DiscoverFresh AirMSNBC Host Ali Velshi Traces His Ancestors' Migration
MSNBC Host Ali Velshi Traces His Ancestors' Migration

MSNBC Host Ali Velshi Traces His Ancestors' Migration

Update: 2024-06-043
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Ali Velshi, MSNBC chief correspondent, joins Fresh Air to discuss his new memoir, "Small Acts of Courage." The book is a remarkable family history that begins in a village in India in the 19th century and winds over the generations through South Africa, Kenya, Canada, and eventually the United States. Velshi's ancestors' travels were driven by powerful currents of history, and his family encountered some notable figures on the journey, including Mahatma Gandhi. Velshi's grandfather, Rajabhali, was a seven-year-old boy when he became Gandhi's youngest student at his ashram in South Africa. Velshi's father, who grew up in Canada, inherited the values of his grandfather, including a strong work ethic, a commitment to helping others, and a belief in the importance of fighting for justice. Velshi, who grew up in a house where the news was considered important, was influenced by his parents' values and eventually became a journalist. He discusses his experiences as a journalist, including being hit by a rubber bullet while covering the George Floyd protests, and how these experiences have shaped his views on democracy and the importance of accurate information. Velshi also discusses the importance of consuming information from multiple sources and being a critical consumer of information.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces Ali Velshi, MSNBC chief correspondent, and his new memoir, "Small Acts of Courage." The memoir is a family history that spans generations and continents, tracing the journey of Velshi's ancestors from India to South Africa, Kenya, Canada, and the United States. The chapter also highlights Velshi's experiences as a journalist, including being hit by a rubber bullet while covering the George Floyd protests.

00:02:00
Velshi's Experience Covering the George Floyd Protests

This Chapter delves into Velshi's personal experience covering the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. He recounts being hit by a rubber bullet while reporting live on television, an event that profoundly impacted his perspective on the role of journalists in society. Velshi emphasizes the importance of bearing witness to events for those who cannot be present, particularly in situations where authorities may misrepresent the truth.

00:10:14
Velshi's Family History and the Indian Diaspora

This Chapter explores Velshi's family history, tracing his ancestry back to a village in Gujarat, India. He describes the challenges his family faced due to droughts and colonialism, leading them to migrate to South Africa in search of a better life. The chapter also recounts the remarkable connection between Velshi's great-grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi, who became friends despite their different backgrounds and political views.

00:20:45
The African Baking Company and the Fight Against Apartheid

This Chapter focuses on Velshi's family's business in South Africa, the African Baking Company (ABC). The bakery became one of the largest commercial bakeries in the country and was used as a platform to fight apartheid. Velshi describes the family's active involvement in civil disobedience, including selling bread in defiance of apartheid laws and providing support to workers who were arrested for their activism.

00:28:09
The Move to Canada and the Search for a New Home

This Chapter details Velshi's family's move from Kenya to Canada. They were drawn to Canada by a combination of factors, including the welcoming attitude towards immigrants and the need for skilled workers. Velshi's parents continued their involvement in political and civic activities in Canada, finding a more open and inclusive environment than they had experienced in South Africa and Kenya.

00:30:36
Velshi's Father's Role in Welcoming Ugandan Refugees

This Chapter highlights Velshi's father's role in welcoming Ugandan refugees to Canada in 1972. After Idi Amin expelled the Indian population from Uganda, Canada stepped up to provide refuge for thousands of people. Velshi's father, who was running a travel agency at the time, volunteered to help the refugees, providing them with housing, food, language training, and vocational training.

00:32:45
Velshi's Journey to Journalism and the Importance of Accurate Information

This Chapter explores Velshi's journey to journalism and how his family's values and experiences shaped his career path. He discusses how his upbringing instilled in him a belief in the importance of accurate information and the role of journalism in informing citizens and shaping public discourse. Velshi also reflects on the challenges of navigating information silos and the importance of consuming information from multiple sources.

Keywords

Ali Velshi
Ali Velshi is an American-Canadian journalist and author. He is the chief correspondent for MSNBC and a weekly economics contributor to NPR's "Here and Now." He is known for his reporting on business and economics, and his work has been featured on Al Jazeera America, CNN, and MSNBC. Velshi is also the author of the memoir "Small Acts of Courage: A Legacy of Endurance and the Fight for Democracy."

Small Acts of Courage
"Small Acts of Courage: A Legacy of Endurance and the Fight for Democracy" is a memoir by Ali Velshi. The book recounts Velshi's family history, tracing his ancestry back to India and their subsequent migrations to South Africa, Kenya, Canada, and the United States. The book explores themes of family, identity, immigration, and the fight for democracy.

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist who employed nonviolent civil disobedience to lead India to independence from British rule. He is widely considered the Father of India and the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. His philosophy of Satyagraha (truth force) inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

Apartheid
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. It was based on the belief that white people were superior to black people and that they should have separate living spaces, facilities, and rights. Apartheid was widely condemned by the international community, and it was eventually dismantled through a combination of international pressure, economic sanctions, and internal resistance.

George Floyd Protests
The George Floyd protests were a series of demonstrations and civil unrest that took place in the United States and internationally in response to the murder of George Floyd, an African American man, by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020. The protests were a response to systemic racism and police brutality against Black people in the United States. They were the largest protests in American history and led to widespread calls for police reform and racial justice.

Indian Diaspora
The Indian diaspora refers to the global community of people of Indian origin who live outside of India. The diaspora is a result of centuries of migration, driven by factors such as trade, colonialism, and political instability. The Indian diaspora is one of the largest and most diverse in the world, with significant populations in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

Democracy
Democracy is a system of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation, usually involving periodically held free elections. It is characterized by the rule of law, the protection of individual rights, and the principle of majority rule with minority rights. Democracy is often contrasted with authoritarianism, which is a system of government in which power is concentrated in the hands of a single person or a small group of people.

Journalism
Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is a vital part of a democratic society, as it provides citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives and their communities. Journalists play an important role in holding those in power accountable and in promoting transparency and accountability in government and other institutions.

Information Silos
Information silos are situations where different groups of people within an organization or society have limited access to the same information. This can lead to a lack of understanding and collaboration, as well as to the spread of misinformation. Information silos can be created by a variety of factors, including organizational structures, technology, and cultural norms.

Critical Consumer of Information
A critical consumer of information is someone who is able to evaluate the information they encounter and to determine its reliability and accuracy. This involves being aware of the sources of information, considering the biases of the sources, and evaluating the evidence presented. Critical consumers of information are able to distinguish between fact and opinion, and they are able to identify and avoid misinformation.

Q&A

  • What is the main theme of Ali Velshi's new memoir, "Small Acts of Courage"?

    Velshi's memoir is a family history that explores the themes of immigration, identity, and the fight for democracy. It traces his family's journey from India to South Africa, Kenya, Canada, and the United States, highlighting the challenges and triumphs they faced along the way.

  • How did Velshi's grandfather's relationship with Mahatma Gandhi influence his family?

    Velshi's grandfather, Rajabhali, spent three years as a student at Gandhi's ashram in South Africa. This experience instilled in him a strong work ethic, a commitment to helping others, and a belief in the importance of fighting for justice. These values were passed down to Velshi's father and ultimately influenced Velshi's own life and career.

  • What was Velshi's experience covering the George Floyd protests like?

    Velshi was hit by a rubber bullet while reporting live on television during the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. This event profoundly impacted his perspective on the role of journalists in society, emphasizing the importance of bearing witness to events for those who cannot be present, particularly in situations where authorities may misrepresent the truth.

  • How did Velshi's family's business in South Africa, the African Baking Company, contribute to the fight against apartheid?

    Velshi's family used their bakery as a platform to fight apartheid. They engaged in civil disobedience, selling bread in defiance of apartheid laws and providing support to workers who were arrested for their activism. The bakery also served as a source of funding for anti-apartheid organizations.

  • Why did Velshi's family move to Canada?

    Velshi's family moved to Canada from Kenya in search of a new home. They were drawn to Canada by a combination of factors, including the welcoming attitude towards immigrants and the need for skilled workers. They also found a more open and inclusive environment in Canada than they had experienced in South Africa and Kenya.

  • What role did Velshi's father play in welcoming Ugandan refugees to Canada?

    Velshi's father volunteered to help Ugandan refugees who were expelled from their country by Idi Amin. He provided them with housing, food, language training, and vocational training, demonstrating the family's commitment to helping others.

  • How did Velshi's upbringing influence his decision to become a journalist?

    Velshi's upbringing instilled in him a belief in the importance of accurate information and the role of journalism in informing citizens and shaping public discourse. He was influenced by his parents' values and their commitment to civic engagement, which led him to pursue a career in journalism.

  • What does Velshi believe is the importance of consuming information from multiple sources?

    Velshi believes that it is important to consume information from multiple sources to avoid information silos and to get a more complete understanding of events. He encourages people to be critical consumers of information and to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion.

  • What is Velshi's message about the fight for democracy?

    Velshi believes that democracy is something that must be actively defended and that citizens have a responsibility to be informed and engaged in the political process. He emphasizes the importance of accurate information and the role of journalism in holding those in power accountable.

  • What is the significance of the title "Small Acts of Courage"?

    The title "Small Acts of Courage" reflects the theme of the book, which is about the everyday acts of courage that people undertake in the fight for justice and equality. Velshi's family history is a testament to the power of small acts of courage to make a difference in the world.

Show Notes

In his memoir, Small Acts of Courage, Velshi chronicles his family's journey, from a village in India to South Africa — where his grandfather crossed paths with Mahatma Gandhi — to Kenya, Canada and the U.S. Plus, David Bianculli reviews Hit Man.

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MSNBC Host Ali Velshi Traces His Ancestors' Migration

MSNBC Host Ali Velshi Traces His Ancestors' Migration