Arab Cultural Night, jointly hosted by Yale’s Arab Student Association, Students of Salaam and The Yale Refugee Project, brought members of the New Haven refugee community and members of the Yale community together Wednesday to celebrate Arab culture and art.
The event, which took place in the Asian American Cultural Center, consisted of stalls where refugees and teachers’ assistants for Arabic language courses taught calligraphy, ornament making, glass painting and Dabke, a form of dance. Attendees also tasted traditional tea and sampled Middle Eastern food.
“We want to say that we are here and want to be involved in this country,” said Marwan Jalani ’20, the ASA social chair. “We want to change this image that people have of Arabs in the U.S. We are not temporary here. We are part of this country.”
Yale’s Department of Near East Languages and Civilizations co-sponsored the event.
The event was inspired by conversations between ASA and Students of Salaam, explained Rosa Shapiro-Thompson ’19, president of the Yale Refugee Project. YRP offered to support the event and encouraged the hiring of local refugees.”
Jalani said he hoped the event would give Yale community members the chance to explore aspects of Arab culture while also bridging the gap between New Haven’s refugee community and the Yale community.
“The most important thing about our culture is the sense of community,” said Mohamed Anwer Akkari ’20, political chair of ASA and an Arabic teaching assistant. “We feel like if members of Yale experience our community, they will be even more welcoming to refugees and to our culture.”
The event came just two days after the United States Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump’s travel ban to go into effect.
Shapiro-Thompson said it was heartening to see that members of the Yale community are eager to celebrate and explore Arab culture, even as the federal government distances the United States from many Arab nations.
“The ruling comes as the administration continues its project of dismantling the U.S. refugee program,” Shapiro-Thompson said. “Arab Cultural Night makes space for us to celebrate Arabs, Muslims and the humanity of refugees, whether in our communities or abroad, unjustly and dangerously barred from entry.”
The cultural night is part of a recent push by the ASA to be more visible on campus and expand its events to a broader audience, according to Shady Qubaty ’20, treasurer of the ASA. Through the event and a planned April conference on social and political issues, ASA hopes both to raise awareness of the club among members of Yale’s Arab community and to increase its membership.
“ASA wants to change the negative connotations attached to being Middle Eastern,” said Qubaty. “There is a magnificent side of being Arab.”
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