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.

 

The Poetry of the Square

2011-02-05

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Cairo, February 4, Friday’s “Day of Departure”. We awaken to what we expect will be a tense, although possibly inspiring day. Millions are expected in the streets of Egypt’s cities. Millions will converge at Tahrir Maidan.

After Wednesday and Thursday’s confrontations and violence, no one knows what will transpire today inside Egypt. Will the thugs return? Will the military protect peaceful protesters? Will media be completely shut down?

Watching Al-Jazzera (Arabic) live from Tahrir Sq, the maidan is already crowded at 8 am; protesters have set up an audio system now, and we have people announcing their dreams. Not slogans; poems.

A young man uses a hand amplifier to announce his composition; he pauses for those around him to echo his words. This ‘protest poet’ has bandaged head; he pauses after every line to consult the small piece of paper in his hand. Some verses sound slightly poetic to me; how poetic, doesn’t matter. It is the poetry of this Egyptian moment that counts. 

American-Egyptian poet Sharif El Musa was in Al-Jazeera’s English studio yesterday, invited to comment on his country’s experience. It was Thursday, so the images of Wednesday night dominated the interview. Musa recalled the previous day when millions had assembled in the streets: “It was poetry” Musa observed: images we all witnessed, the raised Egyptian faces, their arms aloft, the stark messages from their throats and on posters. Many around the world will know the wall which has been scaled during these days—a proud, defiant time, glorious self-aware moment.  

It was poetry. I completely understood. Watching Egyptian brothers and sisters, I had felt something was missing in their journalistic remarks. However sympathetic the reporters were, they were unable to recognize the poetry of a revolution. They may have felt it. Surely some could.

Yet, only El Mousa said it. He characterized what is so deep, yet so simple. (The non-Arab, English language Al-Jazeera host did not grasp El Mousa’s point and so did not take up this profound observation. A chance missed.)  

This morning, Friday: people gather in streets and squares. Al-Jazeera Arabic hosts may be taking a morning off to prepare for this day. At 8 am, we watch footage images of Wednesday clashes repeated on the screen while anchors take calls from people around the world; most callers I can identify came from Egypt itself, also many from Saudi Arabia.  

I wonder about the western coverage; are they more drawn to the violence? can they possibly feel the poetry of this? The western media and Al-Jazeera appear to be clearly on the side of anti-government demonstrators. They finally interview some Egyptians in the street who are with their besieged government. Those statements do not come off with the same conviction and poetry of the pro-democracy voices. Those risking their lives speak a more gripping and moving experience-- a love, a determination, a vast, vast risk. 

Then for the first time, since January 25 when I began watching the events from Egypt, Al-Jazeera broadcasts music behind the images of today’s revolution; the music is mid 20th C, Egyptian orchestral that we associate with Um Kuthoum; some instrumental, also vocal. The singers and lyrics will be well known to Arab listeners, words surely patriotic, composed for another era, but a parallel moment.  

Accompanying the music are the touching, inspiring, images from the week: water cannons, wounded, resting fighters in the square, banners, hand scratched placards, the flag, the flag, the flag, transformed by their bearers into face paint, into hats, sweaters, armbands. A single person stands against a wall, alone, with his banner’s corners tied around his neck, the flag billowing in front of his chest, his two hands clutching the loose ends pulling it to and fro, the billowing of the cloth moving in and out as if it is his very breath. Bandaged warriors rest, and do not cry out in pain or frustration; quiet, doctors and friends tend wounds, gently not in panic. The tenderness is palpable. Men clean the square of stones and debris from last night using sides of cardboard, pushing, pushing away the debris. In preparation for another day. A man chops into the pavement to manufacture stone missiles for his compatriots.  

I do not feel sad. Nor pity. How can I when I witness such dignity. Surely the president sees these images; he must be weeping, more than I am.  

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The writer interweaves a story with his own doubts, questions and values. That is art.

Naguib Mahfouz

Tahrir Diwan

a poem.. a song..
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