It has been 28 years since Tony went missing, one of roughly 17,000 Lebanese individuals who disappeared during the Civil War and have never been heard from since. His story, like theirs, is one of abject sadness for families who find themselves in a painful purgatory – unable to lose hope, and unable to hope for the best.

Theirs is also a story about a Lebanon unable to grapple with its Civil War history – a legacy some think is perhaps left buried, the mists of time and the fading of memory obscuring the atrocities of a dark era.

All along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, champeta music booms out of tricked-out, streetside mobile speaker systems called picós. The genre is a product of the region, one long-marked with racial tension and sharp socio-economic inequality. In recent years, after historically being stigmatized by the Colombian ruling class, the style has surged in popularity, moving beyond its Afro-Colombian roots and into the mainstream. Champeta records have topped Colombian charts, scored hit telenovelas, and even starred in tourism campaigns by the Colombian Foreign Ministry.

… Last Friday Mr. Black, the self-proclaimed “El Presidente del Genero,” made his American debut in New York City, packing full a nightclub in a predominantly Latin American part of Queens. Before the show we sat down with the artist to talk about champeta’s history, its increasing popularity across class lines, and how the genre’s acceptance nods to a peaceful future for a country fighting to move out of a five decade-long civil war.

I interviewed and shot Colombian champeta superstar Mr. Black for GOOD Magazine. 

“All that you have done to our people is registered in notebooks.”
— Mahmoud Darwish


World Cup 2014.  Argentina 0 - Germany 1

13 July 2014, 3:00 pm. Rio Plata Bakery, Elmhurst 

"Few things happen in Latin America that do not have some direct or indirect relation with soccer. Whether it’s something we celebrate together, or a shipwreck that takes us all down, soccer counts in Latin America, sometimes more than anything else." - Eduardo Galeano

After an amazing month of matches being played in Brazil and watched all over New York City, we headed for the intersection of Junction and Corona in Queens to catch the climactic final between Argentina and Germany.

Foolishly thinking we could get a seat at a local steakhouse/butcher if we came three hours prior to kickoff, we arrived to find hundreds of drum-playing, Malvinas-defending, and air horn-blowing la Albiceleste supporters spilling out of each and every Argentinian establishment in the area and converging in the street in great anticipation of a potential third star.

As the start of the game got closer we temporarily satiated ourselves with baked empanadas and dark chocolate alfajores from a nearby grocery store and came to the conclusion that, like the hundreds and hundreds of other sky blue festooned fans, we would be watching the final in the street by peering at the glare-y TV inside Rio Plata Bakery. 

This, of course, added to the overall final experience and ended up being a fitting conclusion to our month watching the 2014 World Cup with various fans at unconventional NYC spots that included everything from Cameroonian diplomatic missionsAlgerian-run Italian coffee housesColombian hair salonsIvorian cabbie hangoutsJapanese conveyor belt sushi spots, and Uruguayan bakeries.  

Read more at Global Soccer, Global NYC

Every World Cup does one thing better than any other event that human beings organize. It focuses the attention of the world on one place at one moment. Around a billion people watched at least part of the final in 2010; that’s several Super Bowls. When a game becomes so ubiquitous, it almost ceases to be entertainment and becomes something else, an atmospheric phenomenon, an object of astronomy. Will more people watch Germany-France on Friday or see the moon over France and Germany? Only the Olympics brings people together like this, and hey, due respect to the Olympics. But oh man is it ever not the same thing.

And this, even more than neuron-blowing games or unbelievable outcomes, is the magic of the World Cup. Over the next 10 days, a substantial portion of the living population of the Earth will have its feelings altered simultaneously by the actions of 22 men chasing a ball around a field in Brazil. Whether you watch alone or in a group or at a stadium, you will know that what you are seeing is being seen by hundreds of millions of people on every corner of the globe, and that your joy, despair, or disbelief is being echoed in incomprehensibly many consciousnesses. Is there anything more ridiculous than this? There is nothing more ridiculous than this, but it’s an extraordinary feeling, too. When something incredible happens — Messi curls a ball around three defenders; Zidane head-butts Materazzi — it’s not just an exciting moment. It’s a bright line connecting you with the human race.


Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga (March 13, 1967 – July 2, 1994)

I watched, heart distending with joy, babbling to myself in front of my television. When the game ended I called my father in Lebanon, just had to: Yes, I know there’s a civil war going on, and the Israelis have invaded our country, but how about that fucking game?

Brazil’s Neymar Jr. dribbles the ball during the 2014 World Cup Group A soccer match between Cameroon and Brazil at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia. (Dominic Ebenbichler—Reuters)

“I’m Mario Balotelli. I’m 23 years old, and I didn’t choose to be Italian. I strongly wanted [to be Italian] because I was born in Italy and have always lived in ITALY. I was really motivated for this World Cup and I’m sad, angry and disappointed with myself. … I’m not going to allow the blame to be placed only on me this time because Mario Balotelli gave his all for the national team and didn’t do anything wrong [character-wise]. So look for another excuse because Mario Balotelli… is prepared to move forward stronger than before and with his head held high, honored to have given his all for his country. Or maybe, like you say, I’m not Italian. Africans would never cast aside one of their ‘brothers.’ NEVER. In this sense us blacks, as you call us, are light-years ahead. There’s no shame on who misses a goal or runs less or more.”

The World Cup also provides a series of personal markers of my own life in four-year cycles, offering an equivalent of Uruguayan writer (and soccer fanatic) Eduardo Galeano’s description of the function of writing: “an attempt to save, in times of infamy, the voices that will testify to the fact that we were here and this is how we were.”

I wrote the USA piece for Al Jazeera America’s great “32 Fans, 32 Nations” World Cup series.