Uncommon Conversations

Maryam Zar


Maryam Zar was born in Iran. She arrived in the United States in 1979 and grew up in New Jersey. She went to Boston University for a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and to Pepperdine Law School for a Juris Doctorate.

In 1992 she went back to Iran to become an advertising executive at a time when the nation was just emerging from war, and made her mark as a fiercely capable woman in a patriarchal land where women in the workplace were unwelcome. She parlayed her skill and her language arts into a job as an editor for an English language daily newspaper and quickly became a rising star, with her own dedicated page. She became a correspondent for publications based in London and Dubai, then quickly became a target for the Islamic republic moral police, and fled Iran.

Since then, she has Founded Womenfound, an organization dedicated to raising awareness for the plight of women around the world and advocating for the empowerment of women in patriarchal societies where opportunities and rights for women are scarce. She has also become a wife and mother, as well as a community activist and leader.

She currently Chairs the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils (WRAC). She is the former Chair of the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) and the Founding Chair of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness. She is also the an elected delegate for Assembmy Diagrixt 50 and has serves on the Executive Board of the Business and Professional Caucus. She is the former President of PTSA at Paul Revere Middle School in Los Angeles.

She is a tireless advocate for everything that is just, and an endlessly creative thinker with the organized skill to motivate people and seek solutions to some of the tough issues that face our communities today. She has been recognized for her work by LA County Supervisor, Sheila Kuehl as “Volunteer of the Year” (2016), and named “Honorary Fire Chief” for Pacific Palisades by Fire Station 69. She was the first VP of Communications for the UN Women Chapter of the US National Committee for UN Women in LA, when it was first founded in 2012, and was recently elected as a Delegate for the 50th Assembly District.

She writes as a contributor for the Huffington Post as well as her local paper, the Palisadian Post. She is the mother of 3 children in LAUSD Elementary, Middle and High Schools, and is active at each school with an unyielding spirit of community service.

Show Description: 
Uncommon Conversations is a weekly radio program with Hosts, Maryam Zar, about the issues of our time. Big or small, sexy or mundane, generational or timeless, some events shape our time and loom large in our minds. These conversations craft the world we live in and help give our thoughts texture, open our eyes to new perspectives and make us consider points of view we never thought we could. Uncommon Conversations seeks to bring forward unique guests and engage with them to have the kinds of conversation we all wish we could have around our coffee tables. We will engage community voices and seasoned pros to discuss the common issues that touch our lives, but in uncommon ways that brings depth and perspective to the issues we all grapple with. Whether its parenting or side-walk vending, global politics or humanitarian tragedies, local conversations can have global impact and they can shape the way we live. What we narrate as a generation at our dinner tables shapes the world that unfolds in generations to come. Let’s be part of crafting that future, by taking the time to have the uncommon conversations we all crave. Tune in Thursdays at 11am. Be part of the narrative that shapes your life.

Show Archives

January 2020


December 2019


November 2019


October 2019


September 2019


From the best of "Uncommon Conversations" : Ariel Gold, Code Pink National co-Director; Alison Carlman, Global Giving Dir of impact and Communications; Priyali Sur, The Azadi Project Founder


Carolyn Said, staff writer for San Francisco Chronicle covering tech - talks to Maryam about the gig economy and the transformation that Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) may bring to the workforce that has fueled start-ups and sustained small businesses for years sfchronicle.com/author/carolyn-said.

Elizabrth Eastlund, the Executive Director of Rainbow Services, talks about domestic violence and the programs at Rainbow Services that help re-empower women and men who flee the violence and face homelessness rainbowservicesdv.org/who-we-are

Amy Turk, Innovations Officer at Downtown Women's Center talks about female homelessness, its unique circumstances and the programs that help re-empower women to transition out of homelessness Downtown Women's Center – Every woman housed.


Our first guest is the film maker, Janice Engel whose newest documentary is a focus on the life and times of Molly Ivins. Molly was a columnist and political commentator who made waves critiquing politicians and elected officials, with a searing whit and a good natured gfaww that made her uniquely Texan. “Raise Hell” is a remarkably good film about an extraordinary woman, whose life and times are strikingly applicable to today. Watch: youtu.be/7h9U0b8SHlU


Nick Melvoin, LAUSD Board VP joins us to talk about guns, vaping, mental health, homelessness, guns and budget. Nick looks back at the good will that was generated after the successful negotiated end to the LA teachers strike in January 2019, and the budgeting windfall from the State that did not happen. Still, the board has made great strides toward improved outcomes, better school safety and a big investment in mental health, with 29 new LAUSD schools having full time health aides now to assist in mental health support. See also: boardmembermelvoin.com


Zaydee Sanchez - an activist and recipient of the Pioneer of the Year award by LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz joins us to talk about what she’s seen south of the border as she visits shelters in Tijuana and migrant detention centers on the US side of the border. Camp and prison like conditions all around, with people eating in limbo for their lives to unfold. Check her out at migrantcrossings.weebly.com


August 2019


We talk to LA City Attorney, Mike Feuer about his Blue Ribbon Panel on school safety - issued a series of recommendations made to LAUSD, including a point person on safety, better metal health resources in schools and ga appropriate response training.

We then talk to Max Goldberg and Julia Posin of Steel Straws about climate, politics and the blue, reusable “Trump Sucks” straw. And early up with Professor Mindy Romero of USC, to talk about election trends among people looking to reinforce their own beliefs or change the game, more than learning the depths of policy of thinking ahead for the common good.


Cat Packer, from the LA City Department of Cannabis Regulation (cannabis.lacity.org), joins us to talk about the state of cannabis regulation and the objectives and pitfalls that shape this policy, leading the way for the nation as cannabis becomes legal in more and more states across this land. We also talk to Danielle Matthew, LMFT, about back to school bullying, peer pressure, healthy social relationships with peers and adults, and what we can do as parents to raise empowered kids. See her wisdom at the Empowerment Space (empowerment.space).


Circling the News Sue Pascoe joins us to talk about small town journalism, using the digital medium to put out her content and the importance of real news from the ground in this day of “fake News” being the mantra to discredit anything that politicians and policy makers see as unflattering. We used this Time magazine article as a jumping point: time.com/5475490/writers-truth-democracy-jennifer-egan. We then talk to Michelle Mayans who leads Kids Scoop Media kidscoopmedia.org/about_us, along with one of her young writers who talks about inspiration, social change, gun control and reporting from the White House (Obama & Trump).


Maryam Zar heads down to the US/Mexico border to visit Border Angels (borderangels.org) and stop at a shelter in Tijuana, housing some 330 families with a mobile school bus. She visists a shelter and helps teach an arts and crafts class with the mobile school project. Support them on Go Fund Me (gofundme.com/f/the-mobile-school-project)! Thousands of asylum seekers arrive in Tijuana every day. US Customs and Border Patrol gives them court dates and they await those appearances while in shelters. We talk to the Honorable Ashley Tabaddor, who is the President on the Union of Immigration Judges and is advocating for an independent immigration court, not one that is housed under the DOJ. President trump has moved to decertify the Union (nytimes.com/2019/08/10/us/immigration-judges-union-justice-department.html) Judge Tabaddor talks to Maryam & John about the backlog of immigration cases, and the quotas/expectations placed on immigration judges in today’s landscape. Most of the migrant shelters in Tijuana are full, overflowing with men, women and children who are in desperate need of accommodations, warm clothing, food, water and hygiene supplies. Maryam talks to Andrea from Border Angels and the mobile school bus, as well as Pastor Gustavo from the Church that houses migrant families, live from the border.


A conversation with Judy Dempsey, nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and Editor-in-Chief of the Strategic Europe blog, to talk about the two powerful women taking on leadership roles in monetary policy and European politics: Ursula Van der Leyen (EC Pres) and Christine Lagarde (IMF Chief).

We highlighted her work at Carnegie, her insight into the region and this Article in the Washington Post.

Lila Seidman, LA Times Community News Editor talks about fossil fuels and LA’s move away from them.

Ross Tieman, former Financial Times Europe writer joins us to talk about deforestation, Bolsonaro, and the rest of Europe purposefully planting trees to save the world. weforum.org/agenda/2019/07/forest-europe-environment and theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/13/worlds-lost-forests-returning-trees

July 2019


Writer/attorney Ms. Sean Quinn Walpole - on Italian refugee crisis.

Nigel Scott, London - “Who is Boris Johnson, and why?”

Maryam talks about Abe Shinzo, Japanese politics and Asian culture.


Peter Conradi, Europe Editor, The Sunday Times of London, On the “Green Wave” and what the US can learn from recent Euro-elections.

Amy Friedman of Executive Director, POPS - protecting children of incarcerated parents – amazon.com/Desperados-Wife-Memoir-Amy-Friedman

Mimi Soltysik – He was the presidential candidate for the Socialist Party USA in 2016 – “Now everyone left of Trump is a socialist, apparently, what is a socialist today?” wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimi_Soltysik_2016_presidential_campaign


This week, Maryam and John talk to April Roeseler, Chief of the California Tobacco Control Program California Department of Public Health about the flavorshookkids.org campaign, aimed at raising awareness about the perils of vaping. See their video here: flavorshookkids.org, and listen to our June 27th show with Rochester Univ. Researcher, Dr. Rahman to learn more about the waviness of vaping. Next we talk to Michalel Boehm from the German American Business Associayion (GABA - gaba-network.org/socal) about electric vehicles and their future is sustainable cities, Green party gains in EU elections and the future of tech as well as clean energy and the partnership for sustainability between LA an Berlin. Finally, we touch on recent earthquakes in LA that have jarred a population to alert by talking to Crisanta Gonzalez from the Community Preparedness and Engagement Division of the LA Emergency Management Department (emergency.lacity.org). 


June 2019


May 2019


Donald Trump, European elections, LGBT rights and roll backs and the consequence of fast fashion around the globe, and it's impact on apparel manufacturing workers around the world.

Links: sepishyne.com/whoiam and


Uncommon Conversations today we talked to Nurit Katz, UCLA’s Chief Sustainability Officer about sustainable living and reducing our carbon footprint as Angelenos. Mayor Garcetti paves the path for a Green New Deal and UCLA leads the way in showing how we can think about and implement a sustainable future. sustain.ucla.edu Get in Board.

We then talked to Jennifer Reitman, founder of DAME Media (damemedia.com) about the political landscape in the US, the candidates vying for the Dem nomination and the white policy wonk woman label that everyone is running from. Sign up to become a member: damemagazine.com

Finally, we talked to award winning Politico writer, Nahal Toosi about the new Middle East peace plan that has no "two state solution", but a focus on economic development and opportunity. politico.com/story/2019/05/21/trump-israel-palestinians-1336621 Will it work? Can it engage the Palestinians?

Next week, Brexit and the toll of quick fashion on the factory workers you never see...


This week uncommon conversations took off globally to consider the lives of people all over the world through the photography of Todd Snyder. See his work in Instagram @Todd_Snyder. We also talked to Lily Lapena (lilylapena.com) about social enterprise, the role of technology and the lives of people on the margins, where talent might be abounding but opportunity is not.


Elizabeth Warren gets the cover of Time magazine – why is she getting no traction…. Is she too much of a policy wonk?

Leila Milani – a global activist on women’s rights and issues, Leila Milani, Founder of futureswithoutviolence.org, talks about the UN Resolution last week, sponsored by Germany with language long agreed upon by Western nations, which was threatened to be vetoed by the US, unless the language of reproductive rights was watered down. The resolution focused on offering aid to women who have experienced gender based violence and trauma in conflict zones, including reproductive health care, as well as a robust oversight body to prosecute perpetrators. The US insisted that both sets of language referring to those two pillars of the resolutions be tempered. Does that reflect our national temperament? What are the global effects of this new conservative US disposition, refusing to uphold women’s rights and basic agency over their bodies?

Faheba Monir – photographer and activist in Bangladesh documenting the light of Rohingya refugees, from Myanmar to Bangladesh. fabehamonir.net - As a humanist photographer, Fabeha Monir tells people-focused stories that explore the themes of social development, migration, gender violence, and forced exile in marginalized communities. She is a Dhaka based visual journalist who uses still images and video to provide multi-faceted storytelling for editorial and non-profit clients.


From space to the inner city – An interview with the CEO of Virgin Galactic – with George Whitesides (virgingalactic.com/who-we-are/our-team), celebrating International Space Day. Fascinating conversation with a rocket scientists.

A conversation with a group of people: Sara Reyes (Cal Endow Managing Dir of Communications - calendow.org), Jennifer Ybarra (Dir of Youth Development Task Force) and Lou Calanche (Founder & Exec Dir of Legacy LA - legacyla.org) from the California Endowment and Legacy LA to talk about how unique plans are underway to transform communities long thought to be underserved, using the input and insight of residents and stakeholders who have a vision as to how these communities can grow and thrive. Also talked about the establishment of a new Youth Task Force empowered by La City Council so young people can have a say in how their inner city neighborhoods are improved. Young people, dare we say, are the future!

Jennifer Reitman , Founder and Editor in Chief of DAME media – an all female run and content generated medium that works hard to change the narrative around women in politics, women in finance, women in industry – women unlimited by stereotypes and having an impact in every walk of life. 100% edited by women. 100% Bylined by women. damemagazine.com Click over and become a member, today!

April 2019


A conversation with Linda Booker (strawsfilm.com/#home-section), producer of the documentary, STRAWS, about the peril of straws in our seas. Look for biodegradable products and demand them. The technology is out there, but the products are still prohibitively expensive for restaurants and businesses to give them away. Even cutlery can be biodegradable, but its not widely distributed. Demand real biodegradable disposable utensils/straws, and make room for those industries to grow. The demand will drive down the price. The price will dictate the market penetration.

Mel Tillekeratne joins us to talk about homelessness, real help, housing and the #sheDoes campaign (youtube.com/watch?v=D4W4mMcC2Ic ) he launched – saying yes homeless women deserve housing, shelter, support and resources to transition out of homelessness. He also started the Showers of Hope – mobile showers that go to homeless encampments across the city and bring people showers and hygiene resources. youtube.com/watch?v=-pCSERUmGjo


Self publishing Arial and Davidthe Book Doctors – speaking at LA Festival of Books – how to finish that great book and also the mechanics of publishing books.

Dr. Gigig Abdel-Hamed talks to us about the inspiration of a little Egyptian girl to become a doctor. She became a great ER Dr., succumbed to addiction, then left medicine and came back to “put the heart back in” to doctoring and encourage people to go into medicine for all the right reasons. Let’s not over prescribe to fix ills that can be addressed with just a human connection. Dr. Abdel Hamed is attempting a grass roots resurgence of back to basics paying real attention to patients, and helping bring human connection back to the practice of medicine.


Rex Weiner – modern day storytelling: rexweiner.com . Conversation about how writing and storytelling has changed in the modern day, with digital technology and writers workshops teaching people how to write.

Moms Demand Action – Mia Porter (fox40.com/2019/03/17/activists-to-rally-behind-gun-violence-prevention-legislation-at-capitol ) from Moms Demand Action comes to talk to us about why America can’t move on common sense gun control and why we’ve become desensitized to gun violence, not just mass shootings but domestic violence, suicide, singular homicides. Mass shootings make up 20% of people who dies by gun violence per year. 80% of the 100 + people who die by gun violence in the States are not felled by mass shootings, but daily gun violence. Why can’t we legislate?

Aura Vasquez – LADWP Commissioner to talk about the Green New Deal. We need to rethink the way we live as Angelenos if we are ever going to get to 100% renewable energy, and this Mayor is going to be talking about a host of clean energy options – from wind to solar to renewable storage devices – to get us there.

March 2019


Congestion pricing in LA – commentary and a promise to bring guests and talk about LA traffic.

Brexit – Nigel Scott, went to the million man march in London to protest Brexit. He is horrified by Brexit and we had a conversation, not just about the social movement that originated with the far right to take Britain out of Europe, but also the financial consequences of Brexit for Britons and the economic fallout that people are finally acknowledging and beginning to brace for.

Swan Within – theswanwithin.org Meredith Harper Houston is the Founder and Chair of The Swan Within. The Swan Within is a nonprofit that transforms the lives of underage girls who have survived of sexual exploitation as children, and continue to suffer through juvenile incarceration. Dancing through the discipline of ballet can bring back control over bodies, and empower the young mind to take back control and refocus on the future. Ballet allows kids to retake agency over their bodies, and work through the trauma, as well as find companionship and an empowering tribe to help recover and move ahead. We are so proud of Meredith and hope everyone supports her!

Kayla Judge and Deven Radfar – Seniors in high school from New York City and Los Angeles help us talk through the recent college scandal involving parents paying what amounts to bribes to get their children into colleges. How does that feel for kids on the ground competing for space in elite colleges?


Space – John Harlow spent time with rocket scientists at Virgin Orbits in Long Beach, building a rocket propulsion system for cost effective travel to space. Twenty years ago, this was unthinkable. Today, private sector involvement is making space accessible for humanity.

Janice Roshhale Littlejohn – talking about Persian Culture and Now Rooz – Persian New Year, celebrated by 30 million people around the world, across many cultures.

Dr. David Burns – Professor at Stanford and author of “Feeling Good, the new Mood Therapy” - a discussion on optimism. How can people program themselves to be cheerful, and alter a disposition that is depressed to optimism quickly, without drugs.

Titi Lope - titilope.ca poet and activist who impacts the world she lives in through her poetry, performances, Nigerian Canadian woman who performed a poem at the inauguration of a Nigerian President. Empowers women by being uniquely female and uses technology (background in engineering) to empower women, and help them think outside the box and aspire to careers in science and technology. Launches a program called “She will Connect”, working with Intel. Uses digital platform to impact the lives of girls in Nigeria. Amazing woman> Click over to her site and learn more!


Lena Sun from Washington Post joins us to talk about vaccines. Anti Vaxers have had a resurgence in messaging while American families have pulled back on their willingness to get their children or themselves vaccinated, but now there are measles outbreaks in eleven states with more than 200 cases all over the nation, and now finally people are paying attention. This is not a benign action with no consequences. State legislators are finally paying attention. Tune in to see how things are progressing.

Attorney, Steve Cron talks to us about the Michael Cohen Congressional testimony and its aftermath.

Essential Access Health - a funder for Planned Parenthood talks about the new gag rule that limits Title X funding for family planning services – including health and outreach as well as essential health care services – that are being cut because the federal government is withholding funding from any provider that talks about or gives information on reproductive healthcare.

February 2019


Ariel Gold, Code Pink National co-Director; Alison Carlman, Global Giving Dir of impact and Communications; Priyali Sur, The Azadi Project Founder


This week, John and Maryam talked to Zaydee Sanchez and Scott Barker about their experience south of the border in Tijuana. Zaydee and Scott were originally working on a documentary about LA homelessness when they decided to head south and earth the human story evolving south of the border. You can follow their work on Facebook:


Instagram @migrantcrossings

Twitter @migrantcrossing

They then pivoted to the Oscar’s and talked to Dr. Joel Waldfogel, author of the book, Digital Rennaisance, who told us the digitization of film has made it easier for film makers to create more flow of creative work, and that has improved the the quality of film, and even for self published books. 


Digital Rennaisance: books.google.com/books/about/Digital_Renaissance.html


In this week’s episode of Uncommon Conversations we discuss global freedom in retreat with Sarah Rapucci from Freedom House (freedomhouse.org), and have an exclusive interview with Sean Ryan, Marie Colvin’s last Editor at the Sunday Times, who now works at Save the Children (savethechildren.org).;

Freedom house has found global democracy in retreat for the 13th year in a row, and we discuss why - from war and conflict to democratic systems and press freedoms, we delve into the report: freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2019

And we discuss the life and times of Marie Colvin along with the two films that portray her last assignment - the one that likes her amid the brutal fighting in syria that has besieged civilians for nearly a decade.

Before we close, we treat our listeners to a reggae love ballad by XOrasta Ricci and the Tic Tac Toes. Their song Wakayo won the reggae song of the year! Click here to support them:


In this week’s Uncommon Conversations Maryam Zar and John Harlow talk with USC psychologist Dr. Ayeshi Madni on identifying healthy relationship that children have with adults, and understanding when to step in when those relationship become disempowering or unhealthy. We also talked to millennial activist, Claire Tacherra-Morrison, Deputy Campaign Director at Sunrise Movement which campaigned for the election of progressive candidates in state houses as well as Congress, and was instrumental in developing the impetus behind the Green New Deal that was introduced by Senator Markey and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cotez on Feb. 7, 2019. We also had Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian on to discuss the recent visit by Gabby Giffords to Sacramento, and the renewed commitment that State legislators have to enacting sensible gun laws in CA. ASM Nazarian has introduced AB-18 (along with ASM Levine and Bonta), which promises to fund violence prevention programs with taxes collected on certain gun sales. Ultimately he believes states can’t just sit by and watch Federal inaction on this issue.

January 2019


Join us for a discussion about homelessness, with Alisa Orduna, former LA City Homelessness Policy Director to Mayor Eric Garcetti, and now working for the City of Santa Monica as the Sr. Adviser to the City Manager on Homelessness. We are then joined by Larry Gross, Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, and region 12 CADEM Director (encompassing Assembly Districts 39 - Luz Rivas, 45 - Jesse gabriel, 46 - Adrin Nazarian & 50 - Richard Bloom).


Tune to hear about the Women's March LA, and the movement underway to empower women, craft policies to improve their quality of life, and elect more to local elected positions in municipalities across LA county, as well as nationally. the Honorable, Lindsey Horvath, former West Hollywood Mayor and CA State Delegate, and current candidate for WeHo City Council is our gust for that segment.

Then we turn to international news and events with a discussion of BREXIT, led by John Harlow, with out guest from Brussels, Nicholas J Cull, historian and the director of the Master's in Public Diplomacy program at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.


Topics included the LAUSD/UTLA teacher strike, local ADEM elections, and Brexit.

At air time on Jan 17th, the teachers strike enters the end of a first week, with no breakthrough hailed imminent yet. We talked to Nick Melvoin, LAUSD District 4 Board member & Board VP and Kaye Steinsapir, a local mother, lawyer and opinion leader among school parents.

Our ADEM discussion centered around the engagement of residents in districts across this taking part in a hyper-local democracy that plays out across America in small communities with real, grassroots, activists.  Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEM) are elections where local residents have a say in how their state political party shapes the narrative of the local legislature. We had Steve Bott, running in AD50 in the Grassroots slate leading the conversation along with Lauren Perotti running in AD46, Sudi Farrokhnia in AD 73, and political consultant and former ADEM candidate, Michael Soneff.