Five Black Arabs You Should Learn About This Black History Month
Published: February 14, 2021
We are now past the middle of Black History Month, and we would be remiss if we didn’t share some black Arabs you should learn about. Like in the US, black people in the Middle East face racism and discrimination. An increasing number of non-black Arabs are joining them in calling out racism and calling for recognition as equal members of Arab societies. Here are five Afro-Arabs who are making waves in arts, culture, and academia in English and Arabic.
1. Layla F. Saad ليلى سعد (she/her هي) is best known for being the author of the book Me and White Supremacy, a New York Times best seller. Currently living in Qatar, Saad runs a program called the Good Ancestor Academy, which is a guide to help white people acknowledge and dismantle white privilege, and gives them tools to combat racism. She also hosts the Good Ancestor Podcast, where she interviews professionals, mostly black, who are shaping modern media and academia.
Find out more at http://laylafsaad.com/about
Follow Saad on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @laylafsaad
2. Abdullah Al-Ameeri عبد الله العميري (he/him هو), better known as Digital Abdullah, is a Bahraini poet and photographer, who publishes his work on his Instagram page. His art revolves around themes such as “love, mental health, social activism, and personal growth.”
Information source: https://www.najlaqamberdesigns.com/post/interview-with-digital-abdullah
An interview (in English): YouTube.
Find some of Digital Abdullah's work at https://www.behance.net/digitalabdullah
Follow Digital Abdullah on Instagram: @digitalabdullah
3. Dr. Mostafa Hefny دكتور مصطفى حفني (he/him هو), a Nubian Egyptian man and professor in the United States. People from the Middle East and North Africa in the United States are normally considered “white” on the US Census, regardless of how they actually identify. Dr. Hefny proudly identifies as African, black rather than white, but when he first moved to the United States, his legal race was “white” purely based on country of origin. In 1997, he petitioned for his race to be legally changed in the US. His colleagues harassed him cruelly for this. In 2019 Dr. Hefny published a book detailing his experiences trying to get his legal identity to match his lived experiences: I am Not a White Man, but the US Government is Forcing Me to Be One.
Learn more about Dr. Hefny's fight to change his legal race: https://www.tremr.com/djess-h-jacques/dr-hefny-explains-the-ancient-egyptian-race-issue
Find Dr. Hefny's book: https://library.uvm.edu/news/check_out_new_books_black_history_month
4. Colette Dalal Tchantcho كوليت دلال تشانتشو (she/he/they هي\هو\هم), a gender-fluid actor from Kuwait who has performed in “The Witcher” and other notable shows and films. They often discuss how racism affected their childhood and acceptance (or lack thereof) in Kuwaiti society.
Learn more about Tchantcho's experiences: https://scenearabia.com/Life/The-Intersections-of-Being-Black-and-Arab-in-the-Gulf?M=True
Follow Tchantcho on Instagram: @cdtchantcho
5. Omar Tom عمر توم (he/him هو), also known as OT, a Sudanese media maker based in Dubai, is the founder and co-host of The Dukkan Show. He is also the founder of Dukkan Media, an agency that does everything from media marketing to multi-platform content creation. The name of his brand, Dukkan, is based off the meaning of the word. Dukkan دكان refers to a small corner shop in Arabic. In Tom’s experience, small corner shops are one of the places where everyone in a community crosses paths, and where the shopkeeper knows everyone. It’s the place where people in the neighborhood go to shop and hang out, and a place where, in the United Arab Emirates, people of ethnic minorities feel at home.
Learn about Dukkan Media on YouTube.
Follow OT on Instagram and Twitter: @otofficial
Here are a few additional resources on anti-racism efforts in the Arabic-speaking world, as well as on Afro-Arabs working to dispell stereotypes, make art, and do what they love.