What role should the performing arts play in education and the teaching of history? Spoleto Festival USA’s 2022 season looked at the power of the arts to reveal untold histories, especially those of marginalized people and groups whose stories are not widely shared or known. Works like Omar and Unholy Wars, for example, asked us to not only look at history, but ask why those histories are told and who is telling it.
Wajahat Ali, renowned writer and TED Talk speaker, sits down with Director of the Building Bridges Program Zeyba Rahman and scholar Hussein Rashid to discuss their essay, "An Urdu of the Twenty-First-Century United States." In this lively conversation, the coauthors reveal the impetus behind the piece, which was published in the New York University Press anthology titled “Are the Arts Essential?,” talk about Urdu as an allegory for cross-cultural connection and unity, and reveal why the arts are “a superpower” to be found in every profession, practice and personal pursuit.
More on the book Are the Arts Essential?
Hussein Rashid is a scholar specializing in Muslims in U.S. popular culture. Like Alryyes, he was an advisor on this opera. Rashid says that in his autobiography and other writings, Omar Ibn Said offers some coded language and certainly ambiguity in his actual beliefs. Rashid points to one chapter from the Qur'an that Said quotes in the autobiography that addresses God's power and sovereignty: the Sura al-Mulk.
"The way I understand this, and the way several other scholars understand this," Rashid explains, "is that this is Omar talking about being enslaved, recognizing that it is other human beings playing at power, playing at having sovereignty, playing at having authority over other human beings. And he is saying, 'No, you don't actually know what power is, you don't know what sovereignty is, you don't know where my allegiance is.' And I think this is really a spiritual nourishment for Omar."
“This is the power of story,” says Dr. Rashid. “It’s not lecturing at you. It’s saying, ‘Here’s this character’s experience. We’re inviting you to that experience and inviting you to think and reflect on your own experiences.’ And that’s the work of great art.”
The official description is:
History is written by the victors is a famous phrase, but rarely do we dig into what it actually means and its consequences for how we understand who we are. Aymann speaks with two academics who are teaching the rest of us to resist the neat and convenient historical narratives we learned in school .
Hussein Rashid, PhD, is a freelance academic based in New York City, on the land of the Lenape people. His work focuses on religion in US popular culture, and Shi’i theologies of justice. He was the lead content consultant for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s exhibitAmerica to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, an executive producer on the New York Times op-docSecret History of Muslims in the US, and is an executive producer on the documentary projectAmerican Muslims: A History Revealed.
Nikki Sanchez is a Pipil and Irish/Scottish academic, Indigenous media maker, and environmental educator. Her TEDx presentation is entitled “Decolonization is for Everyone”, and she is the creator and director of "Decolonize Together", a collective of Indigenous and Black women who offer decolonial and inclusivity workshops and curriculum creation. In May of 2020, Nikki's first book, an anthology of the Salish Sea Resident Orca whales was released by the Royal BC Museum publisher, it has remained on the BC bestsellers list ever since.
And the audio is here:
And they made me this lovely cartoon:
In the context of the US population, I am a statistic. I fill a whole bunch of categories if you want to play human bingo. My parents migrated from Tanzania, in East Africa, and I’m ethnically South Asian. I get to be even more specific, because I’m an Isma’ili Shi’ah Muslim. That means I’m a religious minority, in a religious minority, in a religious minority.
Born in Manhattan, and growing up in Queens, New York, I wasn’t different. Everyone was different to everyone else. That was the norm. Then we moved to Long Island, and it was a different beast. Suddenly, my status as a “statistic” was glaring. In our new home, you needed to fit into categories, and people didn’t know or understand my categories. Thankfully, I found my escape in the world of speculative fiction that comics offered me. When I first picked up comics in the 80s, I wasn’t thinking about representation. I was more focused on learning how to be like the Super Heroes I loved, different. Like most folks then, looking for something similar, I found the X-Men. Cyclops is still my man, and the fact that Jay Edidin recently made him canonically neuroatypical makes him even more dear to me, especially as someone who was diagnosed with ADD as an adult.
From Wrongful Arrest to Anti-Prison Activist: Bryonn Bain’s Road to ‘Lyrics From Lockdown’ – Columbia Daily Spectator
“Navigating [these politics] came through people like Bryonn who walked me through that racial consciousness and turned that into something very practical,” New School professor Hussein Rashid, who graduated from Columbia College in 1996, recalls. “We had a lot of agency coming into this protest tradition at Columbia.”
As campus activists, Bain and his peers in various campus affinity organizations not only challenged institutional injustice at the administrative level but also at the student level. He and others who fought alongside him on issues related to race and racism on campus publicly criticized Spectator’s perceived complicity in upholding structural racism at the University. “Their reporting was very deferential to authority,” Rashid—who wrote several pieces critical of the paper’s treatment of Black and Latinx voices and concerns—says. “There is so much talk about racial justice and equity in these spaces coming from ‘changing the narrative.’ What we really need is a movement that changes the narrators,” Bain adds.
Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus, hungry for content in a competitive space, offer more opportunities for diverse stories to be told, says Hussein Rashid, an academic whose research focuses on Muslims and American popular culture.