Continuing Conversations on (Dis)Placement at Second Public Forum

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30 April, 2017
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I enjoyed the interactions — seeing old friends, meeting and chatting with new people who share interests like mine.

April 22, 2017

More than ninety people from the Philadelphia area convened at the Philadelphia History Museum to participate in Al-Bustan’s Second (DIS)PLACED Public Forum. The Saturday afternoon continued conversations on placement and displacement, with an emphasis on the journeys people take and their meaning, with interpretations of these experiences through the arts. The three hours of activities, ranging from interactive discussions to performances of poetry, music, and song, created a space for learning and sharing by a diverse group of highly engaged community members.

As attendees signed in, they were handed Post-It notes and a prompt to mark on the large floor map of Philadelphia a place in the city that reminds them of another place, a person, or a memory.  An array of multi-colored Post-It notes decorated the floor of the Main Gallery as the mingling transitioned into the first discussion activity. An audience of long-time Al-Bustan friends, new faces, participants from the last forum, college students, families, and first time visitors of Philadelphia convened as Al-Bustan Executive Director Hazami Sayed and PHM Director of the Collection and Exhibitions Kristen Froehlich welcomed everyone, and writer Ann de Forest introduced the (DIS)PLACED project.

Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia reminds me of seeing sunlight on the water as a boy.

The RIVERS in Philadelphia reminds me of both boundaries AND flow in my life so far.

Le Liberty Bell á Philadelphia me rapelle de l’église de Notre dame á Paris – et de Quasimodo qui habitait la tour.



The small-group discussions revolved around nine short narratives—excerpts taken from narratives documented by Ann de Forest in her interviews—providing a glimpse into each person’s journey. The reconvening and sharing with everyone provided an opportunity to view these stories through a human lens, from which themes of shared struggles, silencing and erasure, forced departure, safety and family emerged as part of the displacement experiences.

I appreciated the diversity of experiences presented to each group and the fact that we heard about where these people are now, with a few even attending.

 

Poetry and music followed the discussions, starting with a performance by Al-Bustan Takht Trio — Hanna Khoury, Kinan Abou-afach, and Hafez Kotain, featuring excerpts of new compositions  by commissioned artist Abou-afach. Commissioned poet Nazem El Sayed read selections of  his poetry in Arabic with translations by Huda Fakhreddine, a literary scholar at University of Pennsylvania.  Poetry reading continued with two guest poets sharing their experiences of displacement through their poetry: Fatemeh Shams reading selections in Farsi, and Ahmad Almallah reading several of his poems in English. Angela Turcíos, daughter of María Turcíos who is a community organizer and one of the nine (DIS)PLACED interviewees, sang a beautiful rendition of La Fe de María. in Spanish.

The activities ended with an invitation for attendees to share what they wrote remembering a place in Philadelphia, and continue their reflections on the stories and performances, while enjoying delicious food generously provided by The Halal Guys.

Join us for the next Public Forum on May 20 in West Philadelphia and use #displacedPHL on social media to share what you enjoyed and discover what others enjoyed about the Forum.