Claim Yourselves: A Letter to my Daughters (Scary Mommy - Club Mid)

"Your faces smile sweetly at me now, and you want me to be with you at every turn. The way in which your little bodies rest on mine and seek the contours of my hand seems vastly ordinary now; it is at times difficult to define where you end and I begin, we are so intertwined with one another.

When I first became a mother this was disorienting to me. I was horrified trying to understand who I was and what I had become, as the independence I had fiercely protected gave way to a need and being needed, to a compromise in how I saw my body and myself. Babies don’t negotiate, and you were no exception. I became both more and less of who I thought I was. You remade me in your image before you were born, and we have been dancing ever since, my girls and I..."


Kick Higher, Yell Louder: Teaching My Girl To Own Her Voice (

I published an article today on Ravishly.comKick Higher, Yell Louder: Teaching My Girl To Own Her Voice

"I realized that it was in fleeting moments like these, girls learn to silence themselves, to accept being interrupted, to deflect attention from their accomplishments. It is in tiny increments that little girls become women who hesitate to speak. 

'Hana! Dul! Set! Net!'

At six years old and roughly 40 pounds, my daughter has long been the smallest and youngest in her Tae Kwon Do class. Despite this, she has also always been the loudest, proudly counting out the warm-ups in Korean at the top of her lungs and bellowing a firm, high pitched “kia!” with each kick of her little body. I have always watched her in amazement, so imbued is she with a vitality and confidence I lacked at that age."


(VIDEO) Panel Discussion at Brown University - "Poetic Forces: Creative Change in and Beyond the Arab Spring"

In March 2013, I sat on a panel at Brown University to discuss the causes and ramifications of the use of Hip Hop as a revolutionary tool during the Arab Spring uprisings.

Participants on the panel include:

  • Egyptian rapper and Arab Spring participant, Deeb
  • Nancy Khalek, Religious Studies at Brown
  • Elias Muhanna, Middle Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature at Brown

Special thanks to Tricia Rose, Cogut Center and Africana Studies at Brown, for coordinating and moderating the event.


"Poetic Forces: Creative Change in and Beyond the Arab Spring"

Brown University
The Cogut Center for the Humanities
March 12, 2013
Providence, RI

Hip Hop & Diaspora: Connecting the Arab Spring (Arab Media & Society)

Published in: ARAB MEDIA & SOCIETY, ISSUE 13, SUMMER 2011

May 31, 2011 (Arab Media & SocietyOriginal Link): Since the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2010 unleashed the pro-democracy movements now popularly known as the “Arab Spring”, the clamor for change and opportunity has continued to sweep through the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. Citizen journalism has allowed for a near-constant stream of images of bloody uprisings from Libya to Syria, as people throughout the Arab world seek to redefine their relationships to the state apparatus and their rights as citizens. From the outset, these movements have been accompanied by a very strong musical component, from troubadours in Cairo’s Tahrir square to the adhans uniting in both faith and protest. Yet it has been hip-hop that has become the most iconic and widespread soundtrack of the Arab Spring and, interestingly, it is having the double effect of helping to mobilize activists in the countries directly impacted by the pro-democracy movements while also solidifying links between Arab diasporic communities in the West with those still residing in the ‘homeland.’



Parisian Africa: The artistic intersections of the Métropole (

ORIGINAL LINK - Africa is a Country

Paris has always been renowned for its culture and support of the arts. Yet, as France has grown into an ever more pluralistic society, the traditional image of what constitutes art in France must evolve as well. Younger generations of artists, many immigrants of African origin, are now reconfiguring the arts in France on their own terms. Their artistic production embodies experiences of travel and adaptation via the integration of the cultures and traditions of their respective countries of origins along with aesthetic and quotidian experiences that reflect daily life in France. Particularly in the realm of music and film, the blending of African tradition with French popular culture and youth genres has fostered a vibrant arts scene that, while initially seen as of/from the margins of both society and the arts scene, is actually renewing ‘mainstream’ culture in dramatic ways. You just have to scan the pop music featured in Hinda Talhaoui’s Paris is a Continent Series on AIAC. One proponent of this new artistic vision is Alain Kasanda (Apkass), a Franco-Congolese musician, spoken word artist, and founder of the O’rigines Foundation and the Ghett’Out Francophone Film Festival. I interviewed Alain at the Trinity College International Hip-Hop Festival held in Hartford, CT, in March earlier this year.


(VIDEO) Interview with Arab-Canadian Hip Hop Artist, the Narcicyst, about His Work, Hip Hop, & the Arab Spring (

Lara Dotson-Renta Interviews Arab-Canadian Hip Hop Artist, the Narcicyst, about His Work, Hip Hop, & the Arab Spring from on Vimeo.

The Narcicyst (Yassin Alsalman) is one of the most recognizable faces of the burgeoning Arab hip-hop movement. With roots in Basra, Iraq and raised between the UAE and Canada, The Narcicyst is an independent artist now based out of Montréal. With a BA and MA in Media Studies from Concordia University, The Narcicyst brings a critical and academic perspective to his genre, often navigating the complexities of Arab identity by integrating incisive lyrics with deftly chosen imagery. Songs such as PHATWA (an examination of the post 9/11 security apparatus), January 25th (a collaborative anthem in support of the Egyptian Revolution), and Fly Over Egypt (an homage to the Egyptian people’s struggle on the anniversary of their uprising), provide critical perspectives on current social and political narratives, and display a keen awareness of the reach and impact of popular media. The Narcicyst’s cultural production also includes written work, with his published master’s thesis Diatribes of a Dying Tribe (an examination of hip-hop as a vehicle for Arab youth identity), interviews, and a recent op-ed on post-occupation Iraq for CNN.

A faculty member at Concordia University, The Narcicyst remains actively engaged in the academic community. He recently participated in the 7th annual Trinity College Hip-Hop Festival held in Hartford, Connecticut between March 29th-31st, where he was interviewed backstage between sets.

Published on

L'AFRIQUE PARISIENNE : Les enjeux artistiques et la métropole (


La ville de Paris est reconnue pour sa culture et le soutien qu'elle apporte aux arts. Cependant, avec la diversification de la société française, l'image traditionnelle de l'art aujourd'hui et qui la produit doit également évoluer. De nouvelles générations d'artistes, nombre d'entre eux étant des immigrés d'origine africaine, sont en train de transformer les arts en France selon leur vision particulière. La démarche artistique de ce groupe d'artistes traduit des expériences de voyage et d'adaptation culturelle à travers l'intégration de leurs propres cultures et traditions d'origine à l'esthétique et l'expérience de la vie quotidienne en France. Plus particulièrement dans le domaine de la musique et du film, le mélange des traditions africaines avec la culture populaire française et des genres comme le hip-hop a inspiré un projet artistique parisien qui, bien que perçu au début comme issu de/pour les marginaux sociaux et artistiques, est en fait en train de renouveler la culture "mainstream" de manière imprévue. Il faut tout simplement voir des exemples sur la série Paris is a Continent (Paris est un continent) par Hinda Talhaoui sur le site du web Africa is a country]. Un jeune artiste illustre ce mouvement : Alain Kasanda, musicien, artiste de spoken word (poésie sonore), initiateur de la Fondation O'rigines et fondateur du Festival du Film francophone Ghett'Out Festival aux États-Unis. Voici un entretien avec Apkass recueilli en mars 2012 au Trinity College International Hip-hop Festival (Hartford, CT, USA).


An Interview with Syrian-American Activist Hazem Hallak (

August 29, 2011 (Original Link – Despite months of bloody uprisings, Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad remains steadfast in his repression of protesters. In the face of international pressure to stop the assault on citizens, consistent reports of large scale state sponsored violence have continued to emerge from cities such as Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Latakia. As the death toll continues to mount and the international community grapples with its stance on Syria, strong voices of dissent against the Assad government have emerged not only inside, but also outside the country. One such voice is that of Dr. Hazem Hallak, a scientist and researcher based in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area.


(VIDEO) “Sinsyrianly”: An Interview with Syrian-American Hip-Hop Artist Omar Offendum (


Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American Hip-Hop artist and architect born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington D.C., and residing in Los Angeles. Recently, Omar has toured the world promoting his solo release SyrianamericanA and raising money for various humanitarian relief organizations. He has also been involved in creating a number of acclaimed songs about the popular pro-democracy uprisings in the MENA region, including January 25th, Superhero, and the Peace Revolution. In this interview, Omar discusses the intersections between poetry, politics, and activism

Latino Muslims in the United States After 9/11: The Triple Bind (

April 11, 2011 (Original In the nine years since the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, many Westerners have come to view Islam (in all of its modes and refractions) as a religion associated with violence and terrorism, and to speak of Muslims living in the West as a suspicious ‘other’. In the United States and Europe, Muslims have come to symbolize a possible “enemy within”, doubly victimized as both potential targets of as well as objects of blame for terrorist attacks. This singling-out of Muslims has dramatically increased in the last year, as demonstrated by recent Congressional hearings spearheaded by New York Republican Congressman Peter King. Dubbed the “Islamic Radicalization Hearings,” the professed goal of these proceedings has been to ‘weed out’ home grown Muslim terrorists in the United States.


Citizen Journalism in Libya: Re-Routing Narrative & Nationhood (

March 30, 2011 (Original As recent uprisings in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region continue to demonstrate, the new array of communication mediums available to this generation of activists has proven to be a powerful tool for political mobilization. The anonymity and wide reach of the internet, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, cell phones, and other forms of communication have provided a forum for protesters pursuing regime change (successfully achieved in Tunisia and Egypt in February and January of 2011) and as a means by which to denounce human rights abuses taking place in countries where change has faced a greater uphill battle (Libya, Bahrain, and most recently Syria.) Yet, the increased usage of mobile media for the purpose of citizen journalism in the MENA region also presents a tipping point in the way information and the role of the citizen is viewed in the Arab world, with implications far beyond the present changes sweeping the region.


Revolutionary Women: Mirroring Latin America & the Arab World (

March 13, 2011 (Original  Muslim and Arab women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have long been regarded by ‘the West’ as silent, exotically ‘unseen’, or mere echoes of the paternalistic regimes under which they were believed to live. Particularly after the 2001 and 2003 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in conjunction with the recently instituted French burqa ban, the whole of Islam and the many roles that women play within Muslim and Arab societies have become conflated with extremism. While many MENA governments have indeed been deficient in instituting equal legal rights for both genders, this has not prevented women in the region from being capable and productive members of society who actively pursue political reforms and social change. Far from being silent or invisible, women have, in fact, been the backbone of the current wave of revolution sweeping through the MENA region.


Rais Lebled: Speaking Out for Libya (

February 20, 2011 (Original  “Look what is happening/Miseries everywhere, Mr. President/I talk with no fear/Although I know I will get only trouble/I see injustices everywhere.”  These lyrics from the song “Rais Lebled,” by young Tunisian rapper El Général, embody the spark that ignited Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” this past January. Songs like this have become a rallying cry, spreading across North Africa and the Middle East and becoming a collective call for change, as Arabs of all classes from Algeria to Bahrain clamor for the end of dictatorships that have defined the social and political lives of entire generations. When Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11th following weeks of nationwide protests and 30 years of rule, the world was awakened to a new kind of pan-Arabism: one that is younger, technologically savvy, craving opportunities, and less tied to religion as the sole organizing or identifying factor. This generation of Arabs wants concrete change and agency in directing its own government(s), with the technological interfaces of today giving the people a new means by which to articulate their demands.