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 Short Visit to Syria:Part I


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Although the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is still a place to be discovered. Particularly Americans have much to learn and enjoy to a visit to this country, starting with the capital.


A pity the new administration decided to extend the sanctions against Syria. More than a pity. A mistake, as far as Iím concerned. And it disappointed many who had expected new policies from Barak Obama.

Damascus in particular appears to have changed a lot since I was last there, in 2003. Being summer, one sees more foreigners, Europeans but also Arab people. Many who live in the Gulf states come to Syria to escape the summer heat. Although Syria was hot (a dry heat) too. Syrians living in the Gulf States return here for their holidays. I was surprised to meet a great many students studying Arabic, although I had already heard that Syria is now a favored center for Arabic language study.

There are many, many things to do in Syria besides study Arabic: visit roman ruins at Palmyra (Tadmoor) in the East, and Bosra in the South; the hilly very early Christian towns of Sadnaya and Maloula not far northwest of the capital are also popular for visitors, and for weekend trips. Damascus has its ancient city center, the old city, with its market places and large, elegant, old houses, many now converted to restaurants. The city streets and cafes were full every night.

A really popular attraction for locals and visitors is the mountainside, Qaasiuun, that dominates the valley. A line of outdoor cafes, some rather expensive, now lines the ridge from which you overlook the entire city. Itís windy there and a popular place on summer nights; families sit on the grass and stroll along the paths through the evenings.

What most stuck me was how the city has expanded over the past decade. Whole new suburbs have been developed extending the city in all directions, with wide roads linking them to the city center. And the cars! And elegant indoor shopping malls! Even at 10 pm, traffic is heavy through the city.

I felt no tension at all moving around Syria. People are helpful and welcoming. Transport is easy. But Damascus in particular is great city to stroll around.

With the anticipation of Ramadan month, shops remained open late for shoppers. Then, one the holy month began, after slow day traffic, and following ifthar, when the streets completely empty while everyone is enjoying Ďbreaking fastí with their families and friends, the city begins to awaken. Streets and cafes are crowded until well after midnight.

All schedules change during Ramadan. Itís not a school or work holiday, but the pace slows considerably. One never knows when to phone a friend, and itís never clear what hours offices are open.

Sounds like a page for The Lonely Planet guide? Not my usual entry. But I need to set the context, so little is known about Syria, that I want readers to know just how pleasant a society it is, how comfortable Syria is for a visitor, how at ease Syrians are.

Part II weíll learn more, especially about the economy and education.

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