My dear friend, Shannon Ayers Holden, former owner of Turning Heads Salon in Harlem, relocated with her husband, James Holden, to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) more than a decade ago. Shannon insisted that if I wanted her to host me in the UAE in 2017, I needed to come quickly, as she and Jim were planning to relocate to Kenya. But life would have it that the Holden family is still residing in the UAE.
Shannon Ayers Holden and Jim Holden
In her latest position as Curator and Community Relations Manager of Alserkal Avenue, an arts and design collective in Dubai, Shannon was asked to guide Alserkal regarding how they should respond and what they could do in support of Black Lives Matter. To that end, Shannon developed an introductory Curriculum for Reparations. It includes a book list, videos, podcasts, films, and music to educate those of other cultures regarding the plight and history of African descendants who were enslaved in American for 400 years. It’s a curriculum that many Americans – Black, people of color, and Caucasian alike – would surely benefit from as well. As dear friend Tamu Al-Islam, my other host in the UAE, pointed out so clearly when I interviewed her in Abu Dhabi, “We assume that people in other parts of the world know our story, our history as African Americans, but why should they? Do we know theirs?” Tamu was initially very shocked to learn that most people in the UAE knew nothing or very little about American slavery. Tamu’s husband, Amir Al-Islam, taught African American studies at Medgar Evers College here in Brooklyn before teaching similar courses to Emirati students hungry for this knowledge at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.
Tamu and Amir Al-Islam
What a blessing to have these ambassadors of African American history, art, and culture representing us abroad and globally. Check out Shannon’s five-minute video interview on the inspiration behind developing this critical curriculum at alserkal.online. Prepare to download it. Also, join @alserkalavenue on Instagram.