Category Archives Interviews

WAVES – A New Global Musical Collaboration by Ali Youssefi

Ali Youssefi creates music that goes straight to the heart. You may be familiar with his collaborative music videos, especially his wonderful song called “Unite”, which includes 50 voices from around the world and which continues to be extremely popular!

Ali was also critical in helping us film Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions in Belgrade, Serbia (where he was living at the time), and from these sessions you can watch him singing “Jedinstvo (Unity)” in Serbian, and “Oh Mi Siervo (O My Servant)” in Spanish.

I was so excited to hear about Ali’s latest global musical collaboration called “Waves”! Featuring over 400 singers and instrumentalists from 38 countries and territories across the globe, “Waves” is a happy celebration of the unified diversity of the human race. Have you watched it? It never fails to make me smile, and I had to get in touch with my dear friend to find out more about his new initiative. Here’s what he shared: Continue reading

The Sign of Love – A New Album by Grant Hindin Miller

The Sign of Love is the beautiful new album by New Zealand singer/songwriter, Grant Hindin Miller. Grant has already released several albums over the years, and his songs are loved by so many around the world.

Grant’s ability to tell stories through his music is amazing. I remember the first time I heard one of Grant Hindin Miller’s songs some 20+ years ago while I was in New Zealand. A friend played me “Nine Lighted Candles“, a song about Sulayman Khan Tabrizi, one of the followers of the Bab who was publicly tortured and killed. Halfway through the song, tears were streaming down my face; Grant’s ability to captivate the listener as the story unfolds, combined with his beautiful melodies, is an absolute work of art.

Grant Hindin Miller has also written three feature films, three books, a stage-musical, and teaches creative writing. I’ve been blessed to have gotten to know him over the years, and he recorded “O Son of Dust” and “Humble Thyself” for Baha’i Blog’s Studio Sessions series. I also interviewed Grant for the Ink of Light Writers’ festival. When I heard about his new album, I had to reach out to find out more and share it with the world: Continue reading

The Coming of the Glory – A Trilogy by Eileen Maddocks

We heard from Eileen Maddocks when she wrote 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith (you can read all about it on Baha’i Blog here) and she is currently hard at work writing a new trilogy called The Coming of the Glory: How the Hebrew Scriptures Reveal the Plan of God. Eileen generously shared with us about the first volume that’s been published, what the whole trilogy will cover, and she shed some light on the process of writing these books. Here’s what she said:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about this book? What is it about?

From the opening chapters of the book of Genesis, the Hebrew Bible hints at the challenges that will face our species–– using the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a symbol for the pitfall of materialism, and the tree of life the station of the Word of God. As we progress through its pages, rich detail is revealed, through its multifaceted allegories, history, hymns and stories, which detail a further succession of Divine Messengers, right down to the present day.
Through the teachings of Jesus and the spread of Christianity, most people have at least passing familiarity with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Some might be familiar with Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets who worked within their traditions to carry forward and reinforce their teachings. These teachings and prophecies were carefully preserved, and guided millions of believers for 2,500 to 3,000 years.
In our modern age, is the study of these ancient writings of interest only to believers, historians and scholars, or could the teachings of such messengers have direct relevance to everyone alive today? I believe that the Hebrew Bible and the messages of its prophets are very relevant to this day.
Revealed in those ancient pages is a God who declares that the end is known from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and that He has made it known to His servants, the prophets. The mission of those prophets was clear. It was to address the problems of their time––idolatry and disobedience to the Mosaic Dispensation––and to call the people to obedience to the Divine Covenant brought by Moses. They also foretold a time of Glory in what was to them the distant future – a time when after much tribulation their descendants would inherit the promises associated with that Covenant. Their prophetic vision reached across thousands of years, announcing an age of global peace and the unity of humankind.

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Turn My Steps – An Album by Siria

Turn My Steps is the debut album of Siria Rutstein, and many of you may remember hearing her voice on two Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions called “Make Them to Grow” and “Immerse”.

Siria is a thoughtful and joyful singer-songwriter currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have to admit that I have a soft spot for her as when she was a child, her family was in Papua New Guinea with me and my family, and I have so many fond memories of the times I spent with her parents. I was delighted when I heard that she had released her debut album, so I got in touch with her to find out more about her music and why it was important for her to create this album. Here’s what she shared:
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Together, Even When We’re Apart – A Children’s Book About Serving Others & the Pandemic

I interviewed the dynamic duo, writer Linda Ahdieh Grant and illustrator Anna Myers, previously on Baha’i Blog about their children’s book I Love My Name (you can read the interview here). Arising to meet the needs of our age, they have partnered up again to create a children’s story book called Together, Even When We’re Apart. Its subtitle is “My Neighborhood’s Stories of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which offers us a glimpse of what to expect in its pages.

Linda and Anna graciously agreed to tell us about their latest project, how it came together, and what they hope it will offer children and their families. Here’s what they said:

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?

We initially got the idea to write a book about COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 in response to a contest announcement to create a children’s book to help explain COVID-19 to children. By the time we found out that we didn’t win the contest, we were super excited about the endeavor and decided to move forward with it anyway. 

Throughout the time that we were working on the project, Anna and I were experiencing the pandemic first-hand together with our families and our neighbors and, like people all over the world, we were having all kinds of conversations – about how to keep everyone safe, about how to help others, and about what would happen next. Both Anna and I felt really fortunate that during this time, the Universal House of Justice wrote several amazing letters to Baha’is all around the world to assure us of prayers, to share encouragement and love, and to give guidance about how the Baha’i community was responding and could further respond. We found the themes and concepts of these letters to be tremendously comforting and also clarifying — themes about hopefulness, about service to others, about manifesting unity and solidarity in action, about the cultivation of spiritual qualities needed during a crisis, about bending our minds to the needs of our communities, and about how the pandemic could give us insight and appreciation of our inherent oneness and interdependence. Continue reading

Standing for the People – A Gospel Album by Win Thompkins

Win Thompkins is a renowned gospel artist who has achieved great success in the music industry. At the tender age of 14, he received his first recording contract with Nashville’s Cross & Crown Records where he and his brothers were discovered by famous country singing star “Zeke Clements”. The rest is history! Since then he has recorded more than 300 songs and ten albums.

The album Standing for the People shares a deeper love for humanity by promoting peace, unity and tolerance through 13 original songs with catchy danceable R&B and inspirational hooks about oneness. His music brings people together. Win’s aspirations and commitment to inspire others and brighten their lives is apparent in the music born of his talents and spiritual qualities.

Win graciously shared with us about his album, his music, and what words of encouragement he might offer others: Continue reading

For the Wellbeing of All: Eliminating the Extremes of Wealth and Poverty – A New Compilation

Bonnie Taylor has compiled a selection of passages on one of the key aims of the Baha’i Faith: the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty on a global scale. The excerpts from the Baha’i Writings gathered in her book, titled For the Wellbeing of All: Eliminating the Extremes of Wealth and Poverty, present the vision of a just and unified global civilization that is both materially and spiritually prosperous.

I reached out to Bonnie to hear about her work in compiling this volume, released by the Baha’i Publishing Trust, and I am grateful she took the time to tell us all about it:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in the country in Ohio, and had virtually no contact with people of other races or cultures until I turned 21. That year I signed up to serve as a volunteer under a U.S. government anti-poverty program. This was during the 1960s. As part of our training for service I learned a great deal about the history of slavery in the U.S., the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the history of the Native peoples in this country. I had known very little of this history previously, and it aroused in me an intense aversion to injustice.

After our training, I was stationed on a Native American reserve. It was there that I heard about the Baha’i Faith. I was immediately attracted. I became a Baha’i shortly thereafter, and fell in love with both the content and the eloquence of the Baha’i writings.

My husband and I now live in Northern Illinois. We have a growing multi-racial family that we proudly refer to as “our coat of many colors.”

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John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop – A Book for Junior Youth & Young Readers

Bellwood Press has created a series of books for junior youth and young readers called the Change Maker series which tells the true stories of individuals who worked to bring about positive social change. So far the series includes three titles: Robert Sengstacke Abbott: A Man, a Paper, and a Parade; John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop; and Richard St. Barbe Baker: Child of the Trees.

Susan Engle authored the first two titles, and I wanted to hear more from her about the book about Dizzy Gillespie (you may also remember Susan from when she shared all about her enchanting tiny books). Susan is a delight and I hope you enjoy this conversation:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about who Dizzy Gillespie was?

If you had lived in his neighborhood when he was a child, you might have heard his family and neighbors calling out, using his first two names as is a southern tradition, “John Birks, sit a spell, why don’t you?” He was constantly on the move. When he was in elementary school, he was provided with a trombone for a small school band. From then on, he channeled most of his energy into playing music. Since his arms were too short to play all the notes on trombone, he would often borrow a neighbor’s trumpet, taking turns with Brother Harrington, practicing for hours at a time. As he grew and became better and better, finally leaving South Carolina for Philadelphia and New York City in his teens, he had years of playing and working out sounds and keys for trumpet tunes under his belt.

Trying out for the Freddie Fairfax Band when he was about 18, one of the band members said, “That dizzy little cat’s from down South.” The nickname “Dizzy” stuck. By the time he had helped bring about a new style of jazz called Bebop, performed for more than one President of the United States, traveled around the world for the State Department, and recorded dozens of records, Dizzy was well-known and loved—not only by many of his fellow musicians, but by jazz fans across the U.S. and around the world. He had many official and unofficial titles, including “King of the Trumpet,” “Ambassador of Jazz,” and “Diz the Wiz.” By the end of his life, he had also received many awards including 14 honorary degrees, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He even has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.

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Will You Break the Silence? Poetic Practical Steps Toward Race Unity – A Book by Andrea Hope

Poetry is powerful. Writer, poet and spoken word artist Andrea Hope has penned a poem about racism and what we can do to heal its wounds. Will You Break the Silence? is a work we’ve needed now more than ever before.

Andrea Hope has appeared on Baha’i Blog wearing various hats: you can watch her perform her spoken word piece called “World Citizen” here; you can read her thoughts and reflections on that poem here; you can also read an interview with her about her children’s book A is for Allah-u-Abha here; or you can read and reflect on her article on failure (titled “Failure…You’re Doing it Wrong”).

I was grateful to Andrea for taking the time to tell us about this book. Here’s what she shared:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us about this work of poetry?

Will You Break the Silence? Poetic Practical Steps Toward Race Unity is composed of a single poem, accompanied by black and white illustrations. It uses simple, evocative stanzas to envision how a friend or ally might support a person struggling with the harsh realities of racial injustice.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired or compelled you to write it?

After several stories of racial injustice gathered media attention yet again in the United States, I was feeling quite exhausted and wondering what more I could do to contribute to enlightening and encouraging others. I also face the challenge in my personal life that I am in an interracial marriage, with a partner who has not been raised in the United States. After a restless night, I recorded a video calling on my friends and allies to take a larger role in addressing prejudiced statements, outlooks, and laws before they become dangerous actions. It felt like for too long the responsibility of explaining and overcoming injustice has fallen on the minority and the oppressed. Little did I know, at the same time, many Black artists and businesspeople like myself were feeling that heaviness and were creating content that asked people in positions of privilege to show their concern and support. I received several emails and responses from friends who wanted to help, but who didn’t quite know where to start. Drawing on my own insights and information gathered for an article I did with Brilliant Star Magazine called “More than Two Colors”, I sat down to put some practical steps into poetic form.

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