This panel gathers an eclectic group to discuss how historical encounters with Syrian cultural traditions, history, and artifacts can inform an understanding of the contemporary crisis. Does an historical framework better arm us to act in the face of the current war, or create an intellectual overlay that simply protects us from looking the moment fully in the face. What are new NYC-based Syrian immigrants thinking, and how do their experiences overlap with those of other local immigrant communities?
Panelists will consider historical artifacts from the Little Syria Archive, how these objects document family histories, communicate the sense memories embedded upon their fragile surfaces, stand in for abiding political realities, and appropriate the wisdom of a previous generation to the meet the demands of the current moment.
The event will begin with Sami Abu Shumay’s final class Music Tradition from Syria and Egypt in his 8-week series in the Maqam musical tradition, which will lead into the discussion.
Todd Fine is the president of the Washington Street Historical Society, a nonprofit that advocates for the physical preservation of the “Little Syria” neighborhood of Downtown Manhattan and that advances memorialization projects for its literary figures. In 2011, he directed Project Khalid, a campaign to celebrate the centennial year of the publication of Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid (1911), the first Arab-American novel. The campaign included events at the U.S. Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. He also edited a critical edition of The Book of Khalid that was published by Syracuse University Press in 2016. Currently, he is a PhD student of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He holds a BA in government from Harvard University (2004) and an MA in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University (2007).
Mirnan Haidar As a refugee in the States, Mirna found home in being a full-time civil justice and human rights activist. She co-founded Zcollective an Arab and Muslim social justice collective. She is the winner of the Lincoln Brigade Award for her work with marginalized communities in Detroit.
Mariam Jalabi Mariam Jalabi was born in Damascus, Syria and raised in the Golan Heights. She has served as Director for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ Representative Office to the United Nations since 2013. Ms.Jalabi has been actively involved in politics and democratic advocacy since before the start of peaceful demonstrations in Syria, and has led events and rallies in support of the Syrian revolution in the US and Canada. She is a founding member of the Syrian Non-violence Movement (SNVM) and participated in the formation of the Syrian National Council (SNC). Ms. Jalabi is a member of the Syrian Women Network and the Syrian Feminist Lobby. She has spearheaded numerous projects and initiatives to expand the political participation of Syrian women and minorities, as well as increase their presence in the media. Ms. Jalabiis an independent business owner with degrees in Political Science from McGill University in Montreal and Fashion Design from FIT in New York. True to what Syria represents, she has a rich multi-ethnic, cultural background and is fluent in English, Arabic and Circassian.
Sami Abu Shumays is a multi-faceted artist, teacher, scholar, and arts administrator. He is a vocalist and violinist performing the music traditions of Egypt and Syria, and he founded and leads ensemble Zikrayat, which performs music and dance traditions from around the Arab World, with a special focus on music from mid-20th Century film musicals made in Cairo. Zikrayat has performed at numerous venues, including Lincoln Center, Joe’s Pub, C.U.N.Y. Elebash Hall, Alwan for the Arts, Drom, the American Folk Festival, the Lowell Folk Festival, and the Global Film and Music festival at William and Mary. As a teacher and scholar he has led workshops around the U.S. in Arab music (most recently at Creative Alliance in Baltimore), published on maqam, and developed unique online resources for learning Arab music at maqamlessons.com (he is also a contributor to maqamworld.com). As an arts administrator, he has served for the last 4 years as Deputy Director at Flushing Town Hall (www.flushingtownhall.org), one of Queens’ premiere multi-disciplinary arts organizations. In his role there he has served as an advocate for cultural equity, and for increased support to immigrant arts in Queens and beyond.
Brian Zegeer is an artist-in-residence at the Queens Museum, where he is staging the Little Syria Archive, a collection of historical artifacts, stereoscopic 3D animations, and public encounters transcribing the history and notable luminaries of New York’s first Arabic enclave. He received an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, attended Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting in 2010, and has recently shown at The Queens Museum, The Bronx Museum of Art, The Delaware Art Museum, The Jersey City Museum, TSA, Danese/Corey Gallery, and Regina Rex.
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