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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Ramadan in America / Music by Sweet Honey in the Rock / Special English Announcers and Writers - 2003-11-07

Broadcast: November 7, 2003



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a VOA Special English program about music and American life. And we answer your questions.


This is Doug Johnson. This week, we play some music by Sweet Honey in the Rock, as that group celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. And we answer a listener’s question about some Special English announcers and writers.

But first – a look at Ramadan in America.

Ramadan in America


Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan. Faith Lapidus tells how some are observing it in the United States.


America is a nation of two-hundred-ninety-two-million people. There are estimates that six-million of them are Muslim. The government does not ask people their religion, so it has no official numbers. But Islam is often described as a fast growing religion in the United States.

Media around the country have stories about activities at local Islamic centers during Ramadan. In Maryland, the Al-Rahmah Mosque in the Baltimore area uses its basketball court as a dining room. The Baltimore Sun newspaper says two-hundred to three-hundred people gather for their evening meal. Muslims are supposed to avoid food and drink from sunrise to sundown during Ramadan.

In the central United States, the director of the Islamic Center of Lawrence, Kansas, says as many as two-hundred people go to daily prayers during a normal month. But he tells the Journal-World newspaper that the number can grow to five-hundred during Ramadan.

President Bush led a traditional meal at the White House for American Muslim leaders and ambassadors of Muslim countries.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. To Muslims, it was the month in the year six-ten when the Prophet Mohamed received the knowledge from God that would become the holy book, the Koran.

Many Muslims give presents to children during Ramadan. This year, a company in the state of Michigan is selling a number of toys designed for Muslim children. One of the most popular is a doll called Razanne (rah-ZAN). Razanne looks different from Barbies and other dolls for girls. All seven dolls in the series wear the traditional Muslim head covering. Their arms and legs are also covered. One is a schoolgirl. Another is a teacher.

Ammar Saadeh established NoorArt, the company that created the Razanne doll. Mister Saadeh says the doll provides a good example for Muslim girls. There is also a Praying Razanne. It comes with a prayer rug and what the company describes as a small Koran-like book.

Where Are They Now?


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Delta State, Nigeria. Henry Oghifo would like to know about several of the people whose names or voices appear in Special English programs. He sent us a list, and we would like to include a few more.

First, he asked about Marilyn Rice Christiano. Marilyn was the chief of Special English and she retired about two years ago. Marilyn is a very busy woman. She travels a lot and has become an excellent photographer. Marilyn stops by our office once in a while to say hello.

You may remember Warren Scheer. If you listen to this program, you heard his voice many times. Warren retired a few years ago and is busy with a small farm in West Virginia.

Henry also asked about Tony Riggs. Tony was the host of American Mosaic for a long time -- more than four-hundred programs! We still see Tony almost every day. You can hear him on VOA News Now. Tony is also busy learning to fly small airplanes.

And where would we be without Nancy Steinbach? She is the chief writer of American Mosaic, and has been since our program began. She writes for other Special English programs as well.

Henry also asked about Larry West, Maurice Joyce and Kay Gallant. Sadly, all three have died. Kay Gallant died just a few weeks ago, at the age of eighty. We miss them. They were good friends and a lot of fun to work with.

Because we repeat some older programs, you may still hear their voices on the air. Listen for a moment to Larry, Maurice and Kay. They were three of our very best announcers.


Henry also asks about Paul Thompson. Paul is here with me in the studio. He usually produces American Mosaic, and has produced almost one-thousand of our shows. Sometimes he writes for us, too, along with most of the shows in the Special English program, Explorations.

Anyway, Paul has just given me a signal. That means we are almost out of time for this part of American Mosaic. However, we would like to thank Henry Oghifo in Delta State, Nigeria for asking about us.

Sweet Honey in the Rock


Members of the singing group Sweet Honey In The Rock are celebrating thirty years together. These six African American women perform the religious music known as gospel. They also sing jazz, protest songs and blues.

Sweet Honey In The Rock takes its name from a story in the Bible. It tells of a land so rich that honey would flow from rocks. Phoebe Zimmermann takes the story from there.


Most of the time, the members of Sweet Honey In The Rock sing without any musical instruments. Here is a song from “Still On The Journey,” their twentieth anniversary album. The song is called "Tribute."


The founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock is Bernice Johnson Reagon (REE gun). She writes many of their songs. Here is one she wrote for children, ”Still Got To Get Up In The Morning.”


The women of Sweet Honey In The Rock are celebrating their thirty years together by performing across the United States. They also recorded an anniversary album called "The Women Gather." We leave you with the title song.



This is Doug Johnson. Send us your questions about American life! Our e-mail address is If we use your question, we'll send you a gift. So make sure to include your name and mailing address. Our postal address is American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, USA.

Our program was written by George Grow, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Our producer was Paul Thompson. And our engineer was Skip Sisk.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.