On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Datejie Green and Chris Webb. They are members of the Ali Mustafa Memorial Collective, which works to commemorate the life of Toronto grassroots journalist and radical organizer Ali Mustafa while supporting young people in carrying forward similar work today.
It was a Sunday in March of 2014 when my Facebook feed was flooded with posts reporting and mourning Mustafa’s death. I’d never had the pleasure of meeting him myself, but I knew who he was and knew his work, and we knew a lot of people in common. On that day, many, many people who had beed involved with grassroots organizing and/or grassroots media in Toronto were shocked and immensely saddened to hear that a barrel bomb from the armed forces of the Syrian dictatorship had taken his life.
Mustafa was a young working-class man who grew up in Toronto and was politicized while he attended York Universeity. He became a dedicated participant in a whole host of radical projects, including the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly, the New Socialist group, and many more. Moreover, he had a keen appreciation for the importance of media grounded in those kinds of politics, and he himself produced a large and diverse body of writing – from perceptive film reviews, to journalism, to radical analysis – and, particularly in his later years, stunning photojournalism from places like Brazil, Egypt, and Syria.
On the same day that his death became known in North America, friends and comrades and allies of Mustafa came together. Initially, their goal was raise money so that his remains could be brought home and given a proper burial. After accomplishing that and organizing an initial memorial service, the group took on the name of the Ali Mustafa Memorial Collective. They decided that they would continue to work together. Not only would they work to preserve the memory of Mustafa and his work, but – given the increasingly precarious realities of media work, particularly for young people who are marginalized in some way and for people committed to doing grassroots-focused work – they would do what they could to foster other young people doing similarly courageous media work grounded in similar political commitments. To that end, they began raising funds for the Ali Mustafa Memorial Award for People’s Journalism, the nominations for which closed at the beginning of November. The award will provide assistance to a young Toronto-based freelance journalist. The first winner will be announced in the spring, and the group is continuing to accept donations through rememberingalimustafa.org to support the initiative.
Green and Webb speak with me about Mustafa’s life, his political commitments, and his work; about the harsh landscape for youth, particularly marginalized youth, taking up grassroots media work today; and about the work of the Collective in both remembering Ali Moustafa and in supporting others who are doing work that carries forward the spirit of his.
To learn more about both the work of Ali Mustafa and the Ali Mustafa Memorial Collective, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.