Malcolm X – 50 years on

I’m giving away ten copies of his autobiography to Commemorate 50 years since his passing,

I’ve often played with the idea of trying to write something about El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (more commonly known as Malcolm X). I wouldn’t know where to begin, where to end, which aspect to focus on. In my opinion any summary of his remarkable metamorphosis would be inadequate and his life must be studied through his own words to get the deepest understanding of the man and the legacy.

“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” Malcolm X

It’s been 50 years since Malcolm X was gunned down in the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. From downtrodden street hustling “Detroit Red” to a pivotal leader for change in a discriminating world his story is one of pain, politics and the pursuit of truth and freedom.

As part of the 50th year I’ve decided the best way I can commemorate is by gifting a copy of his autobiography to ten people who haven’t read it but would like to. If you are one of these people then get in touch and I’ll post a copy out to you.

There’s no strings attached but (if possible) I’d love to hear what you thought of the book and the man after you’ve read it.

I’ll leave you with one extract that always gives me goosebumps about the transformation of Malcolm X. As he looks out of the window at Harvard University preparing to deliver a speech he realises a building nearby is where he would hide out during his days as a burglar.

“I was the invited speaker at the Harvard Law School Forum. I happened to glance through a window. Abruptly, I realized that I was looking in the direction of the apartment house that was my old burglary gang’s hideout.

It rocked me like a tidal wave. Scenes from my once depraved life lashed through my mind. Living like an animal; thinking like an animal!

Awareness came surging up in me-how deeply the religion of Islam had reached down into the mud to lift me up, to save me from being what I inevitably would have been: a dead criminal in a grave, or, if still alive, a flint-hard, bitter, thirty-seven-year-old convict in some penitentiary, or insane asylum. Or, at best, I would have been an old, fading Detroit Red, hustling, stealing enough for food and narcotics, and myself being stalked as prey by cruelly ambitious younger
hustlers such as Detroit Red had been.

But Allah had blessed me to learn about the religion of Islam, which had enabled me to lift myself up from the muck and the mire of this rotting world.

And there I stood, the invited speaker, at Harvard.”


My Buzzfeed post “10 Times The Prophet Was Insulted And Persecuted And Reacted Like A True Gent”

Shocked and upset like anyone else seeing the events in Paris unfold over the past few days my first thoughts were with the family and friends of those killed. Reports suggest the murders shouted something about avenging the Prophet. Huh? *scratches head*. How on earth are these nutcases trying to justify this Islamically?

No really, how? I’ve grown up as a Muslim in Britain, went to Saturday Islamic classes (OK admittedly I loved the football at break-times but still counts right?), attended lectures at mosque and I can’t remember a single story, parable or mention of the Prophet ever reacting in a violent way when insulted. Not one.

After getting in touch with some friends and asking them I got a flurry of messages and links to stories demonstrating how the Prophet himself reacted to ridicule and persecution throughout his life.

My buzzfeed piece aims to give a 5 min read and 10 examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s mannerisms.

That photo of Jack Wilshere and how Moore’s law is substituting my expensive camera

So I went to see Arsenal play at the Emirates this weekend and ended up having a photo I took go absolutely crazy on the internet.

Over 5 years of random tiring photography jobs over weekends and evenings to pay my way up from a standard point and shoot camera to my current £2k Canon setup and it was a photo I took from my iPhone 4s that made its way into the papers.

It wasn’t till a friend and fellow gooner, @maxwellcoop who knows a thing or two about PR saw the photo and tweeted it out to some Arsenal bloggers that the real madness began. Within a few hours it was trending under #Wilshere with thousands of tweets and more people using the image on Twitter and Facebook.

Pretty soon the papers came calling and the next thing I knew I woke up this morning with a big print in The Times and features on Daily Mail Online, SkySports FanZone, and BBC 606’s newsletter.

The photo I took of Jack Wilshere reproduced in The Times

Technology is outstripping Moore’s Law and is driving game changing innovation in digital and social spheres. The experience has been a reminder of how much my world has changed since I truly got the digital buzz during my Masters in Design at Brunel. Working on starting with FutureGov put me in the environment with great creative minds using digital and design to address social issues.

In a talk by IDEO’s Tom Hulme he mentions that the first iPhone 3 has more computing power than the entire NASA setup who put the first man on the moon! With more powerful cameras and sensors being built in to smartphones and new ways of hacking things to fit you (hello Sugru) I wonder how long until my SLR is always second choice.

In my opinion photography isn’t always about technicalities and settings, it’s just about capturing a moment with what you have and sharing it. I finally have a case study to prove that sometimes the best camera is the one you have on you.

Ramadhan; the stay hungry process

When I was 15 one of my favourite boxers was Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins. His entrance routines were something out of WWF (that’s right in my day it was called WWF) but he used to talk a lot about “hunger” and was a seriously disciplined fighter. I remember reading old copies of “The Ring” and coming across some gems:

“it’s hard to be hungry when your fridge is full of food”

The past 30 days has been the month of Ramadhan and along with other Muslims I’ve been attempting to do without food or drink (yea that’s right water too!) from the hours of 3.30am till 9pm (sunrise and sunset). If this wasn’t a big enough challenge the inner meaning of this month for Muslims surely is, with the abstinence of food playing just a small part as I will explain.

Ramadhan is a month in which Muslims are asked more than ever to spend time reflecting on their lives and improving and perfecting their actions. Of course for Hopkins hunger was the hunger to train harder, to go the extra mile, to get up after being knocked down from a clean hook. But his idea reflects a process to achieve an outcome similar to some of the themes in Steve Job’s amazing Stanford commencement addressstay hungry” (below).  

In design the search for a great process to achieve great outcomes is a constant one, some companies invest heavily in adopting various processes to try and design a perfect product. Similarly in Ramadhan Muslims go through a process to achieve a higher outcome. The conditions set for fasting are a unique blend of discipline, will power, patience and reflection which have deep philosophical, social, physical and spiritual meanings.

Having completed the 30 days it’s amazing the effect that this period can have on one’s mind and body. Physically the fast is tough but with some discipline and organisation (drinking enough water, eating healthier foods and getting your waking up times right)  each day the body becomes accustomed to it’s new inputs and can cope increasingly effectively. Michael Mosely’s Eat, Fast, Live Longer show’s some of the health benefits which can be achieved through fasting including weight loss, slower ageing and cutting heart disease and cancer risks. After the 30days you feel sharper, more alert and importantly more conscious of what you are eating.

Michael Mosley (BBC: Eat, Fast, Live longer)

But asides from the health benefits there are much deeper things you experience. For example, I have to confess outside of Ramadhan if my chicken and chips take longer than 5 mins from order to box I start getting concerned, I’ve been trained from years of fast food culture to expect everything, now. Eliminating the fast food mentality which permeates throughout my life (outside of food too) and my addiction to “everything, now” is a liberating feeling and I’d recommend everyone to experience the feeling of being unable to drink a glass of water whenever you want at least once in their lifetime. Ramadhan reminds the person fasting to have patience and that no matter how great our achievements, we are human, we are reliant on the basics of water and food. It sounds strange but this realisation is humbling in a society which coerces people to dominate their surroundings to strive towards invincibility. For me it’s a constant reminder of our dependency on creation around us (regardless of what your belief is about creation itself). It’s also a liberating lesson in how little we actually need to consume to exist.

Inevitably the fast is about discpline; waking up at random times to prepare and train your body, resisting food and water, being extra nice to people, taking time to critically reflect on your life, removing yourself from the normal daily routine is a yearly mental and physical resuscitation.

Dine@Mine Guardian social.

The social and community side of the fasting is vast, families come together more than ever before, whether it’s gulping down a glass of water at 3am in the kitchen or breaking the fast together at sunset with family and friends with an iftar. Again I’d recommend the experience of sitting at a traditional iftar after a long days fast to anyone. A great little initiative I came across was Dine@Mine where Muslims organise iftars with non-Muslims to share what Ramadhan is all about. Fingers crossed next year I’m going to take part (any takers?).

After 30 days of habitually resisting food and water I’m actually sad to see it go. Most importantly Ramadhan is about taking away something positive each year and implementing it in your life. For me now each time I’m about to sip some water or grab a biscuit I get a bit of an uneasy feeling “no…what am I doing…, no of course…it’s over… I’m allowed now, I mean I can, I am able to…”

In beautiful fashion the Eid at the end of Ramadhan includes a fitr (charity) payment mandatory from each Muslim which goes towards food for those who live most of their lives having no choice but to fast and being unable to chose when to drink water.

In Islam fasting is recommended outside of Ramadhan intermittently and from my experiences in the past few years I can understand why. I hope I can stick to the stay hungry process some more in the future.