UMich students celebrate Palestinian culture with food, music and talk

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) welcomed approximately 300 members of the campus community to celebrate Palestinian culture Thursday night at the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom. The event was organized in conjunction with the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Wayne State, and Oakland University.

Comedian and storyteller Majdy Fares performed live at the event and the Mawtini Dabkeh troupe took part in a traditional dance performance. The evening also included a Middle Eastern buffet dinner and ended with a dance floor open to all attendees. All ticket sales and donations will go to support Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

Second-year Wayne State Miral Dakhlallah, who will be on board for the SJP Wayne Chapter in the fall, said she was thrilled to attend the event, especially seeing Dabkeh, a traditional Arabic folk dance played at celebrations.

“I hope this event will raise awareness that we need to support the Palestinian refugees, and that in my opinion is the greatest achievement of this event,” Dakhlallah said.

Arabic music played throughout the night as attendees helped themselves to dinner. The menu included salad, pita bread, rice and lentils, Moroccan vegetable stew, shish tawook and cookies. A Kahoot game invited all participants to test their knowledge of Palestinian culture, art, music and dance traditions.

Dabkeh’s performance was greeted with cheers and applause to the beat of the drums. Almost everyone stood up to get a better look at the performers, who wore traditional headscarves as they danced. The group danced energetically and performed a series of rhythmic steps.

The Culture Night was the grand finale after a week-long series of events for Palestine Awareness Week, an initiative launched in 2005 with the aim of raising awareness about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and the human rights violations that Palestinians face. Other events this week include Tatreez Night, Palestinian Futurism in Art and Film, Burning in Organizing in conjunction with the United Asian American Organization, and Art as Resistance with Islamic arts lecturer, Dr. Sascha Crasnow.

Oakland University freshman Deema El-Baba, vice president of Oakland University’s SJP chapter, said her grandparents were Palestinian refugees and she was happy to have the opportunity to support, plan and create Thursday’s event to also support other refugees.

“I wanted to see the culmination of my culture through the people of Michigan,” El-Baba said. “It’s so nice to see so many people here, not just Palestinians, and it’s so nice to celebrate Palestinian pride and the struggle for Palestinian freedom.”

Maitham Khanafer, an international student from Lebanon at Eastern Michigan University, said he attended the event with friends to celebrate Palestinian culture.

“It’s always nice to see my brothers and sisters from the Middle East, and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen tonight, eating great food, seeing dances and having a great time,” Khanafer said. .

LSA Junior Salma Hamamy said that Palestinian art forms such as painting, embroidery and dance are expressions of resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hamamy said that without justice for Palestinian lives, there can be no peace.

“Our existence is a form of resistance, but we have to learn what it means to be in touch with our culture and our heritage,” Hamamy said. “How do we learn to use this as a form of resistance? We need to establish a deep relationship with our culture and not be embarrassed by it.

Daily reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at [email protected]

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