Meet Hamda Yusuf: She’s 19, she’s a local slam poetry champion, and she wants to be the US ambassador to Somalia.
At the Youth Speaks! Poetry Grand Slam last month, most of the poems performed on stage were punctuated by supportive hoots and shouts of, “Youth speaks!” from the packed crowd, culminating in rowdy choruses of applause. But only a few poets earned multiple sets of straight 10s from the judges.
One of them was Hamda Yusuf.
Incredibly, only ten years ago she didn’t speak English. Her family had just migrated from Somalia.
Today she’s a 19-year-old UW freshman pursuing a degree in international studies. But she already has a wealth of global experience under her belt, having lived on three continents.
After advancing through the preliminaries, Yusuf took the opportunity at the Grand Slam final to evoke ancient Somali traditions and stoke the crowd’s indignation at Islamophobia. What set her apart, though, was the earnest humor and moments of mundane Americaness mixed into her poetry—all delivered with a sublime confidence.
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As a kind of update to a heavily-trafficked list of decent white rappers I posted a while ago, I want to shout out two new songs directly addressing white (and light skin) privilege and its role in hip-hop culture and society at large. Credit to these guys for taking on a difficult subject and shedding light. There is way too much 50 Cent and Soulja Boy on the radio here in Haiti… Listen: Wale’s “Shades featuring Chrisette Michelle” and Macklemore’s “White Privilege.” (Macklemore is white and from my hometown of Seattle.)
On Sunday leading former members of the Young Lords Party, a militant Puerto Rican community organization active from 1969 to 1971, gathered at the First Spanish Methodist Church in East Harlem for a forum to reflect on the impact of the group. The New York Young Lords took over the church the first time in 1969 in an attempt to use it as a base for community food and health programs. Months later they occupied it again, this time brandishing weapons, in protest of the hanging of Julio Roldan, a Young Lords member who was found dead in his cell after a police raid.
It’s unfortunate that the Young Lords are not as well known among the broader public as the Black Panthers. The group was arguably more progressive for its time. Patriarchy and other oppression within the Young Lords started to break down quickly when members challenged those hierarchies inherited from society. The Lords had deep roots in and support from the “El Barrio” community.
Which makes the New York Lords’ sudden and swift decline all the more puzzling. Why did the group fall apart after just two years of success? What can radicals learn from the Young Lords?
I cannot find any audio or video from Sunday’s forum online, oddly, to help answer those questions. You can hear Democracy Now co-host and Lords co-founder Juan Gonzalez speak on his experience in this interview.
I’m a bit late in posting this, but youth-led protests like this one are so awesome! Over 400 youth across the Bay Area walked out of their schools on Halloween to protest Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s unannounced raids and terrorizing of Latino and immigrant communities over the past two years. Joshua Kahn Russell has an exciting report-back up at his blog. Via Indymedia.