Blog Archive

Blog Archive – February, 2006

Can Radio Really Change Lives?

February 25, 2006

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Every now and then, someone I don’t even know contacts me to tell me I changed their life. Imagine! I’ve never met them. But they know me through my radio broadcasts.

For more than 10 years I’ve been host of “Tahrir,” a weekly program from New York-- a talk show with in-depth interviews.

A ‘thankyou’ arrived yesterday from Yvonne Wakim of Syrian (father) and Cherokee (mother, Native American) heritage. Yvonne became a regular “Tahrir” listener a long time ago. Soon afterwards, she began writing. Yvonne has now completed two children’s books. “Because of you, I decided to become a writer,” she says. “I never forgot. Even ten years later I needed to tell you I succeeded.”

Naturally, I’m delighted.

One never knows who’s out there in ‘Radioland’. Radio listeners often become attached to a particular broadcaster. I understand. I myself prefer radio because it offers intimacy; television does not.

Most people listen to radio alone, often in their car. Listeners bond with that unseen voice. The announcer’s outlook affects listeners’ views:-- about being Arab, about their career, about their health, about friendships, even about their purpose in life.

I work hard to appeal to my own community. And, thankfully, young Arabs and other Muslims who before 1995 were not attracted to journalism, seeing me at work, decide to study broadcasting.

Occasionally a listener who is Arab writes me. When they do, they reveal deep experiences. I receive calls from women abused by husbands, seeking support from other Muslim women. I receive calls from men detained for visa violations. I get emails from poets like Zaid Shlah in California who heard my interviews --by internet-- with scholar Dr. Salma K. Jayyusi, from filmmakers in search of Arab actors.

One of those ‘you-changed-my-life’ emails was from Francisco. “Those beautiful poems about the Mother of Ishmael… moved me to tears”, wrote Francisco, after hearing my June 21st program with poets Rachida Mohammedi and Mohja Kahf about Mother Hagar. Their Hagar poems evoked memories for Francisco of his grandmother, Maria Mufdy. Francisco’s next email was longer. “…. I’m a regular listener, from Dominican Republic, originally of Beit Jala, Palestine… I tune into Tahrir to get in touch with my arabness… I finally embarked on a research project to learn about my family in Beit Jala.”

Soon, I hope, Francisco and I will produce a radio program based on his grandmother’s life.

[ Can Radio Really Change Lives? ]

Books, Like Radio, Still Count

February 17, 2006

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

“That’s it; radio is finished!” cried educators and journalists in the 1950s, when television moved into our homes. Radio was headed for the dustbin, they said.

They were wrong. Radio is expanding today, with internet broadcasting, satellite radio, podcasting, and micro-radio. Radio programs like the Diane Ryme Show www.wamu.org archive their broadcasts so we can download and listen to anything, anytime.

Thus, I’m skeptical when people say the internet will render books obsolete. Doubtless internet reading is appealing. Since our young prefer to read news online, newspapers are expanding online editions. At the same time we learn that internet browsers devote only 45 minutes a week reading news whereas we paper-readers spend 45 minutes each day with printed news! Let’s see how online news competes when it ceases to be free.

In any case, book publishing seems to be unassailable. Look how many people are writing a book, if not a blog! The subjects we can find between the covers of books is overwhelming. And poets never stop writing.

Visiting London recently, I noticed that bookstores were more numerous across the city. Bookstore children’s departments were larger too. I am told more English language books are published than ever before—100,000 new titles a year in USA; 140,000 in Britain!

Surely, book popularity is tied to the proliferation of great stories for children. Harry Potter books are part of a wider phenomena. Children’s books— terribly overpriced-- is an expanding business in the US and UK.

Books offer the promise of celebrity to unknowns and more celebrity to the famous. Look! Clinton’s autobiography is a bestseller! Even Paul Bremer, the disgraced US viceroy to Iraq, wrote a book.

Books lead to TV appearances and book tours. Oprah Winfrey, the beloved American talk-show host, mostly interviews authors on her program. Oprah’s Book Club helped revitalize reading among Americans. So have coffee bars. Many bookstores have lounges where people can meet, sip coffee and buy books. Busboys and Poets (www.teachingforchange.org) in Washington is a literary adventure. Launched by my friend Anas Shallal, ‘Busboys’ is a theater, a bookstore and a café.

As a radio producer, I am deluged with new books to review. Publishers send their latest releases. Authors eager for an interview contact me to announce their availability. Among a lot of rubbish, I always find gems.

Oh dear; I forgot. This is a, ummm, blog, isn't it?

[ Books, Like Radio, Still Count ]

New York Neighborhood

February 10, 2006

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Two small friends, book-bags hanging on their backs, amble down a street on their way home from school. An image familiar to us all. In the USA however, it’s a relic of the past.

The west side of Broadway in Upper Manhattan bordering Columbia University has become ‘upscale’ i.e. high-priced. Residents here are mainly white, middleclass families. Few if any children are seen in the street.

East of Broadway Avenue, barely five-minutes away, life is different. The majority of families here are Hispanic. These streets are their ‘al-barrio’—Spanish neighborhood. Hot summer nights find old and young talking on front doorsteps. Residents shop at local ‘bodega’ for plantains, avocados and beans. Everyone speaks Spanish.

Sociologists call these New Yorkers ‘working poor’ compared to West Broadway where annual household incomes approach $100,000.

Al-Barrio families may be poorer. But their neighborhood is clean and respectable, and crime is not above average. Nevertheless, it appears their children are always in danger.

Moving through the neighborhood at 8:00 am, I am reminded of the perils of city life as I watch these children heading to school. One al-barrio school is on 109th off Broadway, another on 108th street. Yet nobody walks to school alone. Even with an older sister nearby, young children must be accompanied by adults. Each is led by hand from home to the school gate. Every day. It’s normal.

Again at 3 o’clock, when school recesses, parents arrive to collect their children. This, even where a school is hardly 200 meters from home. The same applies in Philadelphia and San Francisco, in Arab, Irish, Pakistani neighborhoods, to immigrants and longtime citizens. Why?

First, children here are prey to sex and drug traffickers and other criminals haunting our streets. Second, American society now subscribes to the code called “parental responsibility”. Anyone allowing his child to walk to school alone could be accused of parental neglect!

Families in crime-free ‘suburbia’ and towns across the country suffer the same fate. Drive through any American town in mid-afternoon, you will see columns of buses waiting outside schools to deliver their children safely home.

Perhaps this explains why parents here tolerate their children spending so much time watching television or playing computer games. It may be the reason Americans don’t care about Palestinian children shot on their way to school. News about hardships of Iraqi children don’t concern people here. American parents have their own problems.

[ New York Neighborhood ]


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I want to mention –women who are not in the cruel world but suffer behind bars –cages, if you will.  Some of us are political –here because the Government has criminalized our actions or framed us –I call out to you to Remember and  Cherish  Marie Mason, a “green warrior”, Afra Siddique ” a heroine in her own Pakistan for her brave resistance”, and also Me–Still fighting, Still Struggling

Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart,from prison

Tahrir Diwan

a poem.. a song..
poem "What She Said", by Lisa Majaj
A poem from Palestinian experience

See poems and songs list

Flash
poems
poem Qur'an Surat Al-Qadr
from 'Approaching The Qur'an' CD, male reciter

See audio list

Book review
Diana Abu Jaber's
Life without A Recipe
reviewed by BN Aziz.

See review list

Tahrir Team

2004 co-producers
Read about 2004 co-producers in the team page.

See Tahrir Team

WBAI Online

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