A radical, international book club challenging understandings of the status quo & mobilizing communities globally. 📚✊🏿

CBI x BWR Transnational Blackness Series: Iran

CBI x BWR Transnational Blackness Series: Iran

#BecauseWe’veRead is incredibly honored to be collaborating with the Collective for Black Iranians to kick off a year-long series on Transnational Blackness! For the past six months, the Collective, a non-profit organization, has embarked on a trailblazing effort towards centering stories and histories of Black and Afro-Iranians from Iran and throughout its diaspora. The effort is a vital reminder of the importance of reading about the parts of history that we may have ignored, the necessity of listening to the voices that we may not have known existed and the urgency to find the intellectual courage to then create conversations about who we are. 

In this series we have tasked ourselves with uplifting and sharing these erased, and overlooked stories of Blackness as it exists, thrives, survives, and blooms around the world, from Tehran to Hebron. The series will comprise three separate reads spaced out over the course of the year and in collaboration with communities on the ground to curate and develop content, join our live discussions, and lead the development of each unit. 

Considering the constant erasure of Black narratives throughout our societies, this series is exceptionally important and through this unit we hope to build deep and lasting relationships of global understanding in a way that is intentional, informed, directive, and liberating. 

With this year-long series, we have four main objectives:

  1. To listen to the history of people of Black African descent in the MENA region
  2. To understand the transnationality of Blackness and its presence throughout the world and integrate the racial dynamics that have been existing yet often left ignored within immigrant communities
  3. To teach our people (Black and non-Black people of color) of our histories through the histories of Blackness
  4. And, as always, to uplift stories that have been erased, ignored, and silenced

 

Artist: Kimia Fatehi | Collective for Black Iranians 

 

To kick off this Transnational Blackness series, we’re starting with Iran: as the month of March represents a new year and new growth for Iranians and others, we hope this conversation too will help plant the seeds for our community to reflect, heal, and grow. 

We’ve pulled together two incredible selections that are being published online for the first time exclusively for this unit! The first piece, “Seeing Race,” is by Iranian-American historian Beeta Baghoolizadeh. “Seeing Race,” excerpted from Baghoolizadeh’s doctoral dissertation, provides a historical introduction to enslavement and racialization during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Iran. She is currently writing her book, The Color Black: Enslavement and Erasure in Iran. as well as an additional supplementary short article The Myths of Haji Firuz: The Racist Contours of the Iranian Minstrel (Lateral, Journal of the Cultural Studies Association, March 2020).

The second read is the first three chapters of In the Palace of Flowers (Cassava Republic, out in the UK Feb. 2021 and worldwide May 11th, 2021), a *just-released* novel by Victoria Princewill. Inspired by the only existing first-person narrative of an enslaved Abyssinian in Iran, Jamīla Habashī, In the Palace of Flowers recreates the opulent Persian royal court of the Qajars at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a precarious time of growing public dissent, foreign interference from the Russians and British, and the problem of an aging ruler and his unsuitable heir. Torn away from their families, Jamila, a concubine, and Abimelech, a eunuch, now serve at the whims of the royal family, only too aware of their own insignificance in the eyes of their masters. Abimelech and Jamila’s quest to take control over their lives and find meaning leads to them navigating the dangerous politics of the royal court, and to the radicals that lie beyond its walls. Richly textured and elegantly written, at its heart In The Palace of Flowers is a novel about the fear of being forgotten.

We also want to thank Cassava Republic for partnering with us on this unit! Cassava Republic Press is the oldest female-led publishing house in West Africa.

We’re incredibly excited to be joined by both Beeta Baghoolizadeh and Victoria Princewill, as well as members from the Collective for Black Iranians for a roundtable conversation at the end of the unit in April. Stay tuned as we release the details and RSVP in the coming weeks! 

 

— The Collective for Black Iranians & Because We’ve Read

Additional resources

Head over to the Collective for Black Iranians’ Instagram page and website to follow the illustrated stories, voices, experiences, music, and beauty of Black and Afro Iranians around the world —

Chapters

Chapter List:
All Chapters:
Detroit, USA
Vienna, Austria
Seattle, USA
Vancouver, Canada
London, Canada
Montreal, Canada
London, United Kingdom
Mumbai, India / मुंबई
Dubai, United Arab Emirates / دبي
Lahore, Pakistan / لاہور
Auckland, New Zealand
New York City, USA
Nairobi, Kenya
Jakarta, Indonesia
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mauritius
Denver, USA
Melbourne, Australia
Doha, Qatar / الدوحة
Toronto, Canada
Cairo, Egypt / القاهرة
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Istanbul, Turkey
Munich, Germany
LA County, USA
Oxford, Ohio, USA
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Delhi, India
Detroit, USA
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  • Hosts: Michael and Samantha
Vienna, Austria
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  • Hosts: Victoria & Natasha
Seattle, USA
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  • Hosts: Alia & Imaan
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.seattle@gmail.com

Vancouver, Canada
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  • Hosts: Julia & Dyalla
  • Local Bookstore Partner: Estelita’s library
London, Canada
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  • Host: Asiya
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.londonon@gmail.com

Montreal, Canada
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  • Hosts: Mona & Celia
London, United Kingdom
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  • Hosts: Maryam & Alliyah
Mumbai, India / मुंबई
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  • Host: Smriti
Dubai, United Arab Emirates / دبي
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  • Hosts: Reem & Noha
Lahore, Pakistan / لاہور
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  • Host: Madiha
Auckland, New Zealand
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  • Host: Zainab
New York City, USA
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  • Host: Anisa
Nairobi, Kenya
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  • Host: Suhayl
Jakarta, Indonesia
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  • Hosts: Sahnaz, Intan & Shaffira
Birmingham, United Kingdom
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  • Hosts: Milga & Georgia
Mauritius
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  • Hosts: Sana & Grace
Denver, USA
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  • Hosts: Amena, Satvinder, & Mona
Melbourne, Australia
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  • Host: Jasmine
Doha, Qatar / الدوحة
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  • Hosts: Moza, Fatma, & Eman
Toronto, Canada
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  • Hosts: Haider & Frishta
Cairo, Egypt / القاهرة
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  • Host: Tasneem
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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  • Hosts: Yi Peng & Marsya
Istanbul, Turkey
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  • Host: Amber
  • Local Partners: Istanbul & I and Yabangee
Munich, Germany
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  • Host: Zahra
LA County, USA
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  • Host: Crystal
Oxford, Ohio, USA
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  • Host: Ridha Nazir
Rotterdam, Netherlands
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  • Host: Jasmin & Yusser
Delhi, India
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  • Host: Jaya Singh
#BecauseWeveRead Local Chapters

We have dozens of locally-organized and autonomously-run #BecauseWeveRead chapters led by brilliant activists, artists, students, human rights lawyers, teachers, mothers, musicians, and other like-minded people around the world! Each chapter is responsible for creatively engaging their greater communities and building grassroots movements around literacy, accessibility of reading, and the topics covered in the readings.

Local chapters are important to bring people together and build local community centered on radical reading, and using our virtual programming as an entry point for broader, intersectional community organizing.

Joining a Chapter

Found your city above? Shoot your host(s) an email introducing yourself and they’ll get back to you with more information on upcoming events, discussion groups, and other efforts they’re working on you can get plugged into!

Start Your Own Chapter

Don’t see your city listed above and want to bring #BecauseWeveRead to your city? Shoot us an email at bwr@joojooazad.com to start the conversation and learn more! We’re always looking for new and creative people to join our team and help us build our global community!

Community Discussions
Simone Browne, Assia Boundaoui, Freddy Martinez, & Sarah Hamid on Surveillance & Terror Tech

Tech developments are inevitable, but surveillance, surveillance capitalism, and intrusive tracking are not. We can live in–and even celebrate–a tech-driven world without submitting to the wills of power. It’s not “normal” for google to be able to track your every move, for Amazon to detect your accent and record your conversations when Alexa is supposedly “off”, or to step outside to a forest of cameras watching you, even if you “have nothing to hide.”

For this conversation, we’re so thrilled to be joined by a #dreamteam of some of our favorite scholars, activists, artists, and hackers fighting to keep us all safe at the intersections of surveillance, anti-Blackness, capitalism, the war on terror, and the carceral state.

Join us for a conversation with Simone Browne, scholar and author of Dark Matters; Assia Boundaoui, award-winning filmmaker and director of The Feeling of Being Watched; Freddy Martinez, Director of the Lucy Parsons Labs; and Sarah Hamid, activist with the Carceral Tech Resistance Network.

Jamila Woods on James Baldwin

The past week, the United States has witnessed what Angela Davis has called a possibly unprecedented moment in demands being made globally for radical and systemic challenges to racism and legacies of slavery. This moment is exciting, inspiring, painful, intense, beautiful, shocking, brilliant, and messy. And we’re here for all of it. But immensely important in these moments is also grounding: spiritual/religious grounding, community grounding, and historical grounding. This moment is both new and a legacy of what was made possible by the freedom fighters before us; both visionary and historic; we are speaking new languages and articulating new demands crafted from the alphabets of James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and so many others. So let’s dive into their words.

We’re excited and honored that the brilliant poet, singer, and songwriter Jamila Woods will be joining us as our discussant for this unit!

Emergency Read on Kashmir

In light of the ongoing and accelerating Indian military occupation of Kashmir, lack of media attention, and urgent calls for international solidarity, #BecauseWeveRead is honored to be partnering with Stand With Kashmir to host this ‘Emergency Read’ on Kashmir. Join the brilliant Sanjay Kak (filmmaker & writer), Hafsa Kanjwal (professor & writer), & Mohamad Junaid (professor & writer) in a conversation describing & contextualizing what is happening on the ground in Kashmir, right now.

Arundhati Roy on Empire & Power

Referred to in the New York Times as “India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence,” Arundhati Roy stands as one of the most influential writers in the world today. Her writing includes the award-winning The God of Small Things, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, Capitalism: A Ghost Story, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, among other fiction and non-fiction work. But beyond her writing, her work also extends into the streets: Roy is an outspoken activist, frequently working on and discussing issues related to India’s illegal military occupation of Kashmir, anti-Zionism, political repression, caste and class, and a myriad of environmental and human rights issues — many of which are discussed in our February/March 2019 read, The End of Imagination. We love a principled, badass woman.

Nisrin Elamin on #Sudan and Africa Uprisings

In light of ongoing massive protests in Sudan, their lack of coverage in mainstream media outlets, and the dire need to contextualize these protest within Sudan’s own particular political and historical contexts (which many non-Sudanese and non-African people seem to lack knowledge of), we’re calling for a #BecauseWeveRead ‘Emergency Read’ for the month of January to help us better understand what is happening in Sudan right now, and how we can support. We’re joined today with Nisrin Elamin, a Sudanese PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford University. Her doctoral research focuses broadly on the phenomenon of “foreign land grabs” in post-secession Sudan. It seeks to understand how the differential impact of state-driven land dispossession is being negotiated and contested in several communities in the agricultural Gezira region.

Naomi Klein Discusses The Shock Doctine
Naomi Klein, the brilliant scholar, author, and most recently the Inaugural Gloria Steinem Chair for Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University, is joining us at #BecauseWeveRead to discuss her book, The Shock Doctrine, and its continued relevance on a global scale.
#BecauseWeveRead: How it Works
Goals
Process
Global Chapters
Emergency Reads

To raise our collective awareness and understanding of global politics, race, capitalism, gender, religion, culture, history, colonialism, socioeconomic disparity etc, in ways that disrupt normative narratives

To uplift and celebrate stories of those whose identities are marginalized and whose voices are systematically silenced globally, as their stories are powerful models of effective resistance against power, and their lived experiences challenge state narratives.

To build & mobilize transnational communities, conversations, and movements united in shared struggle while simultaneously making radical literature more accessible to the communities that need them the most.

Every two months a new unit will be announced here on our website, in our newsletter, and on social media. Each unit has a central book that will always be made available as a free e-book, and is accompanied by additional multimedia resources such as essays, films, databases, poetry, photoessays, and other materials that complement the unit.

Think of each unit as a mini syllabus on a particular topic.

Throughout each 2-month long unit, all of our members (i.e. anyone who is reading with us around the world at any particular time) are encouraged to post their thoughts, reflections, favorite quotes, or other commentary related to the readings or unit on social media using the hashtag #BecauseWeveRead to be part of a global conversation.

Each unit also includes a Youtube Live discussion hosted by Hoda Katebi and a different esteemed guest. Past guests have included Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, and others. The Youtube Live discussions are open to the public and viewers are encouraged to ask questions and engage in the conversation with the host, guest, and each other.

You can find previous live discussions, many of which have also been adapted into podcast episodes, linked in each book post in our digital library, or on the “Community Discussions” page.

#BecauseWeveRead is unique for many reasons, but we’re most excited about our growing list of local chapters globally!

Smaller, more intimate conversations on a local level are an incredibly helpful tool to better understand and engage with texts while simultaneously learning from and building community.

Our global chapters are largely autonomously run by local leaders (most of whom are women and non-binary people of color!) who we train and support as needed. Each chapter hosts an open, local community discussion for each unit, and often hosts other events and projects related to the unit.

Our chapters have organized everything from sold-out panels and poetry slams on Islamophobia & Anti-Blackness to letter-writing events and book drives for people currently incarcerated to week-long event series at their local university supporting the struggles of Kashmiris under Indian occupation!

Get involved & find the closest chapter to you on our “Chapters” page!

Can’t find a chapter in your city? Get in touch with us if you’re interested in launching a new chapter and bringing #BecauseWeveRead to your community!

#BecauseWeveRead actively adapts and responds to major global crisis as they develop. To do so, we occasionally will call for one-month ‘Emergency Readings’ on a particular crisis that needs urgent attention.

Typically, we focus on situations that: a) lack global attention b) are deeply misunderstood/the general global public lacks major context c) are immediate and actively-unfolding situations in which people on the ground are asking for global solidarity in ways that #BecauseWeveRead and our chapters and members can clearly respond to

Unfortunately, there are countless important issues and causes globally that deserve to be uplifted. We are often inundated with requests to launch an ‘Emergency Read’ in respond to various ongoing local & global crises and unfortunately cannot focus on them all.

We want to name that several factors go into announcing an ‘Emergency Read’, and even if an official announcement is not made, often times many of our chapters will still focus on these issues on a local level.

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