The Courtyard is a fictional location here in Arcadia not unlike the place where I live,' said Kotun, 54. Kotun's real-life neighbors trace their roots all around the world: Africa, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Mexico and Palestine. And, because his apartment is next to the parking lot, he talks to all of them. "I am most strategically located,' he said. "This is a wealth of material for a radio program. I talk to my neighbors about their programs and say: Let's dramatize it a little bit.' '
The first half-hour of the program is a dramatic story, followed by a half-hour of commentary and discussion with callers. In the first fast-paced episode, a young Muslim man from Pakistan moves in next door to a young Hindu man from India. While the young men don't have a problem living next door to each other, the conflict from their homelands spills over as their visiting parents blame one another for the deaths of family members at the hands of terrorists. "I use these two cantankerous older people to show the absurdity of global conflicts in their countries,' said Kotun. "The idea is, if these guys can't live with each other here, can you imagine what is going on in Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons pointed at each other But if their sons can find a way to live together here in peace, why not there? That's what 'The Courtyard' is all about.'
Kotun said each episode will serve as a springboard to discuss a human conflict of some sort from nations, tribes and gangs killing one another over land and turf to alcoholism and disease. "Every conflict that we create is resolved because the characters talk about it,' said Kotun. "I believe that all of our problems are created in the minds of man and that the solution is there too, so we just have to unleash that.' Upcoming episodes will deal with conflicts in Rwanda, Palestine and Kosovo, among others. "The sky is the limit as to the possibilities of what we can do with the Courtyard,' he said. "No conflict in the world is sacred.' Tom Spencer-Walters, chairman of the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State Northridge, one of about 60 universities that studies "A bi ku ' in the classroom, praised the first episode of the radio program. "It is excellent from the standpoint that it gives a dramatic perspective to these problems,' said Spencer-Walters.
"The program gives us a perspective of how ludicrous some of these problems are,' he said, "and it opens the opportunity for dialogue and discourse about the issues because it opens people to perspectives that perhaps they had never looked at before.' Though it only airs on two radio stations at present, Kotun said he is hopeful it will soon be expanded to several of Pacifica Radio's affiliates. He is also considering creating an animated television program. "This is fiction,' he said. "I create this thing and now they want to use my words to influence the minds of hundreds. Words are powerful. Everything we say becomes a weapon or a medicine depending on how we deliver it and what we say. If we say the right things, people will benefit, if we say the wrong things, people will get hurt.
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