Forthcoming

"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.

 

Countering Racism: Homework for Every Next Generation

2015-03-26

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

My friend Amer Zahr’s testimony about racism in the USA points to parallels between what Arab kids experience today and what he faced a quarter century ago when he was 13. On the surface it seems there’s been scant progress for us, as for African Americans, especially Black men for example in how they’re treated by police.

Remarkably, we hapless citizens on the receiving side of prejudice and ignorance continue to believe it’s possible to educate our foes and our rude friends. How many times have we heard how they “honestly never spoke to a real Muslim” or “never sat with a Black family”, how they “never knew”….until they viewed one of our prize-winning films, watched Muslims comedians or read a mind-blowing novel by an Arab woman?

Today, recharged by a battery of immense talent—comedians, authors, actors, musicians and TV hosts-- we forge ahead with the dream of overturning the shortcomings of our purported democracy, a distracted free press, our abused free speech and our trivia-laden social media.

The latest talent to come to my attention in the search for justice through powerful story-telling is Rafia Zakaria. She’s author of a new memoir "The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan", published by Beacon Press in Boston. I read it and swiftly arranged to interview Zakaria.

The book is a portrait of the author’s Karachi family woven into Pakistan’s history since independence, with the aim of illustrating how divisions and fragilities inside a household can mirror the vulnerability of a whole nation, manifest through women’s lives-- from Zakaria’s own hapless Aunt Amina, to protesting college girls, to the ambitious leader Benazir Bhutto. These lives intersect with one another and within the promise and pain of nationhood.

"The Upstairs Wife" joins a growing body of literature that reinvents how history is made more accessible and more realistic. But my phone interview with Rafia revealed something more personal and significant for me. Choosing journalism as a career, we share a commitment to erase misconceptions implanted and perpetuated about us by a patronizing and biased western press.

 Both Zakaria and I (along with Amer Zahr, Nermin Al-Mufti and others) declare an unwillingness to accept imperialist characterizations of our existence, and a determination to establish a new discourse. I set out a generation ago to portray multi-dimensional Arab lives (not ‘victims’ who liberals so eagerly embrace), bringing years of anthropology research to my journalism. Today’s generation is fighting the same stereotypes and professional battles we were certain we could obliterate. We didn’t fail; we simply need our children with their energy and their own rationale to maintain the momentum.

Zakaria explains: “You have to present stories of ordinary families: how they endure history, the mistakes they make, their victories and joys. Those are universal experiences; they bring people of the world together. If you know someone’s story, it's more difficult to hate them.”

It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Zakaria repeats my assertions when I took up journalism in 1989. I'm heartened, not dismayed by her statements. She too understands the process: “If you call a country a failed state over and over, that becomes the country’s identity not only for people applying those terms, but for the people of that country itself.” She concludes by admitting how hard it is for her and other citizens to deal with the reality of Pakistan, not because of its flaws, but because the idea of promise and potential, whether within a nation or in personal relationships, is something very fragile.

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