Friday, January 18, 2013

This week's report

I went to four awesome events this week.

The first was a house party presentation put on by the Quaker Meeting in Palo Alto. I was going to attend the Stanford SPER (Students for Palestinian Equal Rights) meeting, but Donna said this would be a good opportunity, so we went with olive oil and zaatar and bread, and there I met the wonderful Joy.

Joy was born in Ramallah in 1936, and lived there until 1945. She was a family historian, collecting documents and pictures of her father's life, much of which was spent in Palestine. What I found fascinating were the old pictures from Ramallah. The Friends School, which some of my own friends worked at this year, looked the same in the early 40's, as did most of the stone buildings and houses in Ramallah. The dress was more formal, but still Western. The graduates wore suits and dresses. The faculty did too, and we saw pictures of them going on retreats in the "country," probably Wadi Qelt or Nabi Musa. It reminded me of the Arab-American Museum in Dearborn. I wasn't used to seeing pictures of Arabs in Western period dress, but there they were, coming through Ellis Island, on faculty retreats outside Ramallah....I see pictures of pre-Israel Palestine posted on Facebook all the time, and it still astounds me how much culture has been glossed over. It's truly criminal.

Joy was a wonderful speaker. She and the audience also appreciated my experience in Ramallah, and we were able to talk about the same places...I even threw in some updates. I'm hoping to see her at her shop in Berkeley soon. She's an expert on Bedouin weaving, and brought some  pieces to show us. 

The second event was an interfaith breakfast attended by local clergy and people involved in local congregations. We had Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist attendees and a Muslim woman representing an interfaith center.

I learned about projects and activities being held at the Beth-El temple in San Mateo, and St. Bartholomew's Church. There's a big interfaith meeting on January 31st that I'll definitely be going to. A lot of people were interested in the work Donna and I are doing, so I think there's a lot of potential to invite these congregations into a peace coalition for Palestine/Israel. At one point I glanced down the table to see that Donna had drawn a sketch of the West Bank on a scrap piece of paper, and the man next to her was asking all these questions about Area C. I've gotten better at dropping that knowledge in casual conversation :)

The third event was a performance with one of my former Whitman classmates, Aisha Fukushima. She traveled the world on a Watson Fellowship, exploring social justice through the lens of hip-hop. The project is called Raptivism, and now she's in the Bay Area! The other day I saw a video of her singing on a radio station in front of George Clinton. Damn!

Another Whittie friend and I rallied some people to see her at the Elbo Room in the Mission, and she was awesome. Seeing her up there, and the response that she's gotten, really inspired me to get back into music. I think we have similar messages about peace and justice, perhaps there's a project in the works there...

The fourth event was the Tech Wadi, a forum for Arab-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. I thought it was going to be a pretty casual event, like a fair, but there was a whole program set up with speakers and a dinner. I was so incredibly impressed by this gathering. People that had started and sold companies for millions were talking about their experience (ok, so I'm a little inexperienced with Silicon Valley, this was bedazzling to me) and I wondered if I could ever start a company. My friends from middle school were now in the business, and had thought of a few start-up ideas, mostly to do with social networking and drinking.

Hmm, is it time to go back to school?

I met Khaled Naim, a Stanford Business School student, who started a company called Addy that lets people all over the world map their address if they don't have one. It's picking up in the Middle East especially. I told him about Area C of the West Bank, and how you can't find those villages on Google Maps because Area C is controlled totally by Israel. Khaled said he was happy to see a few sign-ups from the Palestinian Territories. I want to stay with him as the app gets launched...

Good company, good contacts, good inspiration....good opportunity to practice a little bit of Arabic.  I think I was convinced to visit Beirut too...

Alright, that's it for now. This is my new favorite song. My friend Christie showed this artist to me, and she sounds like Kate Bush/Regina Spektor/Sia/awesome: