Monday, June 2, 2014

Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

Dear Readers,

I started this blog as a hobby in early 2011 to bring the voices of the Arab world's young people, who were calling for dignity, social justice, and a brighter future, to the widest possible audience. I’m happy to announce that I will be continuing these efforts as the Program Manager of the Munathara Initiative at its new headquarters in Tunis, where I will be moving to from Amman at the beginning of August.

Why Munathara? Most Arabs are under the age of 35, but the voices and perspectives of Arab youth are only rarely broadcast on mainstream Arabic news channels. Munathara, an independent, nonprofit, pan-Arab NGO, seeks to change that. The organization brings Arab youth together to debate important social and political issues and broadcasts these debates to audiences on the internet and satellite television. The vision is to create “an open, fair and representative Arab debating forum in which anyone can take part and voice their opinions, regardless of their social status, education or location” and to build a new Arab public sphere where young people have a full say in their societies.

I’m excited about Munathara’s work because I believe that the solutions to the challenges facing the Arab world (and the rest of the world, for that matter) can only be discovered by young people. I’m excited that I will be doing almost all of my work in Tunisian and Modern Standard Arabic. I’m also excited to work with our founder Belabbès Benkredda, our deputy director Christine German, and our amazing staff and trainers. It’s been a dream of mine to live and work in Tunis ever since January 14, 2011, and now I finally get the chance.

For the past three years, you’ve known me only as “Ulysses,” so let me tell you a little more about myself now. My name is Sean O’Keefe. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and I studied Arabic and history at the University of Chicago. Among other things, I’ve done work with youth programs in Jordan and Morocco and taught Arabic to underserved students in Seattle Public Schools with OneWorld Now!. I also am a proud member of the Class of 2014 of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, where my studies focused on humanitarian relief and international development. Recently, I’ve done field service in Amman with CARE International’s Syria Emergency Response Team and Identity Center's programming for Jordanian youth. Now, I will be devoting my time and energy to bringing what Munathara can offer to as many new participants and audiences as possible. To learn more about me and why I created my blog, please read my post "Introduction: Welcome!" as well as my "About" section.

I’m writing this post, in part, because I'm asking for your support. A big part of my job will be reaching out to people and getting them involved with Munathara. Donations are always great, of course, but we also need people to spread the word, watch the debates, become participants and supporters, and help us find new ways to make young people’s voices heard. On June 18, 2014, Munathara will be holding its #DD11 debate in Sanaa, Yemen on the motion: “Arab Women’s Participation - Only Through Quotas?” Make sure you check it out and that you keep checking back at in the coming weeks and months. While you're at it, don't forget to keep reading my blogs Revolutionary Arab Rap (for articles) and Revolutionary Arab Rap: The Index (for translations and subtitled videos). I’m working on a few cool side projects, including one to document every female MC making hip-hop in Arabic. Finally, thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement and their interest in my work over the past three years. I'm looking forward to what the future holds.

Sean O'Keefe / Ulysses