Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: March, 2015

TV Orient – Having a Voice in the Media

Interview airs Monday at 10pm -- Comcast Channel 90

Interview airs Monday at 10pm — Comcast Channel 90

The first television interview I did was in 2004 by TV Orient, a cable programming channel that catered to the local Arab and Chaldean community. This was during the release of my first book, The Feminine Art. Later that year TV Orient named my book one of 2004’s greatest accomplishments by a Chaldean American. So understandably, I’ve always had a fondness for this television station.

TV Orient started in 1986 when a reputable business man in the community, Norman Kiminaia, found a need and helped fulfill it. This was the first and only daily TV station in the country that catered to the Arab and Chaldean community. In 1999, Kiminaia left TV Orient to venture into other businesses. Last year, with the growing Arab and Chaldean community in Metro Detroit, he felt that it’s time to bring TV Orient back to life.

According to the U.S. census, there are about a quarter million Michiganders with roots in the Middle East. The city of Dearborn has the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East and Sterling Heights is nicknamed “Little Iraq.”

“There are already hundreds of satellite television channels that cater to non-English speaking Arabs and Chaldeans,” said Kiminaia. “What’s needed is a local cable channel that caters to the new generation as well as the general American public who are interested to learn more about the Arab and Chaldean culture.”

His station currently airs on Comcast’s channel 90 seven days a week, from 10pm-midnight. His goal is to slowly increase it one hour at a time, to where it’ll ultimately be from 7pm-midnight. Channel 90 broadcasts to one million homes in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.

“Even if we don’t have a million viewers, we go into a million homes,” he said.

Recently some colleagues and I were interviewed on TV Orient about an upcoming cultural event at Wayne State University. The segment aired last week and will air again tonight at 10pm. As my colleagues and I discussed our artistic and humanitarian work, I felt much pride to see our community moving into a powerful place of creativity where we are able to have an English speaking voice in the media – not have others define us.

Every Rock Has a Story

rocks

Last week Cranbrook Institute of Science and Schuchard teamed up to provide a family science night. We enjoyed visiting the different centers and watching various experiments, observing stunning crystals, beetles and butterflies under a microscope, making oobleck and having a giant cockroach walk on our arms (well, I did not volunteer to have that experience). My favorite part was listening to the rock stories.

Rocks change, transform and have cycles. The process is slow and sometimes takes millions of years and that’s why most people assume that the rock is just sitting there doing nothing. We’re usually long gone by the time sand particles form into sedimentary rocks and then the rock either breaks up by weather and turns into sand again or if transforms into magma.

Native Americans honor not only the process of the rock’s outer formation but the sacredness of its existence. Chief Seattle addresses this relationship to rocks in his original speech of 1854, as reported by Henry Smith in 1887:

“Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people.”

Much mind opening information was shared during the two hour event. My children had fun and I learned quite a bit, including the fact that the Statute of Liberty was made of copper but that it has rusted over time and turned into a green coating. But I also felt a little sad. The earth deserves more than those few hours of recognition and honor. The environment provides us with everything we need to survive and thrive, and yet oftentimes we take nature for granted. This negligence on our part has not served us one bit, and actually it has done the exact opposite.

It’s a great effort and generous gesture of institutions like Cranbrook and Schuchard to bring this knowledge to our doors, but ultimately it’s our jobs to make the connection between spirit, man and nature a natural part of our daily lives.

Detroit 1967 Project

Detroit 1967

At last week’s National Association of Black Journalists, guests from the Detroit Historical Society introduced the launch of the Detroit 1967 Project. For the next nine months, Detroit 67 will collect stories and images relating to conditions in Detroit prior to 1967, as well as the events of that summer, and explore how those factors have affected our past and present – and, very likely, our future. This research, along with personal accounts, media reports and artifacts, will culminate in a groundbreaking exhibition about Detroit’s struggles with racial and cultural diversity.

The Detroit Race Riot in Detroit was one of the most violent urban revolts in the 20th century. Early morning Sunday, July 23, the Detroit Police Vice Squad officers raided an after-hours bar on the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount Avenue in the center of the city’s oldest and poorest black neighborhood. People inside were celebrating the return of two black servicemen from Vietnam. Although officers had expected a few would be inside they found and arrested all 82 people at the party. As they were being transported from the scene by police, a crowd of about 200 people gathered outside agitated by rumors that police used excessive force during the 12th Street bar raid. For the next couple of days the violence escalated to the point where Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in Army troops.

“We lived close to the 6th precinct,” said one of the NABJ members. “I remember tanks coming down the street and literally crushing people. We regularly had to hit the floor because of gun shots. You saw rifles sitting at the corner of people’s homes, to defend themselves.”

In the five days and nights of violence during the riots, 33 blacks and 10 whites were killed, 1,189 were injured and over 7,200 people were arrested. Approximately 2,500 stores were looted and the total property damage was estimated at $32 million. Until the riots following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968, the Detroit Race Riot stood as the largest urban uprising of the 1960s.

“You have to understand your history so you don’t repeat your history,” said Vicki Thomas, award winning reporter at WWJ/CBS radio in Detroit. “This is a timely conversation and a timely topic.”

Detroit 1967 Project invites anyone who was in Detroit during the riots to contact the Detroit Historical Society and share their story.

“A lot of people tell stories for us, but we want to tell our stories by Detroiters,” said Kate Baker, Managing Director at the Detroit Historical Society.

Those interested in participating in the Detroit 1967 Project or in sharing hteir story can visit the project website at Detroit1967.org and click on “Get Involved” or call the project’s dedicated phone line at (313) 885-1967 and leave a message.

The Flavor of Cultures

ebook cover front only (1)

Originally, years and years ago, all I wanted to do was write books. My design changed one day in the mid-1990s when I realized the extent of stereotyping that exists in the West regarding the Middle East in general and the women of that region in particular.

I was on transit at Heathrow Airport when I entered a bookstore and saw a rack of novels about Middle Eastern women written by western authors. Each front cover showed a veiled woman in distress and on the back, a synopsis told of her attempts to flee from an abusive husband, father or brother. I was disturbed that that was the only type of lifestyle displayed for the public, since I didn’t personally know a woman, not in America or the Middle East, who lived under such circumstances – although I realized they did exist everywhere.

When I returned to America, I searched for books, articles and movies that depicted stories with either influential or simply everyday Middle Easterners, stories that portrayed the healthier or more realistic part of the Arab world. There were hardly any out there, especially not when it came to the women. From that point on I was determined to write nothing but true life stories and reports of the people and culture from that region.

Stereotypical representations of Middle Easterners and Muslims have manifested in society’s media, literature, theatre and other creative expressions. They often have real repercussions for Americans of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims in daily interactions and in current events. Though not legally prohibited, stereotyping could put innocent people in danger.

False ethnic stereotypes can gain acceptance as fact through frequent repetition and could cause stereotype threat. Stereotype threat was first articulated and documented by the social psychologists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, who have conducted studies on this topic. In one of these, Steele and Aronson administered a test in 1995 known as the Graduate Record Examination to white and African-American students.

Half of each group was told that their ability was being measured, while the other half thought the test was not measuring their ability. The white students performed almost equally in the two conditions of the experiment. African-Americans, in contrast, performed far worse than they otherwise would have when they were told their intelligence was being measured. The researchers concluded this was because stereotype threat made the students anxious about confirming the stereotype regarding African American IQ. They found that the difference was even more noticeable when race was emphasized.

The negative images I saw in Heathrow airport’s airport have become a reality. Twenty years later, women in the Middle East are more oppressed now than they were at that time. And has the publishing industry changed much? Not really. Today there are some 30,000 books about Iraq, but there are less than a dozen Iraqi-American authors, and they are mostly poets. This is despite the fact that the U.S. has been involved with Iraq for over a hundred years. Since 2003, lifelong contracts have been signed with this country and almost 100,000 Iraqis have fled to the U.S. And now with ISIS having popped up, a new political relationship has been formed.

Hopefully, my third novel, The Flavor of Cultures, which was just published will help put a little weight on the empty side of the scale.

For more information about The Flavor of Cultures, visit: http://www.amazon.com/Flavor-Cultures-Weam-Namou/dp/0975295667/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427038174&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Flavor+of+Cultures

 

The World Celebrates Women Through Murder, Displacement and Captivity

Iraqi Police Women

This morning I received a letter written by Alyaa Al Ansari, the executive director of Bent Al Rafedain Organization (BROB), a women’s organization in Babylon, Iraq. She wants everyone to hear her message, so I’m publishing her letter here.

Every year, on the 8th of March, the world celebrates women; honoring them, reminding the importance of their rights, the vitality of a respectful life for them, and encouraging all those who neglect women to revaluate their ideas and consider them as a person with equal rights even if from a different gender.

But I wonder, how would the world celebrate women this year? And which woman will the world celebrate? The Iraqi woman? The Syrian woman? The Yemeni woman? The Lebanese woman? The Egyptian woman? The Libyan woman? The Burmese woman?

These women have been celebrated through preparations and assemblies to murder them and their husbands, to captivate, displace and kidnap them. Isn’t it the world which assembled ISIS and Alkayida, financed them and provided them with weapons, political power and media and paved the way for all this to happen?

Didn’t the silence of this world against what is happening in our country and other countries, against the violation of human rights, contribute to the violation of the women’s rights and destruction of their lives? For what crime should the Burmese woman and her children be burned alive or hanged because they are Muslims? Where do the international human rights foundations and United Nation stand against the murder and displacement happening in Burma? For no reason other than their religion?

Don’t we believe in the freedom of belief, opinion and speech in this era? Would the world keep this silence if the Burmese women had any religion other than Islam?

Who would the world celebrate for? For these women? Or for itself, to justify that it supports human rights and democracy and that women deserve more?

I am not against celebrating this day. On the contrary, I would be a part of this celebration. But what I demand is for it to be a real, honest celebration arising from the women’s misery; I want it to be celebrating their bleeding wound, their futile rights

, their ever vulnerable gender, their homeless children with no shelter or future, their ever anticipating eyes, which fear that the future will take away what is left from the past.

Let us celebrate this day by visiting the camps of the displaced women along the borders of our Arabic world, celebrate by financially supporting women through job opportunities, hope opportunities. Let us celebrate this day by putting a smile on their exhausted faces through a kind word or sympathy.

Let our celebration this year be solidarity with all the agonized women who are mourning their families, their countries, their dignity, and themselves, the women who are mourning their birth in this part of the world.

Bent Alrafedain Org. (BROB)  ***  Babylon City, Iraq ***  Mobile: + 964 07810072762  ***

E-mail: info@brob.org   https://www.brob.org | facebook.com/org.brob?fref=ts