Snatching liberty seemed compelling. Some of us thrived; some of us died. All of us had a taste. from author Toni Morrison, on friendships.

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.



Iraq, International Women's Day, 2003
by Barbara Nimri Aziz

March 8, 2003. International Women's Day!

So what? It's still war mode for Iraqi women as well as their sons and sisters, their fathers, their brothers and babies.

In Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital, it is a glorious spring day. How could a war be looming? How could thousands of tanks be lined up along three borders, ready to mow over us? Night rains nourished the gardens on the banks of the blue Tigris and soaked the wide open hills of sprouting green wheat. Miles and miles of rolling green fields. Serene. Spectacular. But nothing is comforting.

Everything appears so tender, so vulnerable. Here and there, we glimpse  emerging apricot blossoms, tender and white, behind walled yards in the old neighborhoods.

Friday. Family day. By noon, cars and minibuses filled with families and friends head out to the green hills around the city. Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Turkman, Kurd, Arab, Sunni, mothers spread plastic sheets over soft, sprouting wheat. Father and two sons pray on the nearby hillock. Car doors and trunks are opened wide to the spring air. Brothers and sisters sit look into the blue sky.

In the city, soda vendors wait for evening strollers beside their battered, rusty cooler of 7UP and Pepsi. They set out clusters of 3, 4, chairs along the corniche overlooking the Tigris.

Allah Yam-mak, Ya Dejli. Allah Yam-mak.

Day trippers at the ancient Nimrud site twenty kilometers beyond run their hands over the 3,600 year old cuneiform sentences that tell stories and record ancestral parades. The relief of the cuneiformed words is so fine and the edges so sharp, as if drilled only yesterday by a computerized machine, too precise for any modern hand.

“Yah, Iraq. How we love Iraq.”

What is more vulnerable, I ask, as I scan the streets of the city?

A truckload of black soldier's boots, whose cartons have split open, three soldiers sprawled on top, holding the load steady as the truck turns a corner?

A stack of 20 new plastic chairs set out for sale?

A 9 year old girl with eyeglasses wearing a yellow sweat suit, walking at dusk?

The scaffolding around the main gate of Nimrud where restoration continues?

Which will break before the other?

The glass windows of the university campus?

Maher Feisel who defended his MA thesis in French Literature yesterday?

(At the age of 11, in the 1991 war, he dreamed in French stories.)

What will be crushed first?

Palestine or Iraq?

The man polishing his new, orange Nissan taxi?

Or those soldiers digging pits in the open fields of wheat?

Families return home from their picnics to listen to the evening news. All fall silent. The UN Security Council is in session, on the "question" of Iraq. We hear the weapons inspectors ask for more time. Their words are studied but they do not quell the terror we feel in our hearts every moment under our spring Iraqi sky.

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