Last night (5 July), my roommate and I hosted an independence day party in our modest apartment in Mounira, Cairo. It began at seven with a handful of people and ended after 3am with a different set of people. The company was a mixture of students and workers. These were people who were brought Cairo to learn Arabic and people who were born and raised in this bustling city. The original intention of the party was to celebrate the independence of the United States from the British. For some, 4th of July is an opportunity to take a day off, gather with family, and light some fireworks. Others, reflect on the many flavors/rhetorics of democracy that have discussed in our school. While true democracy and liberation are ideals that I would strive for, the United States is far from that. Many have posted Frederick Douglas’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”. The spirit of his speech still resonates today and upon reading this I thought of what type of mood I wanted for the party. So I sent a postscript to some of my guests:
For those of us with a complicated relationship with the US, such as recent immigrants, people of color, and foreign nationals, this is an opportunity to discuss the problems of US imperialism and hegemony. We should also acknowledge the ways in which the settler colonial state has nearly exterminated the indigenous population. Rather than glorify a history that oppressed a significant segment of the population we can consider how to recreate society anew. Looking forward to some anti-colonialist discourse!
Although my tone was a bit formal, I think this reflection is warranted. Especially in the context of the Fifth of July, Algerian Independence Day. This was a long and protracted struggle between and Algeria and France. A struggle for power, against colonialism, and for the liberation of Africans. People came to the party with an open mind to discuss the spirit of independence. But in the end, it was a moment to learn about one another, practice some Arabic, and reflect on the 1990’s. Next time, the anti-colonialist discourse will have a bit more dancing.