An Evening of Cultural Revolt to Free Rapper Toomaj and All Political Prisoners

IEC Event

February 24, 2024

Our report on this event starts out:

Hope you're doin' ok! Thank you for still supporting me, like you have from the first days (and hopefully  not forgetting all the other loved ones in prison). In here, I am still getting the news channels, and sometimes even reading your tweets. Nothing can disconnect us -- because our hearts remain connected.  
[Translated by IEC volunteers]

Toomaj sent out this message from Iran’s Isfahan Prison to his social media on February 14. His caring about others infused the élan of the cultural program at Berkeley’s popular Starry Plough Pub on February 24. The evening promised to be – and indeed delivered – a fitting tribute in the fierce struggle to free Iran’s heroic political prisoners, among them the beloved people’s rapper known to millions as Toomaj. Hearts and minds indeed connected in the uplifting joy of resistance and collective hope in striving for a liberating world.

It was standing room only, with over 75 people of different generations and backgrounds crowded into the pub...

Read our full report on this event, "A Night of Cultural Revolt Full of Joy and Hope".

Read: IEC Message to A Night of Cultural Revolt to Free Toomaj Salehi and all Iran's Political Prisoners

IEC organizers wish to thank all the awesome artists who performed at A Night of Cultural Revolt

Mahnaz Badihian: poet, painter, and translator, author of two books of poetry; John Curl: poet, activist, historian, translator; Larry Felson: poet, supporter of and Bob Avakian, volunteer with the IEC; Rafael J. Gonzalez: Poet Laureate of Berkeley, 2017-2022; Mike Jones: poet, violinist, longtime teacher in Oakland public schools; D.L. Lang: former Poet Laureate of Vallejo; Sharat Lin: dancer for solidarity and resistance; Kirk Lumpkin: poet, spoken word artist, environmentalist; Karen Melander-Magoon: poet, singer social justice activist, ordained minister; Steve Rood: poet and practicing trial lawyer; Tolbert Small: legendary physician, poet, social activist, humanist; James Tracy: author, poet, activist, professor; Raymond Nat Turner: “The Town Crier,” Poet-in-Residence at Black Agenda Report.


Regrettably, we are not able to post videos of all the readings. For the text of the poems, click on the "Show" link at the end of this section.

Rafael Jesus Gonzales, Tolbert Small and Raymond Nat Turner were not able to attend, and presented their poems via video.

Videos by Toomaj

In addition, we projected several powerful videos by Toomaj before and during the program. For a playlist of videos subtitled in English, visit our #FreeToomaj resources page.

Click "Show" to view text of some of the poems read at the Night of Cultural Revolt.


Steve Rood


After Muriel Rukeyser
Your Kurdish name was Jina Amini.
Speak to me.  Where are you now?
You were a young woman, killed by small men.
I am a lawyer in America.  My Hebrew name is Hayyim Shia.
I will tell you all.  I will conceal nothing.  
When I was a boy I heard a voice.  
It said I was confused, ugly, alone.  
It also told me I could layer my pain
between leaves of wind.
I vomited in secret for twenty years
because I was terrified to show my face to anyone.
I was mute.  No one heard except my son.  
Do you know that women are loosing their hair, in your name?
Showing their full faces, in your name?
Do you know that women are becoming themselves, in your name?
Where are you now?  
You are here—-a tree rising from the rubble,
blossoming, every part of you
there for all to see in the afternoon light.
Not in danger anymore for that.  
Out of the silence between the shouts of men
you are speaking.


Larry Felson


No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.
From Basics by Bob Avakian

We are the voice of the anger of people
whose voice was silenced
Don’t call us rebels, we came for revolution—
From “Battlefield” by Toomaj Salehi

No more stepping over bodies in the street
No more capital gains burying lost lives
No more playing dead for the power brokers
No more staying in your place
No more tolerating promises and broken promises
No more crossing to the other side of the street
No more standing by watching people bombed,
homes destroyed, children dying in hunger and misery
No more infants dismembered by revenge
No more sobbing at midnight
No more silent screaming at dawn
No more hiding in the shadow of despair
No more sacrifices for naught
No more lowering your voice
to appease rabid Elephants and docile Donkeys
No more histrionic faith healing
No more hymns to non-existent angels
No more praying to illusions and delusions
No more hallucinating nirvana
No more waiting for saviors and miracles
No more approval or disapproval from the powers that be
No more listening to sanctimonious blatherings
from the murderers and rapists who rule
No more believing prophets of doom and their death songs
No more suppressing dreamsongs of a better world
No more avoiding eye contact with the masters and their henchmen
No more metallic sunsets and burning oceans
No more crying in the wilderness or the gutter
No more bowing to the stranglehold of tradition
No more outlawing love and intimacy
No more women waking or walking in fear
No more sexual oppression
No more phosphorous rain falling in lakes and forests
No more George Floyds or Brianna Taylors
No more refugee concentration camps in Zaatari or Texas
No more looking away
No more silencing different drummers
No more swallowing the sleeping potion
of democracy via the ballot box
No more shaking hands with snake-charmers
selling delusions of equal justice for all
No more sugar-coated bullets from on high
No more genuflecting to the architects of  nuclear annihilation
No more digging our graves in the
glittering marketplace of consumption
No more greenhouse effect droughts and floods
No more giving up or giving in
No more escaping into the screen in anguish or fantasy
No more bees, dolphins, polar bears, and wolves
dying in the heat
No more swallowing anger
No more waiving from the back row
No more wandering in the swamp of nihilism
No more scorched earth and rotting orchards
No more waiting for the end of the world
No more standing outside the window
looking at the house on fire
No more caging and killing freedom fighters
No more executions in Iran or anywhere in the world
No more wildflowers buried in firestorms and blizzards
No more praising ignorance as truth
No more disbelief in science and wonder
No more chaining wild birds of the spirit
soaring toward unknown realms of thought and feeling
No more the heart left wanting without hope
No more tears of blood and sorrow
No more grieving and no more weeping
No more dead-end thinking
about reforming the system
No more making peace with injustice
No more empires of subjugation
East, West, North, or South
No more enslaved to this world
of bloodshed, slaughter, and plunder
No more of that
No more fighting for liberation
without a strategy and gameplan for revolution,
and a vision of a whole new revolutionary world
No liberation without revolution
Revolution Nothing Less!


D.L. Lang


Down with these tyrants who beat
and torture their fellow human beings!
Down with state-sponsored murderers
who seek to snuff out the fires of dissent
and uphold the chains of oppression!

Free them all!

Be like Toomaj and loudly proclaim the truth,
sparking revolutionary longing within the youth!
Singing out for justice is not a crime!
No soul should ever do hard time
just for speaking the truth in rhyme!

Free them all!

Three cheers for the hunger strikers,
who protest the unjust incarceration,
using their last available decision
to stand in solidarity for liberation.

Free them all!

Free all who dared to march in the streets
in the name of the justice we all seek!
Such bravery should be commended!
Free all those who were apprehended!

Free them all!

They cannot stop the march of progress!
Abandon fear! Go forth boldly in protest!
Rise up in the name of a far better world
where freedom, equality, and justice reign
instead of sick systems that perpetuate pain!

Free them all!


Raymond Nat Turner


(for my friend Farid)

Metallic music of shovels; Abrasions on bare hands
Digging, digging, digging through twisted bones and
busted bricks of buildings. To backpacks, blankets, baby
body parts to free tiny arms and legs emitting whispers…

Obese bulldozers munching homes and olive trees;
Settlers snacking on bones of the evicted;
Aquifer flooded with sea water and sewage are G-
Rated nightmares and matter not to NFL, NBA bi-partisans

Forked tongue, dis-honest broker, fluent in ancient language
Trots tattered tropes for terror out. Swears another Offal Office
Oath on War House Bible—bathed in blood of 10s of millions—
Wounded Knee to Trail of Tears; Tulsa to Hiroshima; Korea to
Vietnam to Afghanistan…

honest broker: “You have a right to”
Be an aircraft carrier on the desert
Acting as a weapons lab conducting
Trade shows; Disguised as democracy
Acting as an apartheid state; Concealing
Third Reich real estate practices—Go on
Step on the gas—and
“Mow the grass!”

“You have a right to” quell them/Shell
them! Bombard them/boneyard them!
Snipe them/wipe them! Un-home them/Pogrom them!
Expel them/Farewell them!

“You have a right to” strangulate them/Annihilate them!
Bomb roads they’re instructed to travel— Let them eat
Lead and gravel!

“You have a right to” kill them One-a-Day… for years—
Daily… for decades… Until bloody bootprints become
Normal as “Ironclad!” Normal as Baghdad…
“You have a right to” 22 days of carnage; provided
you Madison Avenue it: “Operation Caste-Lead!”
“You have a right to” Step on the gas—and
“Mow the grass!“

“You have a right to” 51 days of slaughter—if
you market it as: “Operation Protective Edge!”
“You have a right to” Step on the gas—and
“Mow the grass!”

"You have a right to” Dr. Goebbels’ white phosphorus
prescriptions for human animals holding human shields;
Holding hostages; Holding hospital hideouts; Holding
House keys—for… 3/4 of a Century…


Mahnaz Badihian

Mahnaz Badihian read these poems first in Farsi, then in English.


My poem isn't magic
to feed the hungry,
Nor can it quench the thirst of the trees.
My poem isn't rain,
Nor is it the sun
to shine upon war-torn lands.
My poem isn't a morsel of bread
to place upon the mouths of the hungry.
My poem isn't a cloak for the poor.

My poem is a cry,
A cry of protest
against war, poverty, and hunger.



We kissed under the bombs
in our homeland
under the thunder of fear and doubt
We kissed
on the streets of diasporas
on the roads of despair
in the city of the devil

We kissed so much
that our lips joined the eternity
under all the believes
under fire and blood
under executioner's sword
under distorted news

We kissed quietly
our kisses had different color every day
Sad kisses
love kisses
kisses of excitement
kisses of fear
kisses of death
friendship kisses

our kisses were talking
when they silenced our voices
and our lips became our safe haven!


Karen Melander-Muldoon

Poetry for Imprisoned

Toomaj Salehi
Imprisoned in Iran for his words
Imprisoned for his voice
Imprisoned for speaking out
Against the death of Amini
In prison
Another unjust death
Death in prison
Toomaj Salehi
Is not alone
The list of jailed voices is long
The list of jailed voices demanding they be heard
Is long
The list of imprisoned voices
Extends beyond Iran
Extends around the world
We know many of the names
Mahsa Amini was one
But she is dead
For failing to cover her head
Sufficiently for the morality police
Toomaj is one
For speaking of injustice
Released on a judge’s order
Rearrested by order of the state
Demanding freedom
For all prisoners
His voice smothered
With the voices of others
Demanding air
Demanding freedom
To speak against injustice
To speak against government
Until justice
Removes the muzzles on voices
Demanding to be heard
Demanding justice

The Light of Love

When will the light of love
Extinguish the fire of war
Without love there is no victory
Without love there is no reason
No season for creation
For regeneration
A never-ending sequence of events
Leading nowhere
As greed continues to produce teeth
Biting into existence
Yet decaying as they chew through
The pursuit of flesh and mind for truth and justice
Until there is only the worm of war
Hostage itself to decay that destroys
When will the light of love
Extinguish greed that devours creation
Leaving skeletal remains of animals and plants
Succumbing to climate change and pollution
To the cracking of earth by hominids
Unaware of their own power to destroy
While the light of love
Flickers eternally
Beckoning all of creation
To warm itself in its fire


I walk through the rubble of war
I ask the broken pieces for answers
And I receive silence
I walk through the rubble of lost lives
I ask the torn lives for answers
And I receive silence
I walk into the meadows and forests
I walk into the tide coming in to shore
I walk into the sunlight and springtime
I walk under the light of moonlit skies
And I receive answers
In the silence

Noisy Peace

We ask for peace
But it is not the peace of the dead we want
The peace we ask for is noisy
The peace we want asks questions
The peace we yearn for plays and laughs
It can be raucous and capricious
Silly or somber
But it is seldom silent
For even in its quiet moments
The peace we long for
Speaks to us in thoughts and ideas
The peace we long for
Sings to us in gentle harmony
The peace we long for
And is free

A Single Flower

A single flower
Grows among the chaos of loss
Grows among the wreckage of exile
Grows among the havoc of homelessness
And dances upon its stem
Anchored among debris and devastation
For joy

Let Me Walk with Love

Let me walk with love
While the world seems full of hate
Let me walk with you
Through walls of strangers
Hoping they and I and you
Will see we all are one
Let me see the cracks
In walls of strangers
Cracks through which grow sprouts
Cracks through which grow weeds
And flowers and clover
And let me lean against that wall
And feel the love
Pushing through cracks
In a wall only seeming
To be full of hate
But bursting with love

A Single Candle

A single candle
Burns through wax
And must be snuffed
Before it burns too widely
A single candle
Lights our night
And can be used to brighten
Or to burn
To warm
Or to destroy
Like we ourselves
Can heal or harm
Brighten or burn
All that we cherish

The world is full of homeless
Some scrambling in cities
That once housed them
Some waking up to empty skies
Where tents had been removed
While they slept
Some waking to rubble
Where homes once had been
Where the dead accompanied their slumber
The world is full of homeless
And full of bounty
To house and feed those in want
To bring peace to families
Frightened or destroyed by war
To wrap the wounds
To cure the ill
To feed the hungry
To hug and warm the babies
Who have barely seen the world
Beyond the womb they left
Bereft of all they might expect
Of love and hope
The world is full of homeless
Full of sorrow
Full of grief
Bestowed upon the innocent
The world cries out in anguish
This is not my world
I am joy
I am beauty
I am love
I am a home for all
Restore me
So all may find hope
Restore me
So all may find peace
Restore me
So all may find love
Restore me
So all may find home
In my arms

John Pilger

John Pilger
Australian journalist
Ushered us out of the year 2023
With his death at 84
Champion for the rights
Of  his Australian indigenous people
And for justice in Vietnam, Cambodia
East Timor and Iraq
Wherever his vision and his pen led him
Over sixty documentaries critical of imperialism
Of the United States and Great Britain
Supportive of truth and truth tellers
Fighting to the end for the release of Julian Assange
Pilger insisted
Those who speak truth
Are our unsung heroes
Our collective conscience

The Rusty Arc

The rusty arc
Spreading towards hope
But not yet justice
Bent and broken
Full of sharp edges
Edges that hurt
Edges that cut and bruise
The rusty arc bends
Bends towards misery
The rusty arc
Meant to be an arc of peace
Yet misused
Then forgotten
Its rusty knobs and screws
Dropping flakes of rust
Painted with dried blood
Till one day
The rusty arc
Bent and broken
Drops heavily
A forgotten heaven
To a waiting earth
Ready to embrace
A lost arc
Bent and bloodied
A lost arc
Meant to bend towards justice
Now buried in a forgiving earth
To send out shoots one day
Green shoots
Born of blood and rust
Green shoots born of a tarnished arc
An arc of green foliage
Bending again
Bending against the sky
Bending upwards towards renewal
Bending again
Not yet towards justice
But again towards human hope
That it may yet find its destiny
In a new justice
Of the human spirit


Kirk Lumpkin


You don’t grow up,

        you just give up

        when you quit

        asking why

Don’t you know, don’t you know,

        don’t you know that you better

        Keep alive,

        keep alive,

        keep alive

Don’t you know that you betta

        keep alive

Keep alive

        the question why

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        it helps to inform us both

        you and I

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        every time you don’t there’s a

        little bit you die

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        there will always be more

        to which it will apply

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        it can help you focus

        with your own eye

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

         it could help you understand the place

        you occupy

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        There is so much junk they want

        us to buy

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        it can help you deal with what

        makes you cry

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        the police have made another

        unarmed black man die

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        it helps to tell the difference

        between truth and lie

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        there’s a lot you won’t learn

        if this you do not try

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        The men that think they run world

        want women to be shy

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        you cannot trust a government

        that on you spies

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        without incisive questions

        things rigidify

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        it’s the kind of word

        that you can make your ally

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        they’ll want to go to war and many

        innocents will die

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

answers light you up

        like you’re a fire fly

Ask why, ask why, ask why, Because

        wonder isn’t childish

        it’s the original high

Ask why, ask why, ask why, ask why, ask why

Ask why

You don’t grow up,

        you just give up

        when you quit

        asking why


*Here are some of the messages that attendees wrote to Toomaj*

Message to Toomaj -
You are brave, and your words are bold, beautiful and true.
I honor and appreciate the wild and revolutionary spirit I hear in your words and your music.
Thank you. I support you.


We Do Not Have to Live Like This!

Soothing veneer
Seething fear
Rage unspent.

How will it end?

Will we finally contend?

~ A longtime supporter



Asalam Alaikum. Peace and Blessings to you and love and light.

Thank you for your courage and strength
You are an inspiration to us xxxxx sisters everwhere

Standing up for our rights

Thank you



Sisters and brothers, political prisoners of Iran, in the clutches of a reactionary, murderous regime that betrays humanity…

While YOU stand for hope in a future free of oppression —
you the brave prisoners of Iran are an inspiration,
you represent the courage of resistance and
the courage of seeking a new world
free of theocrats, oppressors, capitalists, imperialists —

While the people in their millions aspire to a world where you are free and we all are free.

Free Toomaj and all the courageous prisoners in Iran!!!

~a fellow spirit in San Francisco, California


One day, once upon a time,
I was hidden away by an angry troll.
The trolls bound me, chained me.
What they wanted came to be,
One day, once upon a time.

I was allowed to return home by an angry troll.
The trolls kept hold of me, financially
and still to this day emotionally.
But both inside of the trap
And outside of the trap
I will BE and was always supposed to
BE for existence.
(here I am writing you – who are like my family -
about how, once, I was locked up too.)

People out here care about YOU!!!

Don’t lose hope!

 ~(name withheld]