LAU New York Headquarters and Academic Center hosts a series of events that aim at fostering a better understanding of what the war-torn country is about.
With the implosion of Syria’s social fabric and near total collapse of its institutions, many question the country’s ability to remain resilient, and its people hopeful.
This fall, LAU’s New York Academic Center launched a series called Syria Resilient, consisting of five events aimed at fostering an understanding of Syria, not as a land of war and tragedy, but as a place of origin and sentiment for over 150,000 Americans whose ancestors began settling in the United States in the 1880s.
The series was conceived by LAU NY Academic Executive Director Lina Beydoun, and includes music and art performances, a panel discussion, and film screenings.
It takes place in conjunction with the Little Syria exhibition at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, a comprehensive and unprecedented presentation of the early Syrian community in New York, and across the U.S.
“Syria Resilient aims to humanize the experiences of everyday Syrians, by offering a platform for Syrian voices to express their own experiences of—and responses to—the war,” says Beydoun.
The first event, an evening of poetry, prose and music, co-sponsored by the New Pen League on September 27, brought together Syrian-Canadian writer Ghada Alatrash and New York Arabic Orchestra co-founders Bassam Saba and April Centrone. Alatrash read excerpts from her new book, Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women, while Saba and Centrone accompanied the readings with soulful Arabic music.
“Poetry is important because the news that we get from the media desensitizes our feelings, it dehumanizes the characters, transforming them into numbers and statistics, whereas poetry awakens that which is human in us. It takes us to the place where we can connect,” says Alatrash.
On October 6, LAU teamed up with Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program for a political discussion on Syria, entitled “Syria’s Predicament and the U.S. Role.” The panel included Syria watchers Joshua Landis and Steven Cook, and was moderated by journalist Patricia Sabga.
“It is important for academic institutions like LAU and Bard to present an analytical view of Syria and the overall situation in the Middle East,” said James Ketterer, dean of International Studies at Bard College. “That includes putting the crisis into the context of the arts, poetry, and music, which helps personify a population.”
Other events in the series will include a musical/visual art performance on November 3 entitled “Home Within,” featuring Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, and Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad. The series will wrap up in December with two separate film screenings.
By offering a counter-narrative to the headlines about Syria in the mainstream media, the Syria Resilient series advances the New York Academic Center’s goal to raise public awareness of the Middle East and promote cross-cultural understanding.
The Syria Resilient Series is made possible by the generous support of: The Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, New York Council for the Humanities, Lloyd Baroody & Zeina Mehio, and Aida Sharabati-Shawwaf.