“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.”

-- Assata Shakur

A fitting start to a radical book club, no?



This is by far the fastest I've ever had to put a project together: in response to my interview with WGN going viral, the line that made the memes, cross-stitches, and hashtags was the response to being accused of not "sound[ing] like an American"-- "that's because I've read."

Since then, DMs, emails, and all lines of communication have been flooded with a singular ask: so, what do you read? Which of course, is a fair question. What wouldn't have been fair though, was if I just responded with a list of dense, complicated, and inaccessible books that I had the privilege of reading and discussing with friends, in classrooms, and community organizing spaces. Reading Orientalism by Edward Said, for example, would have been so much more difficult and dreadful had I been sitting in my room by myself with only a pint of ice cream to keep me company. 

So, I decided to up the game. Rather than just publishing a reading list, I wanted to help guide the conversation, serve as a resource for conversation and critical thinking, and have conversations that would make the books easier to understand and more engaging with people from varied perspectives from around the world. 

And so it was decided: JooJoo Azad was to host an virtual, radical reading club: #BecauseWeveRead

After a week of community polls from name suggestions to bookstore collaborations to platform hosting and ending with a quick 24-hour fundraiser on Instagram, I'm so excited to launch this project in collaboration with, and with support from, so many of you around the world. (What I've done to deserve such a beautiful community online and offline I will never know)! 

So here's what's happening -- 

A post shared by Because We've Read (@becauseweveread) on

INTENTIONS & GOALS


1. To raise our collective awareness and understanding of politics, race, gender, religion, culture, history, colonialism, class etc, in ways that disrupt normative narratives 

2. To uplift and celebrate stories of those whose identities are marginalized and whose voices are traditionally systematically silenced 

3. To make us all think differently about ourselves and the world, from a viewpoint that will not be taught in your classes; some of us will realize we are in chains and others that they are holding them


LOGISTICS



1. ANNOUNCEMENT | The first week of every month, we will announce on JooJoo Azad, our Insiders List, and on social media the book that we will be collectively reading. The post will be accompanied by complementary information and resources, such as articles, films, excerpts, databases, etc that will enrich the reading, but also allow people who don't like reading (or don't have the capacity or ability to read a particular level of English) or have already read the book to still engage in the conversation. 

2. ACCESSIBILITY | When the book is announced we will also be hosting a giveaway on social media for several copies of the book, send copies to community organizations with financial need, and also save copies for those who request a free copy due to financial need. We will also try our best to work with publishers to share a digital version of the book to make the book as accessible as possible, and collaborate with book publishers and bookstores around the world to provide discounts on each month's book (starting next month). Because there is nothing radical about a book club that is inaccessible. 

3. LOGISTICS | At the end of each month, we will have a discussion on Instagram live with a different guest, and invite you to join the conversation! We decided on Instagram live as it was voted for by you all, but also because Instagram has a rad feature that allows followers to 'request to join' the conversation, so that we can literally have a discussion with you all no matter your location. Oh, technology. 

4. IN-PERSON DISCUSSION GROUPS | In addition to the Instagram live session at the end of the month, we want to encourage you and your friends to meet-up and discuss the book together! Smaller conversations can be more engaging and helpful in ways a larger discussion may not be. So, to help facilitate this, we're teaming up with friends in cities across the world to host discussion groups or events every month related to the theme of the book! A full list of the locations (as we continue to rapidly expand!) can be found each time the book is announced at the start of the month, and updated accordingly. 

5. FUN LITTLE BONUS | Speaking of smaller discussion groups, in order to get more people hype and sharing what they've learned, every month we encourage you to take a photo with your book of the month, tag @becauseweveread and use our hashtag #becauseweveread and include a favorite quote, something you learned, or anything else you'd like to share or are thinking about. We'll pick 5 of our favorites and invite you to join a "micro online discussion" with the guest discussant/expert over Google Hangouts a few days before our monthly live session. (we'll also re-post them on our rad instagram page, which you need to follow along!)

Yeah, I'm excited. 

--

APRIL 2018 BOOK OF THE MONTH: ASSATA SHAKUR: AUTOBIOGRAPHY


There stands a $2,000,000 award for the bounty of Assata Shakur, who is currently on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list and residing in Cuba under political asylum. As she writes: 

"My name is Assata (“she who struggles”) Shakur (“the thankful one”), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.” 

Her beautifully-written autobiography highlights intersections of race, gender, class, and others as they have been used by the state against poor Black Americans, are now also used against different identity groups (such as Muslims). But also, such intersections and modes of violence are common in communities and states internationally. 

On a personal note, Assata Shakur's autobiography made me fall back in love with reading. Choosing this book as the inaugural book for #BecauseI'veRead was the most natural decision for me, given the immense power of her words, story, and experiences for my personal and political development as well as my re-commitment to the written word as a source of my growth. 


BOOK: 


Assata: An Autobiography, Assata Shakur (foreward by Angela Davis)
(The edition with Angela Davis' foreward was published in 2001 by Lawrence Hill Books, but there are other, earlier editions available as well) 

Full PDF available here

(also available as an audio book for purchase on Amazon or for free on Youtube)

(if you need a physical copy and are financially unable to purchase a copy please email me and we can mail you a book as supplies last) (if you would like to sponsor a book/books you can do so via paypal here or venmo: @hoda-katebi, but be sure to include a note about the bookclub so we can be sure to allocate funds accordingly!) 


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:


+ This website is filled with resources, information, and curriculum about Assata Shakur and her case with the U.S. Government. 

+ Assata Shakur's open letter from Cuba

+ Eyes Of The Rainbow, the documentary film about Assata Shakur's life

+ "Are We All Muslim Now? Assata Shakur and the Terrordome" (Aljazeera)

+ The Lit Review Podcast, episode 31 with youth from Chicago-based grassroots collective Assata's Daughters


DISCUSSION GROUPS:


Official partners/discussion leads are listed below, along with their email addresses in case you need to get in touch! They will be releasing the date for their meetup and additional information as the month progresses, so be sure to follow them on social meda, email them letting them know you're interested in joining, and/or keeping this page bookmarked as we keep this page updated with information as it arises! 

If you'd like to collaborate to host an in-person meetup in your city, please drop me a line at hoda@joojooazad.com with the subject line: #BecauseWeveRead Local Meetup, including any connections you have to youth groups, universities, student groups, organizing collectives, and community centers!  

ABU DHABI, UAE
[upcoming]

BOMBAY, INDIA
[upcoming]

CINCINNATI, OHIO, USA
Discussion lead: Sara Zandvakili
Email

HOUSTON, TEXAS, USA
Discussion lead: Laila Khalili
Email

ISTANBUL, TURKEY
[upcoming]

LAHORE, PAKISTAN
Discussion lead: Madiha Tallat
InstagramEmail

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA
Discussion lead: Joubin Khazaie
Email

MONTREAL, CANADA
Discussion lead: Mona Ghassemi
Email

NIGERIA (Whatsapp Group)
Discussion lead: Hulaimah Kolawole
Instagram / Email

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, USA
Discussion lead: karen kaur dhillon
Email

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA
Discussion lead: Anisa Jackson
Instagram / Email

TEHRAN, IRAN
[upcoming]

TORONTO, CANADA
Discussion lead: Yeldah Yousfi

WASHINGTON D.C, USA
[upcoming]

LIVE, MONTHLY DISCUSSION:


We're excited to introduce this month's discussant, which will happen later in the month! In the meantime, mark your calendars for Sunday, April 29th (time TBA) for our group conversation on Instagram Live (the conversation will also be saved and uploaded at the bottom of this post for those who won't be able to make it)! 

--

We have a month -- let's do this! #BecauseWeveRead