[Marxism] Long article/interview on Arab-American Rapper Will Youmans in SF Gate

M. Junaid Alam junaidalam at msalam.net
Sun Aug 29 13:38:51 MDT 2004

Great stuff:


The Iron Sheik
Rapper Will Youmans taps into the American minority experience to 
address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Laila Weir

		Sunday, August 22, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle <http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/>
Chronicle Sections 

Click to View 
Click to View 
to View 
Click to View 
graphical line

It's 5 p.m. when Will Youmans and I board a crowded plane at the Oakland 
Airport, headed for Los Angeles. We sit in the front row so we can 
disembark quickly because he's due to perform at the UCLA law school 
soon after we arrive.

His day job is teaching political science at Diablo Valley College in 
Pleasant Hill. Onstage, Youmans, 26, is known as the Iron Sheik, a 
Palestinian American rapper who tells a story of prejudice that reaches 
back to his mother's experience in the Middle East and his childhood in 
the United States.

"Whether in Dearborn or in the sticks, I was always dealing with racist 
pr -- ," raps the Oakland resident in a song called "Growing Up." "I 
remember being called a camel jockey, other kids circled me and tried to 
mock me."

Youmans is part of a growing number of young Palestinians, in the United 
States and in Israel, using hip-hop and rap to express their 
frustrations. Their choice of medium is not accidental. Faced with two 
Americas, white and black, many young Palestinians now identify more 
with the latter. The title of a book of poems written by Suheir Hammad, 
a prominent young Palestinian American artist, sums it up: "Born 
Palestinian, Born Black."

These artists document a modern diaspora. The Palestinians are 
predominantly Muslim, some Christian and occasionally Jewish Arabs who 
are originally from what is now the state of Israel and its occupied 
territories. Some of the world's 8.5 million Palestinians live in towns 
and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Others are 
dispersed around the world, refugees from the war that established 
Israel in 1948, or exiles from the occupied territories. A few remain in 

The existence of the Palestinian people was denied, forgotten or ignored 
for many years, but as other youth remind the world of their existence 
by throwing rocks or blowing themselves up, these rappers are making 
themselves heard through rhyme. They are self-produced, operating in the 
musical underground of live shows and Internet sales -- Youmans' 
performances are mostly at university rallies or Arab conferences. He'd 
like to reach a wider audience, but says his main goal is to increase 
awareness among his peers.

"I'm trying to educate those who don't know [about Palestinians], but do 
know about imperialism, colonialism and so on," says Youmans. "At the 
same time, I also want Arab Americans to learn their history, the 
history of the Palestinian people -- the politics -- and to gain a view 
that it's cool to be political, it's OK to speak your mind and speak 
truth to power."


More information about the Marxism mailing list