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.


Civil Rights in Prison!


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I could never imagine it would turn out this way. For me, Lynne Stewart’s case, although it showed the extent to which the last administration would attack our civil liberties, was nevertheless a cause for optimism. Even as our rights diminished, as long as Lynne remained vocal and out of jail, I never lost hope in the justice system.

While other attorneys may have shied away from the challenge, Lynne Stewart did not. This remarkable activist and lawyer continued to use every day out if jail to speak out. She took every opportunity to warn others what her case, an assault on client-attorney privacy, threatened.

With the arrival of a man committed to change, a man who stood for integrity, Barak Obama, I expected a reversal of the worrying trend we saw during the last decade over our constitutionally protected rights.  (see

Now Ms Stewart is ordered to jail. What has happened? Why pursue the conviction against Lynne Stewart now? What precipitated this?

Stewart had been free on bond for several years. Even so she endured much personal anguish, illness and the loss of her livelihood. (She was barred from practicing law.)

Eventually she received a sentence of 28 months. Imprisonment was in abeyance while her lawyers argued for adjournments. We hoped that meanwhile, a new administration might reconsider the her case and indeed overturn a discriminatory policy instituted by its predecessor.

Bad enough that Stewart should was be found guilty in 2005 along with two others. Charges against her of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists was initiated with the personal involvement of former of Homeland Security secretary, John Ashcroft. Stewart’s conviction stems from her defense of Omar Abdel Rahman found guilty on the 1993 NY bombing and subject to anti-terror laws instituted thereafter.

“You can’t lock up the lawyers,” explained Stewart. Many of those following this case believe charges against Stewart effectively served as a warning to all civil rights attorneys: “Stay away from terror defense cases”. That motive may indeed lie behind the government’s move against her. And it probably does discourage some civil rights lawyers.

But Stewart’s work on behalf of Rahman was consistent with her long career as a fearless, committed civil defense attorney. Some call her a radical activist. She does not seem to mind. There are doubtless injustices and ‘unpopular’ cases for which a lawyer has to be radical. Given the threats to our constitution in the government’s zeal to prosecute terror subjects, perhaps one is obliged to adopt radical views.

During the past four years while Stewart’s lawyers submitted their appeals Stewart, her family and supporters remained optimistic, energetic and indomitable. Stewart herself, although debarred and unable to practice law, travelled the country speaking to concerned citizens about injustices and the danger her case poses for lawyer-client confidentiality as protected by the US constitution.

I have no doubt that hearing her, many Americans began to understand the wider issues she was defending and the reality of the threats she spoke about.

We need to see Stewart’s current incarceration in a positive light. First, it warns us that the new administration is not what it promised, not what we voted for. Second, the jailing of such an admired woman, a 70-year-old attorney, a grandmother and a free and fearless thinker, warns us just how tenuous everyone’s rights are. (contact Ms Stewart at

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Men have singled out women of outstanding merit and put them on a pedestal to avoid recognizing the capabilities of all women--

Huda Shaarawi (1879-1947), Egyptian political activist and feminist

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