Saturday, January 28, 2012


Omar Offendum is a Syrian American rapper and poet whose work is really, really powerful.  He incorporates Arabic music into his songs, and his work speaks to the broader experience of being an American of Middle Eastern descent.

Click here for the lyrics.

An especially powerful song is his rendition of a Langston Hughes poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," as follows below.

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Omar Offendum's version - with lyrics here.

أنهار كثيرة عرفتها 
أنهار كثيرة أزلية كما العالم عرفتها 
أنهار أزلية تدفقت حتى قبل أن يتدفق الدم في شرايين البشر 
وروحي ازدادت عمقاً كالأنهار 
فأنا بمياه الفرات استحممت حتى قبل انبلاج فجر الحياة 
وعلى ضفاف الكونجو بنيت كوخي ... 
حيث هللت لي مياهه لأغفو... 
من دلتا النيل العالي أشرفت... وشيدت الأهرامات العظيمة 
وإلى شدو المسيسيبي استمعت ... حين مر به لنكولن في دربه إلى نيواورليان 
ومع الغروب رأيت أحضانه الطينية تتحول لكتل ذهبية 
لقد عرفت أنهاراً وأنهاراً 
أنهاراً أزلية معتمة كما الغسق
وروحي توغلت في القدم ... 
وروحي ازدادت عمقاً كالأنهار

Friday, January 27, 2012

Obama Comes Back to Michigan

This morning I went with some other 1L classmates to the Al Glick Field House to see President Barack Obama speak at the University of Michigan about college affordability.  I had the opportunity to see him deliver the commencement address for the May 2010 graduating class in the Michigan football stadium, but it was cool to be able to go see the speech about an issue directly affecting me this time.  

However, there was a big difference in the venue - the "Big House" can hold about 110,000 people and only 3,000 tickets were given out for the Field House.  People had to get tickets the day before at the Michigan Union and although I arrived by 6:00am, there were multiple tents and groups of people who had slept the entire night outside.  By 7:00am, the line was already winding back down State Street with well over the 3,000 person limit.  Luckily, we were able to get tickets after waiting 5.5 hours standing in the line.  It was so cold that Mary Sue Coleman's office felt bad for everyone outside and had her staff pass out free coffee for those waiting.  We also arrived early for the speech and ended up getting a spot about 5 rows of people back from the gates, so we were able to get pretty close.

the line winding back down State Street in front of the Union
The speech was pretty good and right on point in terms of the necessity of higher education and the need to make sure that higher education is affordable for students.  "Higher education is not a luxury, it is an economic imperative," he said.  Obama noted that for the first time ever, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt in the United States.  He also outlined a plan that aims to reward states that keep college tuition down and proposed increasing work study job opportunities and maintaining federal student loan interest rates.

Although I had to miss two classes and stand for hours in a freezing cold line, it was definitely time well spent, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to go.  The only downside to this whole experience was that while we were waiting for the speeches to start, whoever was in charge of the music only had five songs total on the playlist - five songs to use for a three hour period of waiting time.  One would think that after playing the same set list three times in a row, that they would just stop and not have anything at all playing on the speakers.  Oh no.  This meant that I heard U2's "City of Blinding Lights" and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" about 20 times more than I ever thought possible in one morning.  Here it is again, just for old time's sake:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fly Over Egypt

Today is the first year anniversary of the Egyptian uprising in Tahrir Square that resulted in the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.  There is an Arab American rapper called “The Narcicyst” who released a song called “Fly Over Egypt” and made it available for free download.  I love the refrain – I don't quite know the reason, but it is really moving.

In the light of day, you are more than just a knight
Seeking for a right of way, asking is it just to fight
I feel the winds of change, but everything is still the same
Even though I fear the sun, I can only see the reign

Monday, January 16, 2012

Arabian Nights

Shaherazad and Shahryar
To break up the monotony of reading through law school casebooks, I have been reading chapters of  Arabian Nights as translated by Richard Francis Burton.  My friends found this beautiful copy for me at Barnes & Nobel that has beautiful illustrations reminiscent of ancient Persian and Arab art.
I've heard some of the stories before and seen countless Western remakes of the stories included in the book, but I have yet to read the story in its entirety.  So far, I have concluded that Arabian Nights is basically the Arab/Persian version of Inception.

Each chapter starts off with the main story, between Shahryar and Shaherazad, and then goes into layers of stories within stories within stories.  Included in the 1,001 stories are the famous ones like Aladdin, Haroun al-Rashid, and Nuereddin.

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