Injustice, Struggle and Why It Even Matters: A view from Honduras

Why those who believe in the struggle for justice should work to overturn the coup in Honduras

By Lucho Granados Ceja

The political history of Latin America can often read like a novel with movements that have inspired millions around the world, with it’s share of heartbreaking disappointments as well. Important to me, however, is the determination of the Latin American people to resist no matter the conditions or consequences. At times this has meant mobilization at the polls, at other times it has meant massive rallies on the street, but it has also occasionally meant clandestine work under the constant threat of torture, disappearances, and murder at the hands of a dictatorial regime. If the coup that ousted democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is not defeated, this last type of organizing may be what many people of Latin America will have to face once again.

I am too young to have lived through the period where coups and dictatorships were common in Latin America but many of the elders in my community are not and it is their very real and personal stories that have motivated me to do everything I can to support the resistance against the coup. As a result, I have come to Honduras as part of the Canadian Delegation in Support of Resistance in Honduras organized by the Latin American Solidarity Network. Sunday morning I attended an event organized by the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH in Spanish) to honour those who were disappeared by dictatorial regimes during the previous decades in the country. At the event, the names of many of those who were lost were read out loud and after each name the crowd shouted “presente”, or “they are present”. This very powerful act made it clear to anyone in the room that those who were lost are not forgotten.

This year however, this event has special significance. As a result of the coup on June 28, 2009, human rights violations are not talked about as something that occurred in the not so distant past. No, these violations are occurring presently at the hands of the illegitimate regime. This year, honouring those who were lost implies taking action today and tomorrow to put an end to this illegitimate regime in order to prevent the human rights situation from deteriorating any further more than it already has. And so the Honduran people have been on the streets peacefully demanding justice for over 2 months while the illegal regime detains members of the resistance movement, attempts to silence free-speech, and carries out assassinations.

The social movements of Latin America that organized under democratic norms were able to secure amazing victories for the people and achieve a higher standard of living for the poorest. These struggles, however, become a thousand times more difficult when they must be done clandestinely, when publicly calling for justice can mean a death sentence for the person who made that call. There are cures for the injustices of the world but there are those who stand to lose should these remedies be implemented. These economic and political elites have intervened and will intervene to protect their interests; history has proven that a hundred times over. But history has also shown the people will continue to resist and struggle, people cannot rest when they are facing daily injustices in their lives. Let us work so that these struggles take place on the most even playing field possible, as peacefully as possible. I would like to be clear in saying that I am no pacifist, the content of the struggle should be reflective of the reality of the situation; but I am not a blind advocate for violent struggle either, so let us work in every way we can to ensure the debate is not dominated by the exchange of gunfire.

I had the honour of participating in the 2009 Presidential elections in El Salvador this past March alongside the FMLN, a guerrilla movement turned political party. I spoke with many of the party leaders, former guerrillas themselves, who all said that the victory achieved in the Presidential elections meant the lives lost in the civil war were not in vain. However, many of them also spoke of the fact that it would have been much preferred to not have had to engage in such violence to get to that point.

We have a duty to do whatever we can to support the restoration of democracy in Honduras, the coup cannot become a model for other countries to follow. We have the opportunity to avoid a situation where movements, in the face of state-sponsored violence, will have to resort to armed struggle as a means to an end – but we must act now. Whether or not we approve of the policies of Manuel Zelaya – or any government for that matter – nothing should usurp the right of people to democratically participate in society. COFADEH’s event that I attended on Sunday makes clear the consequences of organizing under military dictatorships. Latin America has been peacefully undergoing a profound social and economic transformation over the last decade. We cannot allow that to be interrupted by coup-thirsty elites.

For information on the Delegation in Support of Resistance in Honduras visit:

To get involved, contact Barrio Nuevo:

On the road: Beirut Scene and Heard

Sana Malik

Welcome to Beirut, Lebanon where you can be everything you want to be – among the glitterati in sky high clubs with polished heels, discussing politics among the expatriot intelligentsia in bohemian backdoors, or setting up an evening argileh (water pipe) outpost in your car on the Corniche. Even as an observer of Beirut’s many worlds – the contradictions, the contrasts, the tragedies – I feel the unmistakable heartbeat, the pulsing arteries filled with suffocating cigarette fumes and a persistent, intense desperation to stay alive.

Over the next two months, I will be living, breathing and immersing myself into these arteries that give Beirut its vitality. The small metropolis is usually remarked by the West as a tragic reminder of a lost past – a once promising and brimming playground for Europe’s fickle elite looking for an Oriental escapade, now “post-Apocalypse” and not quite ready to be embraced. What these interpretations miss is the stunning entrepreneurial and creative havens in the city. There are haunting reminders of a traumatic 15 years of civil war, but this is not a place of paralysis or pervasive tragedy. Due in part to the slow return and permeation of one of the largest diasporas in the world, I have seen, heard and experienced some of the most inventive corridors of innovation, engaged political discussions and authentic expressive forms of art and culture in my first days here.

The characters and the mountains-to-the-sea setting add to the mythical hauteur of Beirut, quite literally absorbing those who adorn the popular “Beirut Addict” or “I ? Beirut” t-shirts. Ripe with café culture and hip bars, a concentration of young artists, musicians, and cosmopolitan intelligentsia that most Middle Eastern capitals are thought to coerce to the fringes, are openly part of Beirut’s heart. In a city of 1.5 million inhabitants, links are made quickly between those who transpire to document, create and regress through art in some way. In a week, I’ve encountered a refugee rights activist-cum-DJ, an MBA student turned documentary filmmaker, and a Lebanese formerly in exile using art as a means of postwar introspection and identity-forming experimentation.

Money Beirut is another character in the consumption heavy capital. Dubai may be the Middle Eastern headquarter of such scenes, but seven-star hotels, cranes and construction are now a commonplace feature for the downtown area of Beirut. The same area that is the parading ground for the Beiruti and his car – the royal chariot, the flashy and overzealous luxury car integral to Beiruti society, on display at any hour of any day.

Who are the Lebanese? This is a real, very necessary untangling of emotions for everyone who has a being of a post-war Lebanon in some sense or the other. Almost all those who frequent the cosmopolitan niches of the city left the country at some point during the 1975-1990 internal conflict years, easily numbing the painful stake that pierced the soul of the nation.

From this generation, many more probably have a more memorable association to the 34-day war against Israel in 2006. Thirty-four days where any feelings of numbness and vague recollections of a hostile past were punctured. An era of bloodletting for a politicized youth as Beirut’s lively future threatened to be eclipsed yet again.

And so the city reinvents herself, posing uncomfortable questions, perhaps for the first time, in an effort to become truly comfortable in its pluralistic and remarkably multi-ethnic skin. After decades of war and continuous political clashes that have affected every Lebanese person in far corners of the globe in some way, Beirut is the rightful center of expression and discursive agonizing to connect these poles. A diagnosis of its schizophrenic nature. Now more of a necessity, the heartbeat continues, as Beirut itches to uncover more of her mesmerizing self.

Who was Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson and the American Imagination

Farai Chideya

Cross posted from Pop and Politics

kopJust months after our President proved that you can be born black in America and achieve the highest heights, the life of Michael Jackson offers a very different narrative: he is someone whose cultural legacy shaped his success, but did not provide a path to inner peace.

Michael Jackson seemed crushed under a weight of identity: black/man/star/brother/father/son. Add philanthropist/media-victim and -manipulator/accused pederast/primate owner/fashionista and dancer. Owner of, and now perhaps a returnee to, Neverland.

Back in 2003, I wrote a piece asking what happened to the brownskinned boy who stole my heart and those of girls my age across the world. Why did he shed his color, and the sincerity of his smile?

As people gathered today on Twitter to share stories, sift the real news from the fake, and mourn, I saw reporter Lisa Ling post, “RIP Michael Jackson, My First Boyfriend.” I felt the same way. It wasn’t just a childhood crush. Over time, I felt like I was one of millions of people who wanted Michael Jackson to succeed. MTV at first refused to play his videos because black artists, no matter how successful, didn’t fit their idea of their format. Of course Michael, with the help of Quincy Jones, went on to become the King of Pop and the king of music video.
In the intro to Thriller, Michael says “I’m not like other guys” and “I’m different”… and then proceeds to transmogrify into a werewolf.

Pop cult from “Twilight” to “Harry Potter” has taken feelings of alienation and packaged them for wide consumption. Michael was one of the first masters of our modern era to do that well.

But what he could not seem to do is seize control of his own transformation and find his own center as a man, not just a creator. After all, the trope of successful transformation is that the hero becomes something else, but can return to his or her human emotions if not human form.

John Landis, the director of “Thriller,” has called Jackson a “tragic figure.” And that brings me, personally, back to race. Race added a very specific prism to the failed transformation of Michael Jackson. His plastic surgery bordered on pathology and racial caricature. His need for the spotlight brought him, arguably, into clashes with both the law and public opinion. I am thinking specifically of the charges of his treatment of children… others’, and his own.

Would he have felt freer to pursue his own alternative identity if we had not also wanted him to be what he could not seem to be… an adult black man who provided fodder for the fantasies we cherished when he was a child?

In the prelude to the Thriller video, Michael Jackson speaks to the black, bobbysox-wearing girl who is his love interest and says, “You know I like you… And I hope you like me the way I like you.” Sigh.

We always loved you, Michael. I hope you found peace in just being you, whoever you were, and despite what we all wanted you to be.

Farai Chideya’s new novel Kiss the Sky, is about a black rock star struggling with fame. She is the founder of

This article is also cross-posted on The Grio.

Video pick: K’Naan’s This is Africa (T.I.A)

Knaan This is AfricaK'Naan's latest album is Troubadour

We know this brother has so much hype right now, but we’re giving a shout out to K’Naan, fellow Toronto-based via Somalia rapper because he’s just so darn lovable.  MTV’s taken note, and so has the NFL apparently.  His song, “Dreamer” provided background for the NFL’s Draft commercial.  This seems like an interesting collaboration for a dude who’s vocal about misrepresentation, yet seductively sweet in his soulful, soft rapping style.  I call it soft because his octave level is soothing and he’s unconventionally soft-spoken without compromising the sharpness of his words.  He’s adopted a psychedelic montage with bold African-inspired graphics (being compared, predictably, to M.I.A.) in his latest video, This is Africa, or T.I.A.  And it’s directed by the same dude, Nabil Elderkin, who did the latest video for eternally tormented Kanye. Check out K’Naan in our video pick for May

This is… Adele Free Pham

Adele Free Pham is an independent filmmaker based out of New York City. Her 2008 film “Parallel Adele” has screened at numerous festivals internationally, and is distributed by Third World News Reel. Currently, she is producing “The Transition” documentary on Obama campaign workers after the election and its effect on their lives, as well as “Fine Threads”, portraits of South Asian teenage women growing up in Queens, NY. She has lectured at several colleges and universities on depictions of mixed race and minority populations in mediated culture.

Pham answers some questions related to her production of “Fine Threads”, her own beauty salon experiences, and being a filmmaker focused on race and minority depictions.

Worldtown: You made a film about threading.  Have you ever had your eyebrows threaded?

Adele Free Pham: About three years ago, my good friend Ngozi Olemgbe introduced me to threading, as well as yoga. So I guess I’ve been an indo-phile for quite some time. The only reason I don’t thread more often is because of money. It’s not even that expensive! I blame it on the Asian genes. But then I’m Scottish on the white side, so monetary fickleness can’t be avoided. Threading really gives the best shape to your brows though, no doubt about it. I won’t even get into upper lip hair right now…

WT: Why do you choose themes within themes – rather than making a movie about South Asian girls, you decided to portray them in a threading salon? What do you like best about this approach?

AFP: My co-director Tanwi Islam is the driving force behind the threading salon as a narrative device, and also good friends with Ngozi, so the catalyst for my own introduction to threading as well. I was really excited to use this visual thread if you will to connect one girl’s story to another. I was speaking at Wesleyan last week, and the audience was mostly Desi girls. Watching their excitement to the opening credits (”Fine Threads” over a beauty salon with Indian music in the background) was amazing. One of them actually squealed “This is a movie about threading!!!” Now I know that we are truly onto something. The act of threading itself is rhythmically beautiful, cinematic, and fun to shoot. It connects beauty ideals and culture, which are both themes in the film. As far as the theme within a theme as my directorial calling card, I’m just really deep, so hire me…

WT: What did you learn about beauty in South Asian culture, and do you feel you can relate?

AFP: I think South Asian girls have more hair issues than East Asian girls. I hear “I’m so hairy” all the time, although I don’t really notice, but maybe that’s because of the threading. Culturally however I have a lot in common with the girls we are filming, and Tanwi (Islam) who is my best friend. As a filmmaker with an immigrant parent, it took me a long time to accept that my father is never really going to “understand” what I do until I make 100K a year, which currently, seems hilarious. Growing up I think I rejected a lot of my culture, and it’s funny that now that I’m an adult, most of my work deals with it. I have buku latent issues. However the young women we are filming are ahead of the game, and more in tune with their identity than I was at their age. Maybe it’s the times we live in, or the fact that NY has so many different kinds of people running around. I take more away from their stories than they realize. The act of making a documentary is always a revelation in one way or another. I didn’t really answer the question, but let’s just move on

WT: How did you come about this project and how did you pitch it and fund it?

AFP: Tanwi was teaching the girls behind “Fine Threads” in an after school program at South Asian Youth Action in Queens. She asked me to come one day to screen my film “Parallel Adele”, and then that week they decided to make a documentary for their end of the year project. I wasn’t really doing anything, so I was down to get the project off the ground because I was sort of fascinated by the group, and really enjoy teaching. Later I pitched the film in a sentence in an unrelated email to my distributor and they happened to be a looking for a group of girls of color in NY to “invest” in if you will. They provided us with sound equipment, and I had been able to buy the sony EX1 with my co-director on another project, so with a lot of hard work by the girls, Tanwi, and I, it just sort of came together. We shot for four days total, and I edited like crazy for a couple of days in order to make the NYSCA grant deadline. We are still waiting to hear if we have funding to continue the project over the summer. Such is the temperamental nature of documentary film.

WT: Do you ever get labeled as a filmmaker focusing on “hot topics”, such as race relations?  If so, how do you respond to that?

AFP: I don’t think that I’ve made enough films to be labeled as anything yet. But this idea doesn’t scare me. People are going to box me into whatever they’re going to box me into anyway. I’m my biggest critic. My only fear is running out of ideas and becoming a hack, or getting trapped in a job I hate for the money. There are so many talented people in the world who are living the dream. That is my inspiration and creative competition. If they can do it why not me!!!

WT: If you were the only filmmaker making the types of movies you do, why would it be important to you?

AFP: As I said before I’m my biggest critic, so if I don’t like something I’m working on, or I find it vacuous in a bad way, it usually won’t last. I am still growing as a filmmaker, which will probably be a life long endeavor. I really want to film abroad and make documentaries where the stakes are high and be a catalyst of change.
Before I said I didn’t have any heroes, scratch that. Roxana Saberi, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are three female journalists that are paying the price for making media that’s worth a damn. Unlike myself, who is currently living it up in LA at a film festival, and going to eat a breakfast burrito after I answer these questions, these women have real challenges and uncertain futures to say the least. I ask myself everyday if I would be willing to take the same risk for the overall goal of making the world a better place. I don’t know the answer. This also keeps my ego in check. However, another goal of mine is to make a comedy with an all brown cast, that feels “normal”, so there are many ways of being political. I’m a big fan of subliminal messages. I credit my white mother, who when I was little, only bought me dolls of color to combat the Barbie effect. She is a hippie and I love her.

WT: What’s the best article, book you’ve read, film you’ve seen, or song you’ve listened to lately that everyone should read/see/listen to?

AFP: On the plane to LA I read a profile on modern Rwanda in the New Yorker, read it. On a related note, the documentary “War Dance”, which was nominated for an Oscar some years ago, is not to be missed. Stakes are fucking high, and Americans tend to forget this surrounded by oceans, capitalism, and mediocrity. Canada is the same to some extent, except you guys have healthcare. Obama needs to get on that. Musically, I just leave it to East Village Radio. Comedically, I am a big “Tim & Eric” fan. Look them up on Adult Swim, and please don’t hate me.

Post Your Map… Sara Jimenez

Every week, we’ll be presenting a featured artist, writer or performer who is exploring questions of identity and personal narrative through their medium of expression.

The map is your representation. No rigid lines, no defined routes. You direct it on your own account.


Artist: Sara Jimenez
acrylic and collage on cardboard

How do we process/ interpret the information we receive? What informs our identity and how we respond to our surrounding environment? Who creates the mainstream information that is most accessible? The subject of this piece grabs blindly at the world around herself. Her history and personal experience of the world is sewn up inside of her, difficult to access and sift through.

Sara Jimenez is a Filipina-Canadian illustrator and organizer currently living in NYC. Currently she is working to produce socially consicous art work, she is available via email at sunamiswami824 [at] ao [dot] com


Tehran Without Distractions

Artist Statement

I come from the Middle East, that strange land on which, as the myth would have it, mankind marked its being, founded the very first settlements, towns and cities. The monotheistic religions roused and conquered the man, his life and imagination. Our history is full of ups and downs but never quiet. Calm and stability are strange and sometimes unknown states around here.

I am from Persia, Iran, one of the oldest countries, more ancient than history itself. My childhood memories are full of vague images, which changed the destiny of my generation, and many more to come. Images of rallies and demonstrations have marked my memory till the eternity. Concepts such as martial law, nightly chants of Allah-o-Akbar, bombardments, elections, riots, and executions have shaped my personality. Political discussions in family gatherings, predictions that never came true, and longing for freedom taught me how to dream. Long line-ups to receive rationed food and petroleum educated me better than any university.

One year after leaving Iran my fellow citizens whom I left behind finally started to ask for their rights. They started to fight again for the lost dreams of our parents. I was not able to join them on the frontline. All I could do was to hope and reconstruct my lost dreams. All I could see were blurry images of a city I once cherished and left behind. My Tehran is submerged in an ocean of dreams.

Sara Jazaeri is a Toronto-based freelance photographer. She has a Masters of Architecture from Tehran Azad University. As a photographer she has traveled in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to document the traces of disaster, war and conflict and to understand how catastrophe, repression and social pressure bring people together and create humanitarian subcultures. She has worked closely as a documentary photographer with organizations such as WFP and UNISEF after the Bam earthquake in 2003.