"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“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"v  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 singer at 89


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.


Only in New York: one December ride downtown


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

At 72nd street, I boarded the downtown train that would take me straight to lower Manhattan. Instead of turning to read my newspaper, I became absorbed with a fellow passenger. I first noticed him because when I entered the subway car, he gazed directly at me, as if assessing me. Was I someone he knew?

He was perhaps 30, dressed in a light jacket, too light for this winter day, I thought. Although he had on sturdy boots. With knees pressed together, he sat erect, surveying passengers as they boarded.

When the train started up he turned to what lay on his lap. His hand was moving rapidly, his body tense, his eyes animated. Boyd’s hand was sketching something. No. Someone.

I was seated opposite him in the subway train and learned his name was Boyd when the man sitting to his left passed him his card, and I heard the artist volunteer “I’m Boyd” in reply.

My eyes remained on Boyd all the way downtown. His wrist moved in short jerks over the paper on his knee; he momentarily glanced at the woman seated beside me, then down to his worksheet, then back to her. While she gazed at the screen of her mobile phone, Boyd proceeded with the portrait, unconcerned by his subject’s indifference. He worked rapidly expecting she wouldn’t be there for long. Indeed, barely half a minute later, she rose. The train was pulling into 42nd street.

Boyd slid the paper out of his pad and handed it to the woman as the train doors opened. She took it without hesitation and, smiling shyly, glanced back at Boyd as she disappeared onto the subway platform. Our car took on new riders and proceeded southward on its mid-day run to Brooklyn.

The train was not crowded so I continued observing Boyd unimpeded. He looked from right to left for a new subject, his hand poised above his paper, then settled on the passenger seated right beside him. She too seemed unaware of his attention.

Barely two minutes passed before the train slid in to 14th street and now, as this woman left her seat, Boyd again gently handed over the portrait he’d drawn.

“Oh, that’s me. Why thank-you.” She too stepped out of the train looking pleased, holding the sketch in front of her while she fumbled with her bag trying to decide where to safely put it.

As the train moved on with a fresh assembly of New Yorkers replacing those who’d disembarked, Boyd’s roving eyes fixed on a tall woman gripping the pole near the doors. She stood motionless, two bags held close to her chest, her head held high. I noticed her smart high-collared off-white coat. She stood very still, eyes fixed on the windows opposite. Outside, steel columns of the subway tunnel flashed by.

Boyd had only a side view of this traveler-- hatless, hair pulled back from her face, the stiff collar rising to her cheekbone.  This would be a profile.

Boyd finished this sketch in no time at all. Now he half stood, leaning sideways across another rider to hand the paper drawing to the woman. Trustingly, she took it, and without looking directly at Boyd she leaned against the pole as she examined the portrait in her hand. The train sped through two local stops while she paused, then fumbled through her bag and extracted a bill, shoving other loose dollars back into her purse. Then she leaned towards Boyd and passed the money to him.

One dollar! I was disappointed. But Boyd accepted it graciously.

We’d reached West 4th street. The lady with the high collared coat remained standing while the New York artist rose and left the car, his spent pad of paper clutched under his arm.  

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We believe that our problem is one not a violation of civil rights but a violation of human rights. Not only are we denied the right to be a citizen in the United States, we are denied the right to be a human being"    

Malcolm X, Jan 5, 1965

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