(Courtesy photos of posters by Daliah Ammar.)
“We strive to encourage Arab Americans to be involved in shaping their future, to be the change they wish to see in the world, to affirm that their opinions matter and their voices need to be heard.”
Hazami Sayed, the executive director of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, was describing the impetus for the nonprofit’s ongoing initiative Sawwit — which means ‘vote’ in Arabic — an effort to increase civic engagement through arts and culture.
“Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture is engaged in civic issues,” Sayed told Generocity via email, “particularly in using the arts and creating bilingual content to reach Arab American communities around Census 2020 and voting.”
But not only Arab Americans.
In the fall, Al-Bustan collaborated with Spiral Q, PA Voice, Vote that Jawn, New Africa Center, Arab American CDC and the Arab American Institute in raising awareness about social/racial justice issues and the need to vote and be civically engaged, and distributing posters in neighborhoods across the city, as well as hosting public art-making events in West Philadelphia.
“We commissioned Palestinian American artist Daliah Ammar to create a series of bilingual posters featuring portraits of diverse people while highlighting the need to participate in shaping the future of our city and country,” Sayed said. “We also commissioned videographer Dave Tavani to create a bilingual PSA video interviewing various community members in Philadelphia.”
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Art by West Philadelphia artist Brian Bazemore (aka BCASSO), and others who collaboratively created artwork with community members during a series of public events, are on display at Al-Bustan’s Hub located at 3645 Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia through November 3.
Last week, Al-Bustan participated in the first National Arab American Voter Registration Day with the National Network for Arab American Communities through live events, a coordinated social media campaign, and online webinars, according to Sayed.
And this coming Ssaturday (October 17 from 3 to 5 p.m.) Al-Bustan is hosting We Must Love & Protect One Another, a family-friendly event created in partnership with Police Free Penn, People’s Emergency Center, Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association, West Powelton Saunders Park Civic Association, Mantua Civic Association, and Powelton Village Civic Association, which will take place at Al-Bustan’s Lancaster Avenue hub.
“Together we want to show solidarity and support for one another as we address ongoing issues within our communities,” Sayed said. “Re-imagining relationships of care and ways of participating in advocating for community safety are important. By providing learning resources from Black Lives Matter at School and creating a space for coming together around art-making, storytelling, and drumming, we hope to demonstrate the strength of our communities.”
On October 23, the organization will present Crossing Genres, a concert featuring Kinan Abou-afach (cello), Shinjoo Cho (bandoneon), and Hafez Kotain (percussion), which explores Arab, Korean, and Latin musical traditions. The pre-recorded concert will be broadcast online, and will be followed by a live conversation with the artists.
“Representation matters,” Sayed said, “and the origination of civically engaged art by Arabs, BIPOC, and community-based organizations is critical to shaping the future of our neighborhoods.”-30-
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