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ASU celebrates Palestinian culture in Takoma

Rebecca Green
UNION UNITES – The Arab Student Union held a Palestinian culture night at Busboys and Poets. The union had to relocate after the event was shut down at JR during the planning period.

Last month, the Arab Student Union (ASU) hosted a Palestinian Culture Night at Busboys and Poets in Takoma. The event was originally supposed to be held at Jackson-Reed, however Principal Sah Brown rejected the proposal, forcing ASU to find a new location.

“Everything we’ve been trying to do has been shut down,” said ASU member Maddie Aebersold-Burke. The Union had previously attempted to show a movie about the history of the US media and government’s response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, but the showing was halted.

However, Brown’s most recent refusal did not stop ASU from holding Culture Night. “We had already found most of the people that we wanted to come and perform—we had basically planned the event,” said Aebersold-Burke. So, ASU concluded they would search for a new location. Luckily, Busboys and Poets was happy to host the event. 

ASU’s Palestinian Culture Night kicked off Busboys and Poets Palestinian Week, which lasted from January 18 to 25. The event was held in its own room, to the side of the restaurant, where there was a stage for performers and artists to present. The room, which ASU was able to use free of charge, was decorated with a Palestinian flag, posters advocating for a ceasefire, and Palestinian art. Students, parents, community members, and even some JR teachers filled the room.

“I wanted to come out and support, especially during a time when Palestinians are facing a lot of censorship for advocating for their basic human rights,” said Sarah Suleiman, a community member and friend of ASU member Yasmine Foty. 

Throughout the evening, there was a presentation of art created by Nidal Elkhairy and Mona El-Bayoumis, live music, and dance performances by the Malikat (Queens) of Dabke, a local all-female Dabke group, and other local cultural dancers. 

CULTURAL CELEBRATIONS – Members of the Foty family perform at the Arab Student Union’s Palestinian Culture night.

“In a time when Palestinians are being so horrifically dehumanized, it’s really important to have a celebration of the beauty and humanity of this country and of these people,” said Aebersold-Burke.

Social Studies teachers Michelle Bollinger and Eduardo Canedo traveled to Takoma for the event.

“I wanted to support the students involved in the Arab Student Union because I believe that it would have been great to have [had] the event at our school,” said Bollinger. Additionally Bollinger explained that in the United States, Palestinian culture doesn’t receive much visibility. “I think it’s in our students best interest to be exposed to as many cultures as possible and I don’t think it should wait either because of the crisis right now.” 

When Principal Brown canceled the event at JR, he advised the ASU to hold it either during International Night (which was held in May last year) or Arab American Heritage Month (April).

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