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About me

Who I am

I'm a DJ, MC, public interest advocate, civil rights lawyer, singer, songwriter, poet, electronic music producer, dancer, grassroots organizer, and writer based in San Francisco. I've been kicking rhymes, building communities, and fighting the Man for 20 years while based in Chicago, the SF Bay Area, and Washington DC.

Stay in touch

Follow me on TwitterFacebook, SoundcloudMixcloud, and Patreon for the latest updates on my writing, poems, speeches, DJ mixes, MC sets, and conscious original tracks like NSA vs USA (a hip-hop history lesson set to house music) and Bumpin in My SUV (a funk tune riffing on the role of consumerism and militarism in driving climate change). I have a pretty high signal-to-noise ratio.

If you like my work and want to enable more of it, even a little bit can go a long way. I dedicate support through Patreon to new music in the form of tracks for DJ sets; recording, mixing, and mastering sessions for original tracks; and production costs for music videos.

And I'm always eager to hear from folks seeking to learn more, connect with allies, or collaborate. Holler at me!

Where I came from

My blood's from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, with smidgeons of colonial English and French. After leaving Pakistan in the early 70s as our religious sect grew increasingly villified as heretical, my family immigrated from England in the 1970s to rural Missouri. I graduated at 16 from a suburban high school outside St. Louis and then spent 10 years and 3 careers completing college in Chicago.

My struggle to finish undergrad defined my 20s, until the Department of State recruited me to serve as a diplomat in the Foreign Serice in 1999. I ended up going to law school instead, and still have the letter from the Office of Personnel Management informing me that in 2015, Chinese state intelligence agents hacked everything that the government learned about me—and 22 million other federal employees and recruits—in the process of investigating us for security clearances.

Law school at Stanford introduced me to the San Francisco Bay Area, which I adopted as my vibrational home.

Just a few weeks after we started school in September 2000, the policiticized (and ultimately catastrophic) Bush v. Gore decision shook my confidence in the rule of law and judicial independence, striking a chord that continued to resonate across my career. At the outset, inspired by the Battle of Seattle and the flights of financial fancy that I'd witnessed working as a lackey for investment bankers, I focused on antirust law, and was excited to be invited to intern at the Department of Justice—where I envisioned later working to bust big corporations—for the summer after my first year. As it turned out, the Bush administration had shut down antitrust enforcement, so I went back to Chicago for one last summer after a trip to Mecca with my father. 

The attacks that fall shifted my life's course by sparking a constitutional crisis to which I've felt compelled to respond. As the war drums began beating in the fall of 2002, I grew immersed in the peace movement and later co-organized an action mobilizing 5,000 people to shut down a Lockheed Martin facillity in Santa Clara, CA. That summer, I was arrested outside the headquarters of the Bechtel Corporation (where I appeared on the front page of the USA Today Money section) while studying for the bar exam, and then learned that fall that I passed the exam the morning after being chased through the streets of Miami by police violently suppressing peaceful political resistance to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which was later revealed to be the first known instance of cell-site simulators being used to monitor domestic dissent. Those demonstrations, which esalated into unprompted police riots, later became historical meaningful for establishing a new model for police to abuse the constitutionally protected rights of Americans.

After the better part of a decade in the nation's capital, organizing grassroots resistance to the national security state while serving as an impact litigator, communications director, movement strategist, and non-profit leader, I felt excited to return to SF twice: once for just over a year in 2008, and again in 2015 for a stint at the Electronic Frontier Foundation that I have no intention of ending.

Across each of the cities in which I've lived since then, I've organized performance artists for public, politicized, free outdoor "lyrical ambushes." After co-founding the Stanford Spoken Word Collective in 2002, I joined three other poets in SF in July 2003 to launch the Collaborative Arts Insurgency at 16th & Mission--the site of an outdoor open mic that has continued every week for over a decade, encompassing thousands of participants. After visiting Black Rock City and witnessing Burning Man for the first time later that summer, we founded the DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency within weeks of me moving to Washington that fall. 

What I do

I spend most of my time writing, speaking, recruiting and coaching grassroots coalitions, making music, and traveling to do some combination of those things. In addition to my work at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, I also serve on the Boards of Directors of Defending Rights and Dissent, the Center for Media Justice, and the Fund for Constitutional Government.

A few other writers have profiled me at different points:

  • My colleagues at EFF posted an introduction to some of my work after I joined the organization in September 2015.
  • WAMU (Washington, DC) aired an interview on June 7, 2014 about the release of my song, "NSA vs USA," and my motivations as a political artist.
  • Mishthi Music posted a profile in August, 2013 following my inclusion on the Beats for Bangladesh benefit compilation. 
  • People's District posted a profile on March 27, 2010 noting my reflections on guerrilla poetry and activism, along with a video of an outdoor serenade in Dupont Circle.
  • The Jackson Free Press in Jackson, MS published a profile on March 11, 2010 emphasizing my roots in the midwest and how my time there influenced me.

My highlights are memorable, though relatively random. I've: 

  • sued the FBI in 2008 and won,
  • rocked rhymes for crowds as large as 30,000, and warmed up audiences for artists including Boots Riley from the Coup, Thievery Corporation, and Fort Knox Five,
  • confronted overzealous police in most regions of the country,
  • drafted testimony and proposed legislation for Congress,
  • briefed members of Congress at their invitation (in 2011 and in 2015) on policy issues including surveillance and detention,
  • traveled to my native country to investigate the imposition of martial law in 2007 with the Bush administration's support,
  • released my first album, Get Outta Your Chair, in 2008,
  • founded multiple communities of politically conscious artists, including the Stanford Spoken Word Collective, the 16th & Mission Collaborative Arts Insurgency in SF, and the DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency,
  • spoken at dozens of law schools and colleges, including the law school of the college that (even with the maximum available in federal student financial aid) I couldn't afford to complete in the 1990s,
  • learned enough to know how little any of us actually know, despite our various pretensions.

I'm always eager to share my analysis of law & policy issues, music, and poetry. Check out:

Serendipity flows freely in my life, and I'm always down to pursue opportunities to further expand the circle and share thoughts with others.  If you're inclined to invite me to speak or perform at an event, please drop me a line!

These days, I'm blessed, though occassionally hazed
by the edutainment inspiration wave.
I'm still hoping that I won't grow crazed,
as the Universe continually keeps me amazed....

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