Critical Conversations, as a subset of Social Justice, will function as a platform that examines both light and heavy topics, both common and difficult subjects with critical lens.

Types

This is a community post, untouched by our editors.

This is an introduction to the Critical Conversations feature series, which will be run by Urban Times editor Edil Ibrahim.

Source: A still from the television mini-series ‘Roots’

I was nine when my father made a family affair out of watching the television adaptation of Alex Haley’s groundbreaking book, Roots. Sandwiched in-between my brothers on our well-loved red sofa, my hands covering my face, my father forced us to watch Kunta Kinte as his foot was chopped off for harboring the audacity the wish to walk free. I forget how long we stayed in the living room after the movie ended, bludgeoning my pops with questions as to why, how come, with indignant squeals of “BUT THAT’S NOT FAIR” ringing throughout the house.

I have never forgotten that day.

Now, while writing an article on The Middle Passage I remember my childhood anger. How familiar it is, that anger, how it consumes me still. That was the day when I had a name for the way my mother, throughout my life, with her long hijab and determination to dress as she pleased, was stared at in either pity or in polite revulsion. The way my father, with his Ivy League American education and slightly accented English was asked constantly to repeat himself, over and over again, and to my dismay, how he complied, over and over again. The way my brothers, once their voices deepened and they grew taller, were followed around in stores, and how abrupt and frightening it was that seemingly overnight they had become magnets for pale men in uniform. The way my guidance counsellor pressured my cousin (who was an average student), to take essential math – stopping only after my father came in one day and told her to quit laying low expectations on his nephew. I finally had a name for all of this, for these subtle but violent incisions into my psyche: I was being Other-ed in a society that would never cease to remind me in a dozen daily ways that I am, but not-quite, the norm.

I was nine when it slowly dawned on me the power that lay in the capacity to name things. In having the ability to point to something and say confidently “that is______”, in being able to understand the reasons behind why some of us come out of our mothers’ wombs as marked individuals, with bodies and histories silently at war with the dominant hegemony.

Silence is not an option when your eyes have been opened to the sickness in the mundane. This is why I write.

Yet fifteen years later, I thank my father for having prepared me with answers to questions I would inevitably have come to him with. All because someone deemed it important to make a film of the story of Kunta Kinte, and three little kids with ashy elbows and chattery mouths were forced to stay in one sunny day and watch how another person’s history would serve to haunt them as adults.

Silence is not an option when your eyes have been opened to the sickness in the mundane. This is why I write.

And it is my love for the liquidity of language that has brought me here, as an editor with the magazine, to provide a space to help bring other writers’ work to fruition. But it is from this desire to invert the gaze and turn a critical eye on the injustices of the world, the oppression, the subjugation, the contradictions and the thousands of tiny daily acts of humiliation of those most vulnerable in society that has laid the seed for Critical Conversations – Urban Times’ newest feature series.

Critical Conversations, as a subset of Social Justice, will function as a platform that examines both light and heavy topics, both common and difficult subjects with a critical lens. It was birthed from the idea that these conversations need to take place, as well as to show how a myriad of issues intersect along race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, accessibility, and mental health, amongst others. As well as interweaving topics in politics, culture, environment, and the arts, authors from this series will bring to you articles heavy on analysis, lined with interesting social commentary and edged with incisive insights – without shying away from examining what most would counteract with, “but things have always been that way”. Well, not here. As a forward-thinking magazine with a range of politics, we’re determined to be on the right side of justice.

Articles in the works range from the political nature of graphic novels, the levels of privilege and otherness as experienced from contrasting perspectives, an exposition on the legacy of shade-ism in post-colonial societies and an analysis as to how twenty-one year old emcee Azealia Banks subverts black female sexual politics. Alongside these there will be light topics too; how “common sense” becomes popular and normalized, the kind of discussions that take place in shisha spots, the aesthetics of different forms of literature and “the blues” in blues music.

But above all, this series will attempt to bridge gaps, critiquing structures of power, the status quo, patriarchy and how systematic forces influence the ways in which we live. Hopefully, week after week, collectively, we’ll start to recognize the blind-spots around certain issues we might not otherwise known we harbor.

Welcome to Critical Conversations – home to examining things anew.