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.


A love story? A cure? Atonement?


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

 Today’s story begins with a minor bureaucratic procedure but it ends with a human encounter that begs telling. Let’s start with the death of Robert and the survival of his elderly mother. After Robert died three years ago, his mother reregistered her house from his name (his father’s) to hers, the surname she’d adopted when she remarried. This simple act would have far reaching ramifications that would change her life, sort of. 

Robert, who’d lived with his mother for the past 20 years was 63 when he died. Yvonne was 86 then and things looked rather bleak because she was now living alone and because of a recently diagnosed illness. Not long before his death, Robert noticed mental difficulties his mom was experiencing. She was awaking at night believing strangers were trying to enter their home or wandering through the rooms. Robert had new locks and a security system installed.

Yvonne was not comforted. Recognizing what he thought were signs of Alzheimer’s, Robert attended a local Alzheimer’s support group to learn how best to help his mother. An additional problem for Robert was own health; he himself was dying of cancer and he knew this. Unable to work fulltime for the past year, his visits for medical treatment were increasingly frequent.  

While struggling with his own debility Robert accompanied his mother to a geriatric specialist; she indeed showed symptoms of dementia. Yvonne completely rejected this diagnosis and refused to take recommended drugs. Barely a week later, before Robert could resolve the matter, he collapsed and was hospitalized. Within three days he succumbed to his cancer. Relatives of Robert’s (from his father’s side, all living faraway in Georgia, Texas and California) converged in New Jersey for his funeral. Here they learned about Yvonne’s prognosis and discussed what might be done. Neighborhood friends met too, and we arranged to cautiously monitor Yvonne’s health. Meanwhile she insisted on remaining in her home, alone.

On the surface Yvonne had an undistinguished life. Born in France, she married an American after World War II and moved to the US where her son was born. When Robert was barely four, his father died. Yvonne rented a place near her son’s grandparents and they helped care for him while she went to work. She often talked to me about her good paying office jobs in New York City. She supported herself and her son most of her life.

Until a few days ago Yvonne she had never spoken about living in North Africa. Robert was seven when she left New Jersey to work for a US company in Morocco. Perhaps because of her skill in French and an expectation that Morocco might be more like her homeland, she thought it would be a good move. Robert went with her.

Two years later both were back in the US. Yvonne eventually remarried; unluckily, this partner too died after a few years. Robert and his mom were alone again. Little seemed to have changed. A hardworking single mom, Yvonne was able to buy a house for Robert and her. She resolved not to remarry; she continued to use the name of her second husband although their house remained listed in Robert’s name. If anyone needed to locate Yvonne by her first married name, it would be difficult. Who guessed she’d be the object of a search?

Six months after Robert’s death Yvonne’s was managing well alone but relatives expected they’d soon have to decide about her long term care. Friends living nearby were keeping a close watch over her. Discreetly exchanging news about Yvonne, we noticed that her Alzheimer’s symptoms seemed to be retreating. Not only was Yvonne’s health not worsening; she appeared to have regained her energy, good humor and mental balance. How could this be?

Visiting Yvonne a few days ago when her phone rang, I learned a possible reason for her recuperation. I heard her curtly ask the party to ring her after an hour; then she returned to me, shyly announcing, “I have a boyfriend”. Without my urging she quietly explained what was happening, pausing only to retrieve from the next room a small photo album this friend had recently assembled for her.

All the photos were of a smiling, tall man with a full head of hair—let’s call him Alan. In the early pictures he was in military uniform, usually posed beside an aircraft of some kind. Decade by decade they showed him aging, until the most recent snap at his current 83 years, still tall and proud. Sixty years earlier Alan was an American pilot stationed in Morocco, Yvonne said. They’d met there and fallen in love. They planned to marry but he withdrew his promise citing family obligations in the USA. She was heartbroken and as she recalled the episode to me I could see some lingering sadness.

Both returned to the US, she with her son to resume her suburban life and office job, he to marry and raise a family while continuing his military career. They had no contact, although now he claims he desperately tried to find Yvonne. For half a century, he told her after he’d finally traced her whereabouts, he’d never forgotten her. Only when Yvonne registered her house under the name by which Alan knew her, he succeeded.

“He betrayed me”, she said, and explained she was not very receptive when he first reached her at her home. That was six months after Bob died. Alan composed this album of snaps documenting his life and after that, when he insisted on visiting her, she could not resist.

He came to see her a second time to drive her to his home in North Carolina to meet his whole family. He’d been completely honest with them, Yvonne says. She found Alan’s wife cordial, although his grown children refused to meet with her. The final pictures in the album include two snaps of Alan and Yvonne and one with him and his wife.

Alan phones Yvonne every day, sometimes more than once. They talk for a long time. She can’t believe this. She can’t understand his wife’ generosity (or is it tolerance?). As she fingers through the small album, she smiles and talks about what he’s told her of his past 60 years and the details of his search for her. I don’t know if Yvonne is deeply happy about what’s happened. But I think this reunion does explain her improved health.

You tell me: a touching love story? A temporary cure for disease, or exploitation by a scoundrel trying to atone for a 60-year-old mistake?

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“We are nothing on this earth if we do not first and foremost serve a cause, the cause of the people, the cause of freedom and justice. I want you to know that even when the doctors had lost all hope, I was still thinking, in a fog granted, but thinking nonetheless, of the Algerian people, of the people of the Third World, and if I managed to hold on, it was because of them.”

Frantz Fanon, 1963

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