Linda Sarsour The guys sit down with activist Linda Sarsour to talk protests, growing up in Brooklyn, and the radical act of speaking to your neighbors.
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Linda Sarsour

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Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour

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ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:

What do Luther Vandross' ballads, oil sheen spray and "Twice As Good" have in common? They are all essential to some facet of the black experience.

ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:

In The Nod, a new podcast from Gimlet Media, co-hosts Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings explore all the beautiful, complicated dimensions of black life.

GARCIA: It's a fun and poignant examination of the biggest moments and the most underexplored corners of black art, media and culture.

BARTOS: Check it out now on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

GARCIA: Today's podcast may contain some explicit language. You're warned.

BARTOS: You are privy to a lot more information just by the virtue of what you have chosen as a career. I mean, you're - this is in your face all the time. So when you go home, like, how do you turn it off? What's Linda's chill mode?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

LINDA SARSOUR: Linda ain't got no chill.

BARTOS: (Laughter) You need a shirt. Linda ain't got no chill.

SARSOUR: I ain't got no chill.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo. What's up? This is Stretch Armstrong.

GARCIA: And I'm Bobbito Garcia, aka Kool Bob Love.

BARTOS: The voice you just heard was activist Linda Sarsour, our guest today on WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO. She's one of the most vocal and visible activists in American politics today. We spoke to her before the news broke out of Charlottesville, but her interview feels more relevant than ever.

GARCIA: We're going to talk to her about what it takes to be an activist in this current climate, the radical act of talking to your neighbors and the parallels between Arab and Latin cultures.

BARTOS: But first, Bob, can you tell me the first time you went to a protest?

GARCIA: You know, Stretch, I was at Wesleyan University. I was matriculating. This is in the mid-'80s. And there were a lot of us who were opposed to what was going on in South Africa with apartheid. We actually had students from South Africa that were there in classes with us on a daily basis and hearing their stories firsthand, not just, you know, seeing it on the news.

And so there was a movement on campus to have the president and the governing body that runs the university to divest in companies that have funds and stake in South Africa properties. And, you know, quite honestly, Stretch, I don't know when we were there that any of us imagined that there would ever be a change. But we wanted to be heard. We wanted to express ourselves regardless. And then in 1994, you know, six years after I was in school, the African National Congress was formed, apartheid went down, you know, the Berlin Wall went down.

I mean, all these things that we were opposed to, that we thought were unimaginable to actually see in our lifetime fail and fall and work towards a progressive movement and something in a positive light, they happened. And then I look back to those protests and I'm like, you know what? Maybe there was a purpose in them beyond just expressing ourselves. Maybe we contributed to this in the long run, however minutely we did. And Wesleyan did divest as well, so a successful protest.

BARTOS: Coming up next, it's Linda Sarsour.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA: Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. You may not know her name, but you know her work. She was one of the co-chairs of the Women's March, which is the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. She's also spent her career working on issues like racial profiling of Arab and African-Americans. She's got a fair share of critics from the left and the right. And while we may not always agree with the guests we've got on this show, we always hear them out. Linda, (speaking Arabic). Welcome to the show.

BARTOS: Welcome.

SARSOUR: (Speaking Arabic) Brothers.

GARCIA: All right. All right. All right. So let's hit it just off the top, man. We're going to talk about Sunset Park. We're going to take it back to...

SARSOUR: Way back.

GARCIA: ...(Laughter) To BK to the fullest. What element of that environment growing up gave you building blocks towards being an activist?

SARSOUR: I mean, I was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a predominantly Latino community. I grew up with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, some Central Americans. And there was a very large Palestinian community. And there was a lot of synergy there, you know, with the - even the language, the Spanish language with the Arabic language, a lot of synergy between our mothers, you know, always watching out for us. And I went to a high school that was at the time - it's closed down now - they used to call it Jungle Jay, but it was John Jay High School.

And I went to a school that was, like, almost 80 percent black. So I got to be able to then broaden my relationship with African-American communities, and, again, more synergy, just feeling like I was part of this larger, you know, group of communities of color. And it was a really great upbringing. And I think what I learned from growing up in Sunset Park is, you know, I have that I-don't-take-nothing-from-nobody attitude. You know, I'm not easily intimidated.

I really was able to learn about people's cultures and the foods that they ate and the things that they care about. I learned about, you know, the struggles of Puerto Ricans and this idea that they could vote and really understanding the kind of struggle for the liberation and talking about colonization of Puerto Rico. And I'm Palestinian. Like, there was just so much that I learned living in these communities.

GARCIA: No doubt. But, I mean, I wouldn't guess that you as a child, as 7, 8 years old, 9 years old, that the Puerto rocks that you were rolling with knew that.

SARSOUR: You know, as a kid - you know, my name is Linda Linda. You know, actually, people didn't know exactly who I was. And I didn't really experience discrimination growing up. You know, my mother didn't speak English, so what? My neighbors' parents didn't speak English either. Like, it was like...

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: It was actually like - again, like, I may have been from a different culture, but I had the same experience. Like, I never really felt discriminated against. I didn't cover my hair. I wasn't wearing hijab. I looked like any other Puerto Rican girl in my neighborhood. Like, nobody knew. And my name wasn't, like, you know, Aisha or Fatima or some sort of, you know, stereotypical Muslim name. So I really must have, like, fell through the cracks a little bit until I started opening up and people being like, oh, where is your family from?

And really, it was early, believe it or not. It was, like, in middle school when parents of my friends were like, oh, you're from Palestine, let me talk - you know? And I was around people that were a lot more cultured than people gave them credit for, you know, my friends' grandparents.

Like, I learned a lot as a really young kid. I've been politicized from a very young age as a Palestinian-American. I mean, I remember going to rallies when I was, like, 8, 9 years old. And I still speak fluent Arabic. And my parents did not allow me to speak English at home. They wanted me to be cultured and be bilingual. That was really important to them. So I don't know, maybe I'm just different, but I really felt like I got a lot of knowledge as a really young kid.

BARTOS: I heard in another interview you say that your parents tried to bring you and your siblings back to Palestine every year. Were there parts of Brooklyn - the culture, the music, the food - that you introduced to your Palestinian family? And what parts of Palestine have you brought back to Brooklyn?

SARSOUR: I think I try to bring all my Palestinian in every space that I am in. You know, Palestinian food - there's - one of my favorite restaurants in New York City is actually out in South Brooklyn near Sunset Park called Tanoreen, and getting people and friends of mine to discover my mother's food. As a matter of fact, my mom was in The New York Times with a recipe for a very traditional Palestinian dish called maqluba. It actually means upside-down. It's made with chicken and fried vegetables...

GARCIA: I want some (laughter).

SARSOUR: ...And let me tell you, my friends are all about my mama's Palestinian cooking, let me tell you. I mean, one of the things that I enjoyed about growing up in Sunset and going to, you know - being around a lot of African-Americans, which is the communities that I grew up with and built with, hip-hop. Like, Palestine, and if you watch the hip-hop coming out of Palestine - and the best hip-hop that has come out of either Brooklyn or Palestine has been those who have been oppressed the most.

It comes out of a place of poverty and pain and trauma. And I'm watching these young Palestinians, like, when I go to Palestine going to small concerts with these young Palestinians coming out with hip-hop. They watch movies that we watch. I mean, they - you know, when I come there, like, I'm actually not really bringing anything because they already know.

BARTOS: In interviews you're often presented as a Muslim-Palestinian activist. I imagine that people try and reduce your personality into these sort of oversimplified parts. What parts of yourself do you think are ignored or hidden from the public eye?

SARSOUR: I think people these days are really into these categories and trying to fit me neatly into different boxes. And, you know, as a Brooklynite, I don't fit neatly in any box. And I want to create my own identity. And I get to present myself in the way that I want to. You know, it is important to me that I'm a Muslim. It is important that I'm Palestinian. But that's not everything about me. You know, I just happen to be Muslim. I happen to be Palestinian. And I'm proud of that.

But I'm also a woman. I'm also a mother. I'm also a social justice and civil rights activist. I'm also, you know, an immigrant rights leader. You know, I also like to listen to music and hip-hop. And I like to, you know, chill with my friends and read books. Like, they have this idea of just trying to - people trying to, like, come to terms with me. You know, how could I be a Muslim and then be in a women's rights movement? Like, can I be Palestinian right now? Like, can I - you know, can you be a critic of the state of Israel and still be part of social justice movements?

Like, people are always having these conversations about me. Like, I'm not a neat package for them. And I'm all right with that. I'm all right with being who I am and defying every stereotype that anybody has about Muslims or Arab-Americans and in particular about Muslim women. Like, people think I'm an anomaly. Like, there's only one of me. There are millions of Muslim women in this world that are powerful and independent and doing the right thing and being able to shatter all of the misinformation that is out there about who people think I am or should be.

GARCIA: Yeah. You're so on it (laughter) because, like, you know, usually we interview people, they be going on tangents, they're like, these long-winded stories. You're like, yo (unintelligible) all right. And you're looking at me like, what next (laughter)?

SARSOUR: It's Brooklyn...

BARTOS: Brooklyn to the fullest. Brooklyn to the fullest.

SARSOUR: Look, Brooklyn is about - I mean, Brooklyn is about getting to the heart of the matter, right? You just got to keep it concise and get to the point because people got short attention spans, brother. You got to keep it clear.

GARCIA: No doubt. So listen, you're sharing, like, all these really powerful moments. And one that I'm curious about along the timeline of your life is that moment of clarity where you have multiple paths that you can go on. You could become a teacher. You can continue to stay in school and get five - another five degrees. But you decide to go full blast being an activist. What is the catalyst behind that decision?

SARSOUR: I was trying to be like Michelle Pfeiffer, you know, in that movie "Dangerous Minds." Like, I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher. I was going to go, like, to the inner city school. And I was going to, like, inspire these young people who everyone else is telling them you can't be somebody, and I was going to go in there and be like, no, you are somebody. That was my dream. And that moment for me was - I'm an activist born out of the ashes of 9/11. I was - you know, after that horrific attack on our city, on our fellow Americans, the government immediately took my entire community and said, you're all bunch of suspects just for the virtue of who we are and the faith that we follow.

And I watched with my very own eyes - in my community in Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, I watched law enforcement agencies raid coffee shops, raid businesses. I watched women cry and say, somebody picked up my husband and I haven't seen him in five days and he never called me. I'm like, well, how is this possible? How is it that we live in the United States and somebody can get stripped from their home and no one knows where they are? And I was only 21 years old.

And I was always like, God bless America. And I was like, wow, like, my people. And that was my catalyst. I started working with women in the community, connecting them to legal services. I was grateful to my parents for being bilingual. Like, I was able to speak and communicate with them. But I also spoke English. And I was an American, so I knew how to work the system in a way that they didn't. And that was it. That was that radicalizing moment for me. I was like, this is not happening.

And then, through that journey, I found out - which I probably should have already known - that there were young black and brown people being stopped and frisked by the New York Police Department, people who were afraid to walk in their own communities just being stopped for the virtue of who they are, for the color of their skin. And thinking about undocumented people, meeting those folks, people who are afraid that one day somebody's just going to pick them up and they're going to be separated from their family.

So that moment of 9/11 radicalized me, but it also taught me how to be intersectional, that I can't be out here fighting for Arabs and Muslims by myself and I'm not going to win rights. How are Muslims going to win rights or Arab Muslims going to win rights when black people have been in this country for - since the day of its founding and they still haven't found full justice? So that's why I'd been dedicating my life ever since that horrific attack to justice for all people.

BARTOS: I mean - so we see where you went from 9/11 and focusing on the unlawful surveillance of the Muslim community and how that eventually led to, more recently, Black Lives Matter. Are there other moments where you saw intersectionality working at its best?

SARSOUR: Another - what - I keep calling them radicalizing moments because I think the word radical has been kind of taken from us. And it really means to - getting to the root of the problem. You know, not just looking at things as just, you know, high-level injustice, but why do these things happen? You know, what is the underlying issues? And another moment where I was outraged, where my blood was boiling, was when Michael Brown got shot in Ferguson.

And I'm sitting in Brooklyn. I'm thinking to myself, this is the United States of America. An unarmed kid in Ferguson gets shot, and he lays out in a street for four and a half hours swimming in his blood. And then after that, he gets picked up and thrown in a back of a caravan like he's a road kill or like a bag of rocks. And I was outraged. I was like, we got plenty of ambulances and EMTs. Like, this child should - somebody should have checked his heartbeat. Was this child still alive? I was outraged.

And I'm also, you know, a mother of a 17-year-old boy. And I was literally like - I couldn't even tell you what I was thinking at the moment. I picked up and I took an airplane, and I went out to Ferguson. And I wanted to be a - bear witness to this community and the injustice that had happened there. And watching, you know, people in riot gear and men in riot gear out in Ferguson, I'm thinking to myself, we are bringing the military against our own citizens. And we always see these images in places like Iraq and in Afghanistan. You know what I'm saying? Or we see them in Brazil and in other parts of the world. And here it was, staring me in the face as an American that I was going to allow this to happen on my watch.

So Michael Brown was another opportunity that showed me, like, it doesn't matter that I'm Arab and Palestinian and living in Brooklyn, that Michael Brown was my son. And if I don't see other people's children as if they were my own child, that is why we are in the situation we are in in this country. That every - every man for himself, every woman for her child, but if we were operating from this perspective that when anyone's child is shot, that that - we could see our child in them? Trust me. We would be in such a better state as a nation.

BARTOS: You also helped organize the Day Without Women strike, which marked International Women's Day. Let's listen to a bit of that speech at the rally in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARSOUR: Social justice movements are not convenient because if they were convenient, there'd be millions of people out in these streets. If your feminism doesn't include all women, if it doesn't include the hijab that I wear on my head, we don't need your feminism.

BARTOS: What prompted that statement?

SARSOUR: I think feminism - and there's a lot of people who question, can you be a modest Muslim woman and be a feminist? You know, this idea that because I cover my hair, because I wear long-sleeve, that somehow along the trajectory someone told me to do that or it was not my choice to do that. And feminism has been oftentimes seen as white women who are trying to save these oppressed women in the Middle East. You know, let's save the women of Afghanistan as if we Muslim women are asking to be saved. I mean, this is not to say that there aren't Muslim women who are oppressed. Of course. Absolutely. I can name many Muslim countries where Muslim women are oppressed. But they are oppressed by Muslim men, not by our religion, Islam.

And that's the kind of distinction I'm trying to make here. Just like in this country today, you know, we talk about, you know, equal pay. We still don't get paid the same. We have rampant sexual assault and rape in this country in the military and on college campuses. And that's not because of anybody's particular religion that does that. It's because there are people that engage in oppressive behavior. So my concept right now of intersectional feminism is that whether you're a woman who chooses to wear a miniskirt or you want to go topless, or you're a woman that wears a hijab, we - this movement is for all of us.

BARTOS: So what about the men? I've seen in interviews men ask you, like, what - as allies, what can we do? And you say, you have to listen. Take our lead. But what about men or even women that are outraged, but that they don't know how to take that first step? I mean, what advice would you give them?

SARSOUR: I think people see activism and they see activists, and they get really overwhelmed and intimidated. They're like, I can't be Linda. I can't be Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez. Like, I ain't got time for that, or I don't know how to do that. And I tell people all the time that activism isn't about being me or Tamika or Carmen Perez. Activism is about doing the basics. And I always tell people, how are we going to love and protect one another as communities if we don't even know our neighbors? I tell people all the time, go knock on your next-door neighbor's door. Maybe you live in an apartment complex. You don't even - people don't even know who lives down the hall from them.

And I say that to people because I - takes me back to Japanese internment, which, by the way, is something that triggers me. Like, I think that that could be a possibility, that that could happen again under an administration like this. And I always wonder. And I say to myself, if people at that time knew who their Japanese neighbors were, if they had relationships with them, if their kids played with those Japanese kids, you would be a lot more emboldened to go out there and be like, not my Japanese sisters and brothers. You ain't putting your hands on them.

And I say to people right now that if we're going to protect undocumented people, if we're going to protect Muslims and vulnerable communities, we got to know them. We got to know who these people are that live around us. You know, like, we live in - like, New York City is the most diverse - I mean, my neighbors are white. They're Puerto Rican. They're Mexican. They're Arab. They're all kinds of people. So that's the first step. Just get to know the people around you. Like, people don't think that that's activism. I say to people, you can't organize? Well, then support an organization in your local community that does do organizing. I'm sure everyone has a Planned Parenthood chapter nearby. You may have a local food pantry that's serving the homeless. Like, you may not be able to go on Saturdays and feed the homeless, but give them $20 so they could buy the food. Like, there's so much ways for us to participate.

I tell people the most important thing in activism is show up. And people say, so what if I don't show up? I'm only one person. And I say to people, what if every woman that didn't come to the Women's March was like, what if I didn't show up? Who cares? I'm only one person. Then that would have been 1.2 less million people that came to the Women's March on Washington in D.C. So one person shows up, then another one. You add to the numbers. And I keep telling people, in this time where we are right now, under this type of administration, you being outraged on your couch is not going to help anybody. You got to be outraged in these streets.

You got to - your members of Congress. Like, this is the other thing. We got people who represent us in Congress and our state legislators who - you need to have their numbers on speed dial on your phone. You need to be able to call and be like, I heard that you're about to vote against my health care. What? You ain't getting my vote next time around if you don't do the right thing. Anybody could do that. You got the power because you got the power of the vote. I think people - we have been taught in this country to underestimate our power as individuals. And power has been given to the corporations and to the elite and to those that got money. But in fact, the real power lies in the hands of the voters. And I believe that everybody has that opportunity to invoke that power.

GARCIA: Yeah. It's interesting because, like, a lot of my friends over time - Stretch's as well, mutual friends of ours - like, you know, they've had their time in activism and then moved on, you know? Some of them have become parents. Some of them have become weary about working nonprofit, you know? And then - and in an overall sense or a wider sense, you know, we have movements that kind of lose steam. Or, you know, we get derailed sometimes deliberately. How do you sustain (laughter) - you know, if it was on a meter, you know, it'd be, like, in the red. You know, all the way to this, like, tipping red, like, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch (ph) all the time.

SARSOUR: I mean, different things fuel different people. I'm fueled by two things. I'm fueled by outrage. I'm in perpetual outrage every day because every day I'm around people who are being oppressed. I'm around somebody whose brother is incarcerated and I got to hear what happened when they went to visit them. I'm around people who can't bring their family member to the United States of America because our president doesn't think that certain people deserve to come here. I mean, every single day I'm working with a mother whose husband is being deported just because he wanted to bring them here and have a better life. So every day I'm around these. I'm not just an activist sitting in some ivory tower, you know, in Times Square. I'm from a community that is oppressed every single day.

So the second thing I'm fueled by is love. I love my people. Like, I want to see good for my people. I want to be able to look my child in the eye and say, I'm trying to make a world where somebody's going to love you and embrace you for who you are and that you can stand on the highest skyscraper in New York City and be like, I'm Muslim. I'm Palestinian. I love the New York Knicks. You know what I mean? And people are going to applaud you for that, that people are going to be like, yeah, that's my boy right there. And for me, like, I'm fueled by that.

And you also got to make a conscious decision in this work. Like, I'm not trying to be rich. Like, I'm not going to probably ever be rich. And that's cool with me as long as I live a life of dignity. You know what I mean? And I'm a very spiritual person. And that's not for everybody. Not everybody believes in God. And I respect that. But I do, and I want people to respect that I do. And I believe that one day God's going to ask me - he's going to say, what did you do with all the blessings that I gave you? I'm healthy. I'm young. I got energy. I got a supportive family. I'm from a supportive community. Like, I - he gave me everything to do this work. And I'm hoping that I'm going to have some really good answers for him.

BARTOS: So when you go home, like, how do you turn it off? And what do you do to turn it off? What's Linda's chill mode?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

SARSOUR: I don't - Linda ain't got no chill.

BARTOS: (Laughter) You need a shirt. Linda ain't got no chill.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

SARSOUR: I ain't got no chill. I mean, listen...

GARCIA: Hashtag.

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: I go home and I'm like, who did their homework? You know, who got a paper for me to sign?

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: You know, who got a trip next week? Did you do your college application, you know? So I go home, and I - and my turn-off is doing what I'm supposed to be doing as a parent - right? - and making sure that everything's, you know - I got to sit down like everybody else. Got to pay my cable bill. Got to pay my electricity bill. Got to make sure my cell phone's still on. Like, so I - those normal things that people take for granted? Like, that's my chill mode, just doing - being an ordinary human being and taking care of my ordinary responsibilities.

And to be honest with you, like, I don't really - even when my friends are like, oh, let's go out to, you know, eat dinner one night after work - and the problem with choosing this as a career is that your friends end up being people in the movement, too. So you end up going to dinner, and someone's like, Linda, you heard what happened? The governor ain't doing Raise the Age, and he's trying to sell us out right now. Like - and then worse, then we end up having another strategy meeting.

I'm like, can't I just eat this burger for a second? Can't we just have a ginger ale and just chill for a - and it's just - it's so much things going on. I don't - but I will say that I'm not even complaining about it. Like, it's - I'm full from this work. I enjoy being part of at least trying to come up with an alternative solution, finding a role to play. I'm not saying we're going to win it all. But at least I can say, you know what? I'm trying. I'm trying to do my best with what I have.

GARCIA: Word (laughter).

BARTOS: Ginger ale is the short answer (laughter).

GARCIA: (Laughter).

SARSOUR: My friends are not having ginger ales, but I'm having a ginger ale.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: We are thankful for all your jewels. And we're going to change the tone. We want to do something called the duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh (ph)...

ADRIAN BARTOS AND ROBERT GARCIA: ...The Impression Session.

SARSOUR: Uh-oh.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

GARCIA: Were you forewarned about it?

SARSOUR: No, I wasn't.

GARCIA: No? OK.

SARSOUR: No. Uh-oh.

GARCIA: Well, here's the sketch.

SARSOUR: About to get spicy now.

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: Let me sit up straight.

GARCIA: Coming up, it's the Impression Session.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: We're taking our show on the road in front of a live audience where you need to be. On September 7, we're sitting down with actress and activist Rosie Perez and her husband, artist and designer Eric Haze, at The Bell House in Brooklyn. Haze, by the way, did the logo for our podcast. On September 22, we'll be in Washington, D.C., speaking to Chef Jose Andres. You can buy tickets at nprpresents.org. Come out and hang.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: We're back with our guest Linda Sarsour. And it's time for the impression...

BARTOS AND GARCIA: ...Session.

GARCIA: Here's how it works. We're going to play you a track.

BARTOS: You don't - we're not going ask you to rap. Don't worry.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

SARSOUR: That might be better. I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: We're going to play you a song. And whatever it brings to you, whatever emotion it carries - you may recognize it, you may not - but just sit on it. Digest it. And then we'll come out of it, and then we're going to hear your response. You down with that?

SARSOUR: I'm down. I'm down.

GARCIA: All right. Cool.

BARTOS: I'm rocking...

GARCIA: You go first.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RETURN OF THE CROOKLYN DODGERS")

THE CROOKLYN DODGERS: (Rapping) We did it like that, and now we do it like this. We did it like that, and now we do it like this. (Laughter) Yeah. Now, clock kids, who got the cocaine? Don't tell me it's the little kids on "Soul Train." The metaphor sent from my brain to my jaw, it comes from other places, not the tinted faces. Journalistic values are yellow and then, of course, falters. You'll watch Channel Zero with that bitch Barbara Walters. She'll have you believe black invented crack when President Lyndon had the formula way back in '63 with Kennedy. Yes, the double-cross - remember, that's when they blow his fucking head off. Vietnam...

SARSOUR: Wow. I was 15 when that song came out. Yeah. Ain't no more Do or die, Bed-Stuy, brother.

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: All I could think about is gentrification. We need that song to be updated. Gentrification.

BARTOS: Crooklyn Dodgers.

SARSOUR: Crooklyn Dodgers.

BARTOS: Chubb Rock, O.C. and...

SARSOUR: Oh, Chubb Rock. Yes.

BARTOS: ...And Jeru.

SARSOUR: Oh, man.

BARTOS: Were you bumping hip-hop at home as a teen? You were, of course.

SARSOUR: Yeah. Yeah.

BARTOS: Brooklyn teenager. Like, what did your parents think about that?

SARSOUR: My parents, thank God, they didn't know what the heck was going on. They didn't understand what was going on. That was helpful for people like me, because, you know, there were some bad words that my parents probably didn't want to hear. Most of it was in the room, right? You got that little - remember the Walkman? I still remember those days. You know, put on your ears, your parents don't hear what's going on.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: I still got my Walkman.

SARSOUR: You still got your Walkman?

GARCIA: Oh, yeah. I bop it in a - on a train.

SARSOUR: (Laughter) Oh, my God.

BARTOS: No, he means, legit, his original Sony Walkman.

GARCIA: My yellow Walkman.

BARTOS: Trademark yellow with the tape.

SARSOUR: I used to have a yellow Sony Walkman, too.

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: That's crazy. Y'all bring me way back now. And I'm feeling old.

BARTOS: People look at him on the train like he's a time traveler or something.

GARCIA: I am. We're going to travel in time. I'm going to play you a vinyl song. You ready for it? All right. Cool.

SARSOUR: Uh-oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESCARGA PARA ABE")

LOS HACHEROS: (Singing in foreign language).

GARCIA: That's a song called "Descarga Para Abe" by Los Hacheros. They're a New York-based salsa band. I was hoping that upon hearing this you would get up and do a mambo step. What's good?

BARTOS: What's good (laughter).

SARSOUR: I was connected over here, but I would have.

(LAUGHTER)

SARSOUR: I know a little merengue, a little salsa, a little something.

GARCIA: What?

SARSOUR: I learned some bachata. I know something.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Where did this song bring you?

SARSOUR: It brought me back to the days of the Andalusia, the connection between the kind of Islamic influence on Spanish culture and - if you go to any parts of Latin America, you know, the South America, there are very rich Arabic-speaking communities, rich Muslim communities. People have no idea. And again, as I told you, there's such a - especially around language, you know, just, you know, there's actually words we share, that we share. Like, we - you know, we say azucar about sugar the same. We say pantalones about pants, camisa. Like, we could actually have a very basic conversation and use words that are both Spanish things. And I think that goes back to that kind of integration that goes back hundreds of years.

GARCIA: Yeah. My favorite is, in Spanish, a lot of Spanish-speaking countries say ojala. So its foundation is inshallah, you know?

SARSOUR: Exactly.

GARCIA: And this song - particularly striking with me because, you know, in the middle of the chorus, they're like, salaam. I was like, what?

SARSOUR: I know. You're like, what? Yeah. I was like looking at something. I was like, wait a second. Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?

GARCIA: And it sounds so natural to hear it...

SARSOUR: Oh, it's beautiful.

GARCIA: ...To hear Arabic in the middle of a Latin record. It really does. That's what struck me about this, about the song, why I played it for you. So, Linda, thank you so much, yo. Like, shukran.

SARSOUR: Shukran to you guys.

GARCIA: Yeah. Like, for real. Like, you've been a phenomenal guest, and I've learned a lot.

BARTOS: A lot of food for thought, personally speaking. Thank you, really.

SARSOUR: Thank you, brothers.

GARCIA: Word.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: That's our show. This podcast was produced by Sami Yenigun, edited by Steve Nelson and N'Jeri Eaton and executive produced by Abby O'Neill.

GARCIA: Special thanks to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.

BARTOS: If you like the show, you should check out our interview with Chance the Rapper. Listen on Apple Podcasts, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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