries who read poetry.
Part historical and critical study, part creative writing workshop—participants will meet a
range of voices from former Boston residents Phillis Wheatley, Malcolm X, Khalil
Gibran, Elizabeth Alexander, and other poets who delve into the relationship of
revolutionary witness like Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Akhmatova, Theodor W. Adorno,
George Jackson, and Samih al-Qasim.
Within the first couple of weeks of his inauguration, Trump signed multiple executive orders targeting the Muslim (Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States---"Muslim ban"), American Indian/Native American + Black (Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers and Task Force---"blue lives matter" on Crime Reduction and Public Safety---"law and order"), Mexicans (Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements---"the wall"), and undocumented (Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States---withholding federal money from "sanctuary cities") communities. Later, as part of continued assaults on marginalized communities, he banned transgender people from the U.S. military, aggressively detained undocumented activists, moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the nakba, nominated Kavaugh for the Supreme Court, and doubled down on a family separation policy at the Southern border. Trump's administration attempted to rollback wins achieved by Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Dreamers, women, trans people, refugees and Palestinians. And yet, there was no mass mobilization or movement that emerged in response to the inauguration moment and other coalescing consecutive moments thereafter. This leads us to ask: Is it possible that the Right, especially the Far Right, sees us more in unison than the Left actually is? During the first weekend of the Muslim ban, thousands of protesters rushed to their local airports and chanted "no ban. no wall" while some added "no raids."
One wonders why, when other executive orders that aimed to strengthen federal and law enforcement powers and over-reach, those chants did not link "no prions" and "no cops" to calls for justice against the Trump administration? How can from seeing the atomized other's struggle as a bounded, separate category, to a quilted, interwoven movement towards collective liberation? We have long debated the usefulness of categories such as solidarity, ally, accomplice, etc. What if we saw ourselves, as Dr. Alhassen argues, as each other's engaged wit/h/ness---an active witness who demonstrates "with-ness" through testifying? In this talk, Alhassen will deconstruct her concept of "engaged wit/h/ness" (which emerged from her research on Afro-Arab "solidarity politics" and Black-Palestine transnational studies) and how student organizers can apply it and use it towards campus-wide and community connected movement work. Alhassen contends that our primary should be locate and analyze interlocking of systems ("no ban. no walls. no prisons. no cops") and not merely to assume politically expedient identities to (the ban and wall racialized as "brown immigrant" issues) to get free.
Integrative Abolition: Theater of the Oppressed Exercises for Embodied Freedom
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
Inspired by fellow countryman Paulo Freire's groundbreaking work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Brazilian artist educator and social practitioner Augusto Boal established Theater of the Oppressed as a center (and a famous book) to use the theater experience to reclaim power for oppressed peoples. Through theater games and exercises, known as "gamesercises" Boal inverted the theater paradigm, transforming spectators into active participants. This practice of active participation and play, made embodying power in one's social and political lives feel possible. Later, Boal would take theater to local Brazilian political office and to landless movements, teaching and practicing "legislative theater." In this workshop, participants will learn and play gamesercises that will enhance their connection to inner and outer freedom through Dr. Maytha Alhassen's facilitation as the "joker."
With the current political climate attacking immigrants, Muslims, women, people of color, and more, Hollywood's role in creating the stories and portrayal's that shape the way society views these communities is more crucial than ever. This panel will bring together social justice advocates, entertainment industry experts, artists and scientists to discuss the pop culture tropes and traps dangerously portraying these communities, as well as how through a combination of science and research, they are gathering compelling data and insights on audiences' beliefs and behaviors that will powerfully inform the design and creation of authentic and just stories with the power to change the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people.
Performing poems and speaking for Together Live at 7:30pm, Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
State of the Nation: Emerging Perspectives on the Nation of Islam
Presenting the paper "The Asiatic Asmar Man: Translating Mahmoud
Shawarbi’s Chapter on the Nation of Islam" from 4-5:45pm at the American Studies Association conference.
ADC Convention: 21st Century Orientalism: Portrayal of Arabs in New age of Media
Presenting in this session with Ms. Lorraine Ali, Media and Television Critic with The Los Angeles Times; Ms. and Mr. Mike Mosallam, Producer, Writer, Director and President of Mike Mosallam Productions. Each of the presenters brings a unique perspective and experiences to the conversation.
"Come down to be’kech for a very special event on 14th August, where we will be joined by Maytha Alhassen to discuss her work on breaking down barriers into pop-culture and mainstream media, particularly for those from minority backgrounds." 7:30pm, free but donations welcome!
Brandless Pop-Up with Purpose, 8483 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
In this yoga journey (1-3pm), practitioner Dr. Maytha Alhassen will lead you through traditional yoga asanas, while also introducing you to Sufi "remembrance" practices and spiritual attunement technologies (a combination of meditation, movement and breath work). Take a well-deserved breath with us this Monday afternoon.
In Arabic and Islamic traditions, the same word for mercy is used for womb, and consequently, a name for God. In fact, every time a Muslim recites a prayer, they open up acknowledging this powerfully feminine quality of God: "Bismallah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim" ("In the name of God, the most Gracious and the most Merciful'). The celebrating and centering of sacred femininity within Middle Eastern and Islamic traditions might come as a surprise for some. Like many traditions, it has been buried under the rubble of patriarchy. But women in community have long kept this spiritual knowledge and other healing practices alive. Learn strategies and techniques to fall in love with yourself through embodying Middle Eastern spiritual traditions/healing wisdoms. Maytha Alhassen will lead participants through a divine feminine journey through a Sufi chanting circle, bellydancing basics and bukhoor anointing ceremony for the month of love. Unlock your voice, your hips and your inner sacred Goddess.
*Participants should bring scarves to cover their crown chakra during the chanting (we will go over the reason behind this and explore the Islamic chakra system). And we will use the scarves for bellydancing!
Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies session: "From the erasure of ongoing indigenous dispossession and settler colonialism within feminist and antiracist efforts, to class divisions and debates over respectability politics, to trans bias within LGBTQ communities, to the unique dangers shared by those who fall outside of the protections of “legal” citizenship, what does it mean to GET. YOUR. PEOPLE. at a time of “uneasy” solidarities, as former ASA president David Roediger put it?"
panel discussion with heads of UNICEF, European Asylum Support Office, Sawa Foundation, Interaction: "The refugee crisis continues to intensify without any real solution on the horizon. How can existing technology be used to save the lives of those fleeing oppression, conflict and danger in search of safer shores?"
panel discussion with Wadah Khanfar, Al Sharq Forum; Suzanne Franks, City University London; Claire Fox, Institute of Ideas: "Technology has fundamentally changed how we create and consume media. In an era of fast news, clickbait and alternative facts, how can the media ensure it plays its role as the watchdog of democracy?"
OSCE/ODIHR panel on Islamophobia in U.S. and Europe
A TransAtlantic presentation of reports on Islamophobia from Belgium, Turkey, France, and the U.S. by of organizers, community activists and scholars. This panel was organized by the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO) for the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)/ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The Young Turks Main Show
The Young Turks Main Show
Faith and Racial Justice Panel
Youtube Live Streaming
Muslim ARC live streaming panel focusing on the role of faith in racial justice organizing work for American Muslim women organizers.
Reciting poem I wrote about Syria "Beyond a Geography of Violence"
National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE)
Fort Worth, TX
Giving a talk/presenting a paper on "The Orientalized Muslim" (8:30am-9:45am) and on a panel for the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 "From Japanese Incarceration to the Muslim Ban" (3:00-4:30pm)