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.


Who Says Culture is Not Political? Take the Case of Turkey


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

A striking example of culture serving a political position is Turkey today. Take a look. Before Turkey joined in the NATO campaign for regime change in Libya, the US public was regularly reminded of President Erdogan’s rude treatment of the Israeli president, and Ankara’s daring warnings to Israel. Reference to Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party was usually prefaced with the US-pejorative label --‘islamist’.

 Two years ago, when Turkey partnered with Brazil to bring about a promising agreement with Iran regarding pulling back on its nuclear program, the plan was swiftly rejected by USA and its allies. Then Turkey was unfavorably featured in the West for its support of Palestinians’ right of self-determination.

Today all that has changed.

Reference to any Islamic character in the JD Party is now whited-out. Have you noticed how many high profile international policy conferences are now taking place in Turkey?

 Turkey is ‘in’.

And culture? Well to confirm this new face of Turkey, in case you say you don’t follow international affairs, look at a forthcoming film festival and newly announced student exchange program. For the first time since I can remember, I find announcements inviting us to join a summer exchange program in Turkey. It’s sponsored by something called, appropriately, International Program for Democracy and Peace-- likely a US-government funded project.  

What awakened me to the energy going into a makeover of Turkey’s image here is a forthcoming film festival in New York. April 27 to May 10, our global media center—New York-- will treat us to festival unmatched in its scale—screening 29 films by Turkish directors.

Many of these films are co-produced in Germany and elsewhere in Europe where a large community of creative Turks reside and where ample funding is available. Turkey itself is home to a productive film industry tapping abundant Turkish talent, from writers to directors and actors. In Europe Turkish talent is already well regarded. But the industry made little impact in the US, even among the so-called intellectual elite.

This will change, in part due to the coming film festival.

One can only explain the lavishness of NY’s Lincoln Center project on Turkish films with a specific aim to help plant Turkey on American consciousness as a place of creativity and modernity. Our Turkish friends are ‘good guys’ now.

Turkey attracts some American tourists of course, but that’s of a different order. Boat rides on the Bosporus, photos in front of Sultan Ahmed Mosque and purchases of ceramic tiles and rugs do not change American acceptance of a country the way that films can, and do.

Twenty-nine films, all from one country! At the celebrated Lincoln Center in New York! This is not a marginal event. And it will surely be the launch of a wider campaign to cleanse our general image of Turkey, its perceived ‘islamist’ leaning, and its pro-Palestinian policy. As the program director announced of the event “an extraordinarily rich cinematic tradition that, despite the growing importance of that country on the world stage, has remained largely unknown to even the most dedicated American film goers.  “despite”? - well they are going to fix that.

Don’t get me wrong about these films and Turkish talent. I am on record for my devotion and admiration for Turkey’s TV dramas, translated into Arabic and distributed worldwide where the industry has spawned a new emotional attachment of Arab peoples to Turkey. (We discussed this on Radio Tahrir Jan. 31st 2012; see

Two years ago a friend familiar with Turkey’s TV industry informed me that the huge promotion given to Turkish productions over Arabic language networks was not accidental; he suggested it was in fact engineered to ‘penetrate’ the Arab consciousness—in the service of a wider political agenda. My associates in Syria, witnessing how Turkey has gone from ‘special friend’ to foe in a matter of months, charge their neighbor with using Syria to break into the entire Arab market and into its diplomatic circles. Indeed we now find Turkey at the table of important Arab League and other regional policy meetings regarding Syria and Libya. Yet not at the Palestine peace table, we note.

So go to the festival. Appreciate Turkish talent. Turkish filmmakers and writers are in the forefront of raising important social questions about justice and values across the Middle Eastern. In my opinion, the themes of their films express genuine and worthy social and ethical statements. From Turkish productions I’ve viewed in the past 4 years, I consider they are equal to and often surpass the output and quality of the Arab film industry.

All I am saying here is: let’s not pretend these films and festivals and the rapid spread of Turkish TV into Arab households is not part of Turkey’s new favorable position vis-a-vis the current US, European and Gulf Cooperation Council political agenda for the area.


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Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.

James Baldwin

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