Exploring Stories of (Dis)Placement at First Public Forum

Posted On:
05 April, 2017

It was an open conversation; a combination of sharing stories and listening; a place to start for some, and a place to teach with patience for others. – anonymous

March 25, 2017

More than a hundred people gathered at the Philadelphia History Museum to participate in Al-Bustan’s first (DIS)PLACED Public Forum.  The event was the first of three public forums intended to start conversations about displacement and identity while sharing the stories collected for the (DIS)PLACED Project.  The afternoon included presentations and small-group conversations, as well as informal mingling. With the focus on “arrival” in people’s experiences of (dis)placement, the activities became a platform for sharing stories, listening, and learning from one another.

As attendees arrived, they were asked to mark their first memory of “arrival” in Philadelphia with a yellow sticker.  The yellow dots grew more and more abundant across the city map covering the Main Gallery floor — marking the here and now.  With the first activity underway and everyone checked-in, the room was full and buzzing with people introducing themselves to each other and exploring the lay of the city map.   Writer Ann de Forest and photographer Dave Tavani introduced the project and their work to date in compiling 9 profiles.  Charles Croce, Executive Director and CEO of the Museum, and Kristen Froehlich, Director of the Collection & Exhibitions, welcomed everyone and recounted the story of the building, the Museum, and how this Forum contributes to an understanding of the history of the city and experiences of (dis)placement.

The second activity “Stories of Arrival”  divided the attendees into nine small groups, each learning about and discussing one of the 9 people profiled in the (DIS)PLACED project, several of whom were in attendance.  A representative from each group then shared out with all the attendees what they learned and the themes that emerged from these conversations.

A musical-literary interlude followed with Kinan Abou-afach and Hafez Kotain playing “Morning,” a composition by Abou-afach, and poet Nazem El Sayed reading in Arabic several of his poem followed by Huda Fakhreddine reading her translations of his poems in English.

The last segment of the afternoon invited attendees to share their definitions of and sentiments of what “home” means to them, and contribute their writings and drawings on the board “Expressions of Identity in Transition,” which will remain in the Main Gallery until our next Forum.  Conversations continued informally over food and drinks, which were generously donated by The Halal Guys and  Manakeesh.  Here are a few more comments attendees shared with us:

I enjoyed the close person-to-person contact.

It was an opportunity to view the current [refugee] crises from a profound point of view.

Thank you for the beautifully organized (DIS)PLACED Forum. Conversation, poetry, music, food–can’t beat it with a drum 🙂

Use #displacedPHL on social media to share what you loved and discover what others enjoyed about the forum, and make sure to visit our website again for more updates on the project! Whether you attended our first Forum or not, we hope to see you at our next forum on April 22, 1-4 PM, again at the Philadelphia History Museum!