Interview with Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09)

A union organizer, human rights activist, workforce policy expert and green energy entrepreneur, Congressman Andy Levin has spent his career fighting for an equitable and inclusive future for all people. He’s bringing that fight to Congress as the proud representative for Michigan’s 9th District. Andy has been advocating for working families since the 1980s, when he organized hundreds of health care workers for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

After working with Haitian immigrant workers, Andy co-founded an organization to assist immigrants with challenges posed by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Continuing his work to strengthen organized labor, Andy worked in Washington, D.C. as a staff attorney to the presidential Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations and also in the secretary’s office of the U.S. Department of Labor. From 1995-2006, he served as Assistant Director of Organizing at the national AFL-CIO, where he created and ran Union Summer, helped many unions with collaborative organizing campaigns around the country, and created and led the Voice@Work Campaign, which organized the national movement to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Andy took his advocacy work to the Michigan state government, where he created and ran the state’s No Work Left Behind initiative that helped more than 160,000 unemployed and underemployed Michiganders go back to school during the Great Recession. On a mission to unite sustainability and workforce development, Andy also helped create Michigan’s Green Jobs Initiative in 2008 and the Green Jobs Report in 2009. Andy went on to create the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA), which trained hundreds of unemployed and incumbent engineers to electrify cars. In 2011, Andy founded Levin Energy Partners LLC as an entrepreneurial force to help shape Michigan’s and America’s energy future. Andy created and ran a statewide market to finance clean energy building improvements called Lean & Green Michigan, which has become one of the most innovative Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs in the US. In 2018, Andy’s program helped a wide variety of building owners initiate $17,900,000 in clean energy projects. Andy has worked on human rights for decades, including doing legal work for asylum seekers in the US and investigating and reporting on human rights abuses in Haiti, China and Tibet. Born in Detroit and raised in Berkley, MI, Andy is an honors graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan in Asian Languages and Cultures, where he was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. He has long been active in the spiritual and social justice life of the Jewish community. He has also learned and worked in Haitian Creole and Tibetan and also studied French, Sanskrit, and Hindi.

Interview with Ahmed Al Mamoori, Archaeologist & Director of Basrah Museum

Ahmed Al Mamoori is an archaeologist and is the Director of Basrah Museum, housed in a former palace of Saddam Hussein. Ahmed is the inspector of antiquities responsible for relations and negotiations with landowners and other interested parties. He oversees the survey and inspections of sites and monuments in preparation of the new Basrah Museum.

He received his education at Babylon University with a BA in Ancient Archeology. In 2019, he became director of Basrah Cultural Museum. His publications include The Architectural Styles of the Church of Mar Gurgis, Erbil published in the Daily Newspaper in 2018. Ahmed has received additional training for the maintenance of cultural heritage during a course in Beijing, and he has participated in several archaeological fieldworks at the University of Manchester, the University of Wales, and other institutions.

Interview with Rev. Michael Bazzi, Author & Professor of Aramaic

Rev. Michael Bazzi (Emeritus) was born in northern Iraq in the beautiful city of Tilkepe, 10 kilometers north of Mosul. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Baghdad in 1964. He later went to Rome where he earned a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Theology in 1974 from the Lateran University. He also has degrees in mass media and group dynamics.

That same year, 1974, Fr. Michael came to the United States and began serving as a priest in the Green Bay Diocese in Wisconsin. He also began what was to become a lifelong love of teaching the Scriptures and the Aramaic language by teaching workshops throughout the region

Fr. Michael served a central role in establishing three Chaldean Catholic parishes in the United States: in Michigan, and California. Since 1985, Fr. Michael has served at St. Peters Catholic Church in El Cajon. In 2015, Fr. Michael was made Pastor Emeritus at St. Peter’s Cathedral.

He is currently in his thirty-first year as a Professor of Aramaic at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. Between the college and his parish, Fr. Michael teaches more than 100 Aramaic students a year.

Fr. Michael has authored ten books, five of which focus on the Aramaic language: Read and Write Aramaic in the Modern Chaldean DialectBeginners Handbook of the Aramaic Chaldean AlphabetsAramaic Language Chaldean DialogueThe Advanced Handbook of Modern Aramaic Language Chaldean Dialect Vol. II, and Classical Aramaic, Elementary Book I, which he co-authored with well-known Bible scholar, Dr. Rocco Errico. Two of his books focus on the Chaldean people and their heritage: Chaldeans Present and Past and Who Are the Chaldeans? Two books which will be published by Let in the Light within the next year, deal with Scriptural teaching: Teach Yourself the Bible: The Pentatuch (Torah) and Teach Yourself the Bible: Matthew’s Good News. His final book, Tilkepe: Past and Present, is a fascinating compilation of his original research on his hometown of Tilkepe and is written in both English and Arabic.

Fr. Michael has led numerous tours of the Middle East. In 2010, the San Diego Law Enforcement Officials named him their Citizen of the Year.

You can checkout Father Bazzi’s books via this link https://letinthelightpublishing.com/shop/

Interview with Tina Ramirez, Founder and President of Hardwired Global

Tina Ramirez is the Founder and President of Hardwired Global, a non-profit organization that specializes in human rights education and training to promote peace and pluralism worldwide. Tina brings to Hardwired more than 20 years of experience as an educator, policy advisor, and expert on international human rights and religious freedom. She has worked in more than 30 countries and travels regularly to the Middle East and Africa. She has spoken before the United Nations and the African Union and testified before the U.S. Congress.

Tina’s educational programs, which have been published in several journals, have provided significant evidence of successful methods to help children overcome hate and intolerance, build resiliency against extremist thinking, reduce violent responses toward minority groups, and improve treatment of women and girls. She is the author of Iraq: Hope in the Midst of Darkness (2017), a contributing author/editor of Human Rights in the United States: A Dictionary and Documents (2010 and 2017), and author/editor of Human Rights: Great Events From History (2019). Previously, she served as a foreign policy advisor for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Congress, where she founded the bi-partisan International Religious Freedom Caucus. She is the former Director of Government Relations and International Programs at Becket Law. She holds a certificate from the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, a MA in Education from Vanguard University, and a MA in International Human Rights from the University of Essex, UK. Tina now lives in the suburbs of Richmond, VA with her daughter, Abigail. In 2020, Tina was a candidate for the U.S. Congress (VA-07).

For more information about Hardwired, visit: https://hardwiredglobal.org/​ Educational material, including books: https://hardwiredglobal.org/curriculum/

Interview with Kathleen McBroom, a Docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Kathleen McBroom is a docent with the Detroit Institute of Arts. She enjoys working with all kinds of audiences to share amazing pieces of art drawn from the museum’s extensive holdings. Kathleen is also a librarian and an educator. She’s worked with pre-schoolers, graduate students, and just about every level in between. In addition to being an instructor at the University of Michigan and Wayne State, Kathleen has also worked at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham, Lawrence Technological University, and the Dearborn Public Schools.

Interview with members of WISDOM

Paula Drewek, a past president of WISDOM, is a retired professor of humanities at Macomb Community College where she taught courses in the Arts and Comparative Religions for 39 years. She was a Fulbright Scholar to China in 2005, expanding her interest in Eastern Religions. Paula has been a Baha’i since her teen years and has spoken to many types of audiences about her Faith, both here and abroad.

Sameena Basha holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from U. of M. and a Juris Doctorate from the U. of Chicago. She has been involved in many outreach projects in Arizona, Illinois and Detroit. She has a keen interest in interfaith work and has served on the Interfaith-Outreach Committee of the Islamic Foundation Mosque in Illinois.

Teri Weingarden is the current President of WISDOM and the treasurer of West Bloomfield Township. She formerly has sat on the boards of her local Chamber of Commerce, her temple Sisterhood, Green Hope and for victims of war and poverty. She practices Judaism and is deeply passionate about her job and her community work.

Delores Lyons is a former Social Worker at State of Michigan Department of Human Services. Previously, she worked for WDIV Local 4 / ClickOnDetroit and WBFS-TV. She studied Sociology/Psychology at Saginaw Valley State University. Born and raised a Baptist, she started practicing Buddhism in her adult life.

Interview with Sofia Barbarani, Author & Journalist Living in Baghdad

Sofia Barbarani is a freelance journalist based in Baghdad. She has worked extensively in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region and Syria where she focused on the rise and fall of ISIS, the lives of women in conflict zones, security and politics. She has also reported from Tunisia, South Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, southern Europe and the Gulf. Her words and images have appeared in leading print and online publications, including The Telegraph, The Economist, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times, Al Jazeera English and others. Sofia researched and wrote the 2015 Lonely Planet Iraq chapter and has been nominated for awards for her work in Syria and Venezuela.

Interview with Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh, Author & Prof. at Portland State University

Yasmeen Hanoosh is the author of The Chaldeans: Politics and Identity in Iraq and the American Diaspora. Here’s a link to learn more about the book: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin…

She is a literary translator, fiction writer, and Associate Professor at the department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University, where she directs the Arabic program. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan in 2008. Yasmeen studies the cultural politics and literary expressions in post-2003 Iraq, especially what concerns the country’s ethno-religious minorities. Her first monograph is entitled The Chaldeans: Politics and Identity in Iraq and the American Diaspora (Bloomsbury, 2019).

Her current research project focuses on the contemporary intellectual scene of southern Iraq. As a fiction writer, Yasmeen has published a short story collection, Ardh al-Khayrat al-Mal’unah (The Land of Cursed Riches, Al-Ahali Press, 2021). Her second collection, Atfal al-Jannah al-Mankubah (Children of Afflicted Paradise) has been translated and excerpted in several languages, including English, Spanish, and Italian. Her English translations of Arabic fiction have appeared in various literary journals and publications, including World literature Today, Banipal, ArabLit Quarterly, and The Iowa Review. Yasmeen’s translation Closing His Eyes (Abbas), received an NEA translation fellowship in 2010, and her translation of Scattered Crumbs (al-Ramli) won the Arkansas Arabic Translation Prize in 2002, and has been since excerpted in a number of publications and anthologized in Literature from the Axis of Evil: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Other Enemy Nations (2006).

In addition to her scholarship, translation and writing, Yasmeen has been teaching the Arabic language and directing the Arabic program at PSU since 2010. She also teaches a wide variety of courses on Middle Eastern culture and literature, including Critical Perspectives on the Middle East (UNST), Oil Cities and the Arabic Novel (HONORS), the Arabian Nights, among many others. Before coming to PSU she taught at the University of Michigan (2002-2009), al-Akhawayn University in Morocco (2003, 2005); The American University in Lebanon (2004); The University of Virginia in VA (2003); and Wellesley College in MA (2007-2008).

Interview with Sami Rasouli, Iraqi-American Activist & Restaurateur

Sami Rasouli is an Iraqi-American who grew up in Iraq and lived in Minnesota as an adult until 2004. He returned to Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion of his country, hoping to bring reconciliation between his country of origin and his country of choice. For the past 12 years Sami has worked in Iraq with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT), a group dedicated to the principles of nonviolence. He returns to the U.S. each year to educate Americans about the situation in the Middle East and to help build people-to-people relationships.

On September 19 of 2020, a bomb placed at the entrance to The American Institute for English in Najaf, Iraq, founded by Sami Rasouli, went off at about midnight. No one was present or injured but the building and school were destroyed. His friends and colleagues are helping him rebuild the school. If you want to help, visit https://gf.me/u/za9rqb

Interview with Reni Stephan, Assyrian American Artist

Reni was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1981. In hopes of a brighter future, his family decided to leave their home country when Reni was ten years old. This dream was made a reality as they entered the United States in 1993, and Reni was immediately enrolled in elementary school. At an early stage of his life, Reni discovered a profound love for drawing. His talent was undeniable and noticeable by his teachers.

During his high school years, art became Reni’s priority. Taking many classes in this field, his artistic interests swelled, and Reni began to realize that he could fuse his passion for art with the dedication he had for his ancestors’ culture he’d left behind. Reni pursued his college education in Creative Studies in 2005, where he furthered his reach and began painting and sculpting. Inspired by Western art, as well as legendary artists, Reni dedicated his life to his crafts. With each piece that Reni creates, he strives to remain true to his Assyrian and Babylonian heritage and ensure its survival through his portrayals. Not only does he seek to influence all generations of Assyrians, but he also hopes to inspire the people of the world.

In recent years, Reni has been commissioned to create several large artistic creations in places of worship, community organizations, and commercial establishments. His signature style speaks volumes about his creativity, and enforces his personal message that he echoes “I was born to re-create my ancestors’ art despite its destruction by ISIS.”