In October I attended a human rights conference in Tehran sponsored by the NGO  New Horizon.  The conference was called “On the Brink “ and focused on reviewing Police brutality and Black America.  Artist, Activist and scholars were invited from around the world. The conference website says “Today one witnesses a blind brutality that can be only seconded by an extreme example, that of Daesh or ISIS. Police confrontation with ordinary colored citizens has taken a wicked turn in the past decade. Experts however believe it has always been this way the only difference being the social media’s massive reflection.The NHC aims to gather black American thinkers, writers, activists on the subject bringing to close proximity the free thinkers of the racial violence in the US with the masses and the academia in Iran, a country that has withstood US hegemony for the past 36 years and has been punished for it accordingly.”

I presented on two topics,

1. The state of Blacks in America. Case study Illinois and

2.  Apartheid violations in American Education and the remedies. Both of these are downloadable from this link, Papers. And for those who wish to see the live presentation, here is a link My presentation- Apartheid education in American education.

It was an awesome conference and I met some of the most interesting people from across the African Diaspora, activist and scholars,  as well as some who lived in my own city of Chicago, who I had to go to Iran to meet.  The hospitality afforded us could not be beat. From the moment we landed and were escorted to the CIP  ( their version of VIP and more accurately labeled. Commercially Important People ) makes more sense doesn’t it!

Our host and the many people we were exposed to, showed us much love and gave us so many opportunities to share our stories and plight with the Iranian people and the world. Our conference was covered globally.

On hearing I was going to Iran so many friends and family became immediately concerned, all were concerned about my safety, but I had no fear, I knew if the US hated Iran they must be something special about them to love. After all I looked at how the USA treated Black people and know how Hollywood their missionary have painted us, so if I knew their depictions were lies then why would i believe them when they spoke badly of another country. So I went to Iran with an open mind, and left with a heart full  of warmth and love for the Iranian people who have managed to create a dynamic country and society, that we here in America could learn much from. Education is free and when we tried to speak to students about student loans, they had no concept to relate to.

It is ironic how shallow many people in America have become, and how silly we look when we frame a whole country based on  some biased and ignorant assumptions of what Islam is because the people chose to kick the US out, after the CIA removed their duly elected leader and replaced it with the Shah who then disrespected and brutalized them.US role in 1953 coup

We went to one of the Shah’s palaces , the Green palace

Some call this opulent, I just call it gaudy and wasteful.  We  then visited the dwelling of the Ayatollah Khomeini. I learnt a valuable lesson about leadership from this experience. Something sadly lacking in many leaders globally today. Humility and integrity.

We could learn much about leadership from the life of Imam Khomeini.

How silly we are to frame women’s rights around the wearing of the chador and what women wear while equating freedom in the west with women’s ability to be undressed in the public and don’t see the harm this does in degrading women and framing them as sexual objects. As I looked at the women I was amazed at how much they looked like Catholic nuns,  and said as such, and we seem to be quite happy with nuns but somehow because they are Muslims dressed exactly the same  as nuns, we call them somehow suppressed.

The women I met in chadors were some of the most enlightened, educated and  articulate women I have had the pleasure of speaking to in a long time and it was quite inspiring.  There was nothing oppressed about any of them.  In fact women in Iran are highly educated and more of them are in college than men. Women have many rights and some even say, at times more rights than men, but you won’t find that in the Western media.  This culture values women and children.

I even met African Americans who had lived over 20 years in Iran and still loved it.

Marzieh Hashemi , a fellow African American who has lived in Iran over 20+ years. She spoke on The Resistance and Black America. She was the on hand organizer and her crew of young people did an outstanding job meeting our every need for the 2 weeks. This sister is a powerhouse , tv personality and someone you should know.

It forced me to reflect on how shallow many Americans are, and how quick we are to judge others without trying first to understand their culture. Especially since as a nation, this country of immigrants, born on the genocide of others , is quite young compared to the thousands of years of Persian and other cultures civilizations. The Americanization process for our new immigrants totally disconnects them from our past and creates this new “ugly American” afraid of the world and its people. Forgetting where their ancestors came from.

This conference captured our Black reality with so many clips, see a few below and links to the table of contents.

number killed by police thru Oct 2015

Teaching child about the police and white privilege

Much thanks to our organizer Nader Talebzadeh and New Horizon for hosting us and making this a life changing event for so many of us.  More pictures will follow as i get time.

And let us not remember that this struggle we face as Black people in the US is so similar to those of the Palestinians and to so many other peoples struggles globally, caused by the same oppressors.  Same people who have been reeking havoc for quite some time now. So if we want to build a safer world it starts with looking at the domestic terrorism the US has perpetuated against its own people here in the US.  Indiginous people and Africans, for some of our ancestors arrived before Mayflower. Remedy that and maybe we will be able to solve the other challenges we face in the world.

And if you have some time I highly recommend visiting Iran, you will love it.


Cecile Johnson