The Paris Attacks, Racism and Islamophobia

Zahra Billoo the Executive Director of SF Bay Area CAIR

Zahra Billoo the Executive Director of SF Bay Area CAIR

Last week the Paris attacks struck the world, killing seventeen people and three gunmen. The attacks were against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on a police officer, and at a kosher supermarket. There has been an explosive media response and spin on the coverage. Zahra Billoo, the Executive Director of the SF Bay Area Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), discusses the Paris attacks, the ensuing media frenzy and the rising wave of global racism against Muslims. This interview first aired on KPFA’s APEX Express.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands Brings Nuclear Weapons Nations to Court

Castle Bravo atomic explosion in the Marshall Islands.

Castle Bravo atomic explosion in the Marshall Islands.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands brings the world’s nuclear giants, including the United States to court. The lawsuit makes the case that the nuclear nations have failed to fulfill their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which was signed into law in 1970. Every year one hundred billion dollars is spent on nuclear weapon forces globally.

The US conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Republic of the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958. These tests are equivalent to 1.7 Hiroshima bombs being exploded daily for 12 years. Health effects suffered by the Marshallese include the birth of jellyfish babies, children who were born without arms, or without heads, brains, but with a heart that beat. The lawsuit seeks no monetary compensation, but moves to compel the nuclear weapons nations to commence negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament by 2020.

Listen to a conversation with Tony De Brum, the foreign minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Rick Wayman the Program Director at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. This interview first aired on KPFA’s APEX Express. Music is by F.O.B. Marshallese.


Elmaz and Tara talking about breaking hearts

Elmaz and Tara talking about breaking hearts

There are few things I love more than a live broadcast. On May 30, 2014, two of my favorite worlds came together for Dismantle’s Bay Area Release. KPFA’s La Onda Bajita radio broadcast the release of the Voices of Our Nation (VONA) writers workshop’s first anthology, Dismantle. VONA was conceived of as a revolution by and for writers of color. Over 2,000 writers of color participated in VONA and Dismantle features established and emerging writers.

Listen to the Dismantle broadcast from Modern Times Books:

Salaam Love


An interview with Ayesha Mattu, an editor of Salaam Love, an anthology of American Muslim Men on Love, Sex and Intimacy. Salaam Love brings together the true stories of 22 Muslim men, talking about love, betrayal, loyalty, faith and more, giving Muslim American Men a chance to share their stories in their own words. Contributor, Sam Pierstorff, joins the conversation. Sam is a Poet Laureate from CA and his publications include, Growing up in Someone Else’s Shoes.

Listen here:

4,000 Infants Dead in Kashmir

Family mourns the death of their infant. Photo courtesy of the Global Press Institute.

Family mourns the death of their infant. Photo courtesy of the Global Press Institute.

In Kashmir, the babies are dying. Since 2008, over 4,000 babies have died in the government run children’s hospital—Govind Ballabh Pant. Despite numerous government investigations, a complete change in administration, and massive civilian protests—no one has gotten to the bottom of why these babies continue to die. Aliya Bashir, a senior multimedia reporter with the Global Press Institute based in Indian-Administered Kashmir, discusses her work, covering infant mortality in Kashmir. This segment first aired on KPFA’s La Onda Bajita.

Listen here:

Shake Down the Stars


Oakland based author Renee Swindle discusses her new novel, Shake Down the Stars. Renee is the author of Please, Please, Please an Essence Magazine best seller. Shake Down the Stars is set in Oakland and follows the life of Piper a feisty woman burying her grief in alcohol and one night stands. This interview first aired on KPFA’s Women’s Magazine.

Listen here:

Women and Publishing

Click to see VIDA's count of women published in leading literary journals

Click to see VIDA’s count of women published in leading literary journals

Author Joy Castro is in conversation with Brooke Warner a publisher at She Writes Press about how the publishing industry largely silences female voices. Castro teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the author of several books including Island of Bones. Warner was the former Executive Editor at Seal Press. This interview first aired on KPFA’s Women’s Magazine.

Click here to listen to the interview.

or here:

Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape Investigation in Kashmir


UC Berkeley lecturer, Huma Dar, discusses the recent court decision that is forcing the police in Kashmir to reinvestigate the 22-year-old gang rape case that took place in Kunan Poshpora in the Kupwara district of Indian administered Kashmir. There have been no convictions to date—after 22 years the victims have again taken their plea back to the court which is requiring further investigation. This edition of Kashmir Speaks aired on KPFA’s La Onda Bajita. The segment features Rasheed Jahangir’s song, Mayi Chani Rawam Raat Doh.

Listen here

or here:

the Voices of Our Nation


Voices of Our Nation, or VONA, is the nation’s only multi-genre conference for writers of color. VONA faculty Evelina Galang and Mat Johnson break down why they teach at VONA and discuss their journey as writers of color. VONA alumni, Melissa Rae Sipin and Vanessa Martir share their stories in first-time interviews.

Listen to Evelina and Melissa below. Music is by Ayesha Fukushima. This interview first aired on APEX Express

Listen to Mat and Vanessa below. This interview first aired on the Project Censored show

The Overnight Bag

Vanessa Martir

I left your father over seven years ago when you were just a year and a half. But I knew it was over when I was pregnant. Truth is I know now that relationship happened so I could have you. You who have saved me from myself so many times.

One day last fall, you woke up in a foul mood. You cried when I sang, “Wake up time.” You pouted while you went about your morning routine. Stomped around the house, sucked your teeth when I asked you what you wanted for breakfast. This is so not you. You’re usually so kind and patient and compassionate. I should have known something was off. Instead, I lost my patience and yelled. That’s when the tears came. Buckets of tears. I tried to hold you but you pushed me away. I bit my lip to keep from letting you see how much that stings. Your rejection cuts deeper into me than any machete made by any man.

We were about to walk out the door when I told you to grab your overnight bag. “I don’t wanna take it. I hate that bag.” This bag was a symbol for being different. You don’t have a father who lives at home. This is the bag you’ve taken with you every other Friday for the past seven years. To the baby sitter, day care, Head Start, to school for kindergarten, first and second grade, even summer camp. More tears by the bucket. “Why can’t we have a real family like everybody else?” My insides caved. You stayed home with me that day. A mommy-daughter day. We both needed it.

* * *

When your father first got married when you were four, I felt a change in you. You were quieter. One day you asked, “Why can’t you and Papi be together? Why can’t we be a family?” I’ve never lied to you, and I don’t speak badly about your dad in front of you.

“Well, you know when you have a friend and they stop being nice to you, do you still want to be their friend?”

“No, Mommy.” You shook your head. “We don’t like mean people.”

“No we don’t. Well, Mama, your dad wasn’t nice to me so I didn’t want to be his friend anymore.” I couldn’t tell you about how abusive he was. The terrible things he said when he was angry–“That’s why Millie died. Because she was a fucking lesbian.” How I had to wear a long sleeve to your first birthday though it was 90 degrees because I had bruises on my arms from where he’d grabbed me and shook me.

You stared at me, your eyes telling me you understood. Sometimes I think you really do.

A few months ago, you told me your dad was talking badly about me. You didn’t say what he said, but you did tell me, “I told him, Papi I don’t like it when you talk bad about my mom. That’s not nice and I don’t like it.” You say he’s never done it since.

* * *

Your dad and his wife had a baby two years ago. You call him my little brother with fierce pride and protection. You told me you wanted to see your dad more. “Is that okay, Mom?” You cupped my face in your hands. “I love you Mommy.” You were so worried that would hurt me.

I reached out to your dad. I told him you said you wanted to spend more time with him. I was willing to make it work for him. Maybe once a week on a day that fit his schedule. “I have too many responsibilities,” he said. I never told you that, Nena. I knew it would crush you. I did tell him that when you got old enough to ask where he was when you needed him, I was going to send you to him to answer that question. He didn’t say anything.

* * *

When you asked me a few months ago, “Why can’t we have a normal family?” I thought that I was failing you. And then I watch you. I watch you reading on the bus, dancing on a stage, making hysterical videos with your best friend, Po, laughing with your friends, holding the door open for people, telling me stories about your trip to the botanical gardens and how you saw a frog the size of your hand in the marsh. It’s then that you remind me that you are my daughter, a piece of me, and I think maybe, just maybe, I’m doing a decent job of raising you.

The bag isn’t an issue anymore. I bought you a book about single parent households and we read it together and talked about it. And I held you through it. Through your wanting to fit in. Through your ache for something “normal.”

You smoothed your hand on my cheek when I put you to bed one night and said, “Thank you for choosing me to be your daughter.” I laughed and said, “I think you chose me to be your mom, Nena.” You giggled. “Yes, I did. I made the right choice.”

Vanessa Martir is a NYC based writer and teaching artist. She is currently completing her first memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey in her blog: Vanessa is a mom, a five time VONA fellow, and a lover of all things art, community and personal narrative.