Entertainer and political activist Casey Kasem, 82, died on June 15 after a long illness.
Kasem was “more likely to be listening to a speech by Malcolm X on his cassette player than music by Miami Sound Machine,” according to a 1989 profile in the Los Angeles Times.
Born Kemal Amen Kasem in Detroit, of Lebanese Druze parents, he is best known for originating and hosting the radio program “American Top 40” for nearly four decades. He was also an actor, most famous for doing the voice of the character Shaggy on the “Scooby-Doo” cartoon show.
Kasem opposed the 1982 U.S.-backed Israeli invasion of his homeland of Lebanon, a brutal attack which cost the lives of many thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian people, including many children. He became a strong anti-war activist opposing the U.S. military in the Middle East as well as a staunch defender of the rights of Arab people in the U.S.
In December 1990, Kasem authored a study called: “Arab Defamation in the Media: Its Consequences and Solutions.” It detailed media and Hollywood stereotyping of Arab people dating back to the 1920s, described contributions of Arab people throughout history and outlined measures that could be taken to oppose this racist bigotry.
In the 1980s, Kasem also became an anti-nuclear arms activist. He was arrested in 1988 along with Daniel Ellsberg and actor Teri Garr at a nuclear test site in Nevada.
Kasem also advocated on behalf of homeless people and for affordable housing, once sleeping overnight on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk to draw attention to this struggle. He was an active supporter of the historic Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.
International Action Center supporter
The Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East organized a demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 1991, against the first war in Iraq. Kasem endorsed the demonstration and organized a fundraiser for it.
Many of the same organizers of that coalition, along with Ramsey Clark, established the International Action Center in 1992. Kasem was a friend and supporter of the IAC for many years.
In November 1997, Kasem spoke at a rally of 10,000 people in Sacramento, Calif., for affirmative action and against Proposition 209, a measure which was designed to dismantle it.
Kasem spoke at a news conference in Los Angeles in September 1999 in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
In August 2000, Kasem spoke at a rally outside of the Democratic National Convention to protest the U.S.-imposed sanctions against Iraq, which killed thousands of Iraqis, including many children.
Kasem endorsed the Million Worker March in Washington in June 2004.
Casey Kasem ended each of his radio broadcasts with the same optimistic message, urging his listeners to “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” That call echoes in the struggle for peace and social justice to which he was so dedicated.
Casey Kasem, ¡Presente!