The A-Word Reclaimed

How performance art can change the way Americans identify with the Arab world.

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my hair wasn’t put on top of my head to entice you into some mysterious black voodoo

the beat of my lashes against each other

ain’t some dark desert beat

it’s just a blink

get over it

“Not Your Exotic, Not Your Erotic”

Hammad’s not one to mince words. Shortly after 9/11, she appeared on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam and adamantly claimed her place in the American fabric.

“One more person assume no Arabs or Muslims were killed.

Assume they know me or that I represent a people.

Or that a people represent an evil.

Or that an evil is as simple as a flag and words on a page.” 

"First Writing Since"

She was just as fierce last Saturday night, serving up “An Evening of Breaking Poems.” The Millennium Stage that K’Naan used to transport his listeners to Somalia’s shores became Hammad’s platform for protest. Her spoken word paid tribute to a fractured existencethe dispossession and displacement from the Gaza Strip as her family fled to Jordan, where she was born. Each stanza she delivered was like a stamp of her personal brand, an uncompromising look at the distinct components of her identity. Palestinian-American. Palestinian and American. Be sure to get the story straight.

Reframing how Arab cultures are viewed in America means that the cultural revolution must continue long after the festivities end. The conversation needs to move off-stage, and it needs to include everyone, even children.