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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.

 

Layla F. Saad smiling, wearing a bright yellow hair wrap.
Layla F. Saad. (Image Source: laylafsaad.com.)

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

 

Digital Abdullah in black and white, standing and looking into the distance.
Digital Abdullah. (Image Source: Twitter.)

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

 

Dr. Moustafa Hefny, in a brown and orange patterned shirt.
Dr. Mostafa Hefny. (Image Source: AP Photos/Detroit News/Max Ortiz.)

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 


 

Colette Dalal Tchantcho, in black and white, actor headshot.
Colette Dalal Tchantcho. (Image Source: IMDb.)

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

 

Omar Tom profile photo.
Omar Tom. (Image Source: Twitter.)

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. 

Read an interview: https://www.outandaboutmag.com/behind-the-brand-with-omar-tom-founder-of-dukkan-media/

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. 

5 Afro-Arab Female Voices to Center and Amplify in the Fight Against Anti-Black Racism. 

Interview: Amjad Abu Alala DiscussesYou Will Die at Twenty  and Sudanese Culture. 

6 Beautiful Films by Afro-Arab Filmmakers You Need to Watch.

Arab-Americans Tackling Anti-Blackness in the Middle East.

Black Lives Matter in the Arab World: Fighting a Multi-Dimensional Racism.