ARABICA - A Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing (Weekly Roundup)

ARABICA - A Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing (Weekly Roundup)
Kristen Gillespie

A R A B I C A ارابيكا


instant analysis ...forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi barraged the western city of Misurata as allied airstrikes entered their fourth day. An item on the BBC's Arabic page warns that "the specter of Iraq looms over Libya crisis." Foreign military intervention in both countries is leading "many to think that the goal in both cases is the same: regime change." Still, the article concludes: "it is clear that both Washington and London want the overthrowing of Gaddafi to come from home, not outside the country,".

raw footage ...Al Jazeera rolls video of air raids on Tripoli by Gaddafi's forces Tuesday night. Gaddafi's military continued to hammer Mitsurata, with the network reporting 40 people killed earlier this week when security battalions fired directly into a crowd.

polling data ... an informal poll on Al Jazeera's website asks readers whether or not they support military intervention in Libya. With more than 62,000 votes cast, a total of 61.9 percent voted yes, and 38.1 percent voted no.


on the brink... Yemen's parliament, dominated by members from the ruling People's General Congress, gave sweeping emergency powers to teetering President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which suspend the constitution for 30 days. Al Arabiya reports that Saleh proposed to hold early presidential elections at the end of this year. The proposal is "an effort to appease protesters who are demanding his immediate resignation." Yemeni protesters have rejected all Saleh's proposals that would allow him to remain in power, insisting that that protests will continue and intensify until he steps down after 32 years in power. Members of the political opposition, now joined by senior military leaders who have defected, have said they will not believe Saleh's promises to step down in the future, and will accept no other outcome.

Swedish hub.... The respected opposition news website YemenPortal, run by a Yemeni dissident based in Sweden, is monitoring blow-by-blow the rapidly breaking news of mass defections from the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

official sources...Meanwhile, the official Saba news agency features an announcement by the military, which states: "The armed and security forces announce its loyalty to the pledge it took in front of God and the homeland and the political leadership headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh."

twittersphere.... from @abanidrees: "Today is Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's birthday, March 21, 1942, making him 69 years old. A suitable day for him to end his rule." .... @mar3e adds: "Yemen is free, Yemen is great, Yemen is united in removing Ali Abdullah Saleh. Glory to the martyrs of Yemen."


facebooked....The online headquarters for Syria's revolution is the Facebook group "Syrian revolution 2011 against Bashar al-Assad." The unnamed administrator posted an audio recording purporting to be by "the official spokesman for Syria's tribes." The speaker denounced Assad's regime as "corrupt and debauched," among other harsh terms. Simply hearing such accusation against Assad and his cronies is revolutionary in itself. The enemy of the regime, the speaker says, "is the nation and its citizens." He calls on Syrians not to back away, and to keep the protests going until the regime falls.

raw footage... *graphic video testimony of victims of government crackdowns in the southern city of Daraa, which left as many as 50 dead.

day of rage redux.... At a protest in the port city of Banias, the Facebook group "Syrian day of anger" posted the protesters demands which include: "allowing demonstrations, the release of political prisoners, the release of teenaged blogger Tel al-Molohi, freedom of speech and providing job opportunities for young people."


party time ... The Egyptian government sets a long list of conditions for political parties, including not accepting any assistance or donation from a non-Egyptian person or entity. Each party must provide 1,000 officially certified signatures of founding members of a new party, with members coming from at least 10 Egyptian provinces. A minimum of 20 members must come from each of the 10 provinces.

facebooked ... Administrators from the "We are all Khaled Said" facebook page that helped launch the popular revolt in Egypt are asking its more than one million fans which direction the group should take now that they have reached their primary goal of bringing down Mubarak and his regime. Readers are asked to submit feedback about whether the page should continue to focus on making political demands or raising awareness about human rights and related issues.

the source... Wael Ghonim, the Google employee who secretly founded the FB before famously being imprisoned in Egypt during the uprising, adds "What is happening in the Arab world is not a foreign conspiracy but rather the result of an internal one by the people whose rulers conquered them, stole their wealth and destroyed their dignity."


long hand ... a letter from King Abdullah of Jordan to Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit published in Jordanian dailies on Wednesday blamed the premier for the slow pace of political reforms. "King: The path of reform requires quick, decisive measures' read the headline in the state-run Al Rai newspaper. "From now on, I will not accept excuses for any delays in reforming political and economic life." The king also instructs Bakhit to "bring the corrupt to justice."

black list... a group of protesters who held a demonstration outside the University of Jordan on Tuesday provided the king with a list of names to begin investigating for corruption: King Abdullah's close friend and ally Bassem Awadhallah, former Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb and Majdi al-Yassin, the brother of Queen Rania, all widely rumored to be involved in corruption on a massive scale. Slogans included "Jordan is not only for the rich" and "yes to change."


subversive artists for hire.... Al Arabiya reports that calligraphers, painters and other artists in Morocco are in high demand as protesters seek to creatively vent their anger during protests. Protests are entering their second month in Morocco, largely unnoticed as large-scale protests unfold elsewhere in the region. But flag vendors and other revolutionary symbols, such as images of Che Guevara, are being snapped up across Morocco. "The work of a calligrapher is usually restricted to special occasions," says calligrapher Mohamed al-Daryoush. "Now, I am earning more money writing banners for protesters."

rebel music.... Yemeni singer Aladry holds a nighttime, outdoor performance before a group of young male protesters that begins with the universal cry from protesters heard around the Arab world, "The people want the regime to fall." Across the region, spoken Arabic varies greatly – a Palestinian, for example, will find it almost impossible to understand an Algerian speaking their local dialect. But classical, written Arabic unites all Arabic speakers, and as Aladry engages the crowd in the rough Yemeni dialect, thousands of protesters respond in literary Arabic, repeating "the people want the regime to fall," uniting them with protesters around the region. Here, Aladry performs an upbeat song rallying Yemenis to fight for freedom.

free speech.... Basma Abdullah posted an article on called "Let's talk about sexual reform." She describes throwing away her gym membership to start jogging on the streets of Amman. "Last Friday provoked an outrage…that prompted me to write this article to discuss a subject closely tied to the process of reforming society: the abuse of women and sexually perverse behavior in the streets." Boys as young as 12 harassed Abdullah as she jogged through Amman's streets. The answer, she writes, lies in sex education, and legal consequences for men who sexually harass women. "If we want reform, we must start with ourselves," Abdullah writes.

March 18-24, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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