I don't want to see stores looted or buildings burned; but African- Americans have been living in burning buildings for years, choking on smoke as flames burn closer and closer.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


Nothing New in Nepal? Part 1 of 2


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Its mountains look as glorious as in the picture books; trekkers sport the same recognizable brands, the same professional boots; tourism in Nepal is flourishing although the noise and dust of Kathmandu are unabated; worshippers crowd the shrines and monasteries, their offerings reflecting undiminished devotion; and NGOs remain profitable… for their employees, if not for alleged beneficiaries.

Thus, on the surface it appears that nothing has changed in Nepal in the past decade. So, has the status quo been restored?

Not at all. Despite the apparent political stagnation, unresolved economic issues, excessive dependence on NGOs and tourism, the ousted king’s public appearances, and public frustration with a succession of prime-ministers, Nepal will never be the same.

International attention focuses on a so-called “Arab Spring”, still in the throes of rebellion, aggravated by outside powers, generating violence and instability over a large part of the world. Meanwhile Nepal may offer an example of how a democracy can take root and grow, albeit at a wearisome pace with much remaining to be tackled. Only this week a long awaited major agreement has been reached that will admit into Nepal’s regular army the thousands of members of the victorious rebel military.

Few will be aware that Nepal was ruled by dictators for almost 350 years. It started with a succession of inherited prime ministers (the Rana Era) and continued through a line of kings (the Shah Dynasty). Foreign powers happily co-operated with these men; and, when popular uprisings demanding democracy erupted in 1990, nary a word was heard from abroad. Neither foreign leaders nor the United Nations who come forward with such righteousness to demand the ouster of other entrenched autocrats, called for the removal of Nepal’s rulers. (Indeed Washington provided military support for the king’s forces  in putting down recent rebellions.) Despite its awful human rights record, the country continued to attract holidaymakers in record numbers and garner unlimited foreign assistance. 

Finally in 1996, a successful resistance mobilized not through exiled opposition leaders but by an indigenous armed rebel (Maoist) movement known as the People’s Liberation Army. (See Dispatches from Nepal by Li Onesto, Pluto Books.) Within 6 years, this people’s army was in control of 75 % of the country, mainly impoverished rural areas. Dubbed by Washington as a “terrorist organization” (a status that even today the US has not amended), the movement nevertheless thrived. In 2006, the rebel movement had so weakened the monarchy which had repeatedly blundered and discredited itself, and successfully tackled  the ‘royal’ army that it was able to negotiate a cease fire and then a comprehensive peace accord. Referenda and elections followed which removed the monarchy, declaring Nepal a secular republic with an open press. Multi-parties sprang up and human rights laws were instituted. The first election brought the rebel leader Pachandra in as prime minister with his Maoist Part winning a majority in parliament. But both he and his party were unable to retain the confidence of the government for long.

The past 3 years have seen a succession of leaders from various, mainly leftist, parties. Today’s prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, a highly regarded, experienced Maoist leader, offers new hope for stability.

Some pessimists describe the situation as close to anarchy, but the democracy itself seems firmly established. Indeed the proliferation of parties and vigorous public criticism of leaders can be read as a sign of a healthy democratic process.

By international standards, the toll from the war-- 15,000, two thirds of whom were rebel fighters and civilians killed by the military-- is low. More important the speed with which free speech and party reforms came into effect. It certainly helped that the unpopular king, Gyanendra who had succeeded King Birendra after the suspicious palace massacre of 2001, was gone. (Although he is neither dead nor exiled.) Not even the idea of a constitutional monarchy survived. 

Five years after the institution of democracy, although tourists are delighted that their treks can continue unhampered, and NGO activity has stepped up, many in Nepal may be wondering where they are headed. The promised constitution has yet to be finalized, poverty is increasing, real economic development is negligable, corruption is unabated, parties are squabbling and factionalizing, and dominance by the southern “madeshi” who live along the low-lying plain bordering India becomes more troubling.  (Watch for Part 2 of “Nothing New in Nepal?” next week)

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