Culture Bash!

(l - r) Steve & Carolyn Fillmore (The Local), Eric Marsh (N.I.C.E.), Yaroub Al-Obaidi & Nora Elmarzouky (FPS Journal)

Local media mash-up makes food, art, friends at Historic Germantown

Grassroots news faces many challenges today, but diversity isn’t one of them. In just our cozy little N.I.C.E. cohort, we have publishers in four different languages, covering a breath-taking range of issues, people, and politics. This June, The Local teamed up with Friends, Peace and Sanctuary Journal, the city’s first Arabic-language newspaper in almost 120 years to mix audiences for mutual fun & understanding.

FPS Journal serves a fast-growing population — especially in Philadelphia’s Northeast, which has lately attracted many refugees and immigrants from countries like Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, and the entire “SWANA” region (*see below). This population boom has been revitalizing fading business corridors, turning whole neighborhoods around with new services, shops and restaurants.

Of course, our roots at The Local are firmly planted in the Northwest part of the city, where a multi-racial community has endured since colonial times. Historic Germantown was the perfect place to bring both of our readers together for a cross-cultural celebration of everything that makes us so unique. Guided by Iraqi artist, author and educator Yaroub Al-Obaidi (FPS Journal), “Northeast by Northwest” invited guests to try new things at every turn.

A free buffet paired classic Iraqi and Syrian dishes with local comfort foods by Sister Muhammad’s Kitchen (a Germantown institution). We even had a live cooking demonstration with Chef Asmaa Diab, plus art and Arabic calligraphy instruction with Abdul Karim Awad, a renowned master artist who delighted in writing guests’ names in Arabic as a sort of party favor.

After feasting and mingling, FPS Journal’s Nora Elmarzouky led the crowd in creating a blank booklet by strategically folding and snipping a sheet of cardstock provided. Old editions of both newspapers were passed around, and for the next hour or so we all made art: cutting, gluing and coloring our impressions from the event. And sparking lots of great conversations that otherwise might never occur, in our highly-segregated city.

Everyone had so much fun, we’re doing it again! The next NE x NW will be a festival of short, powerful films, half of them Arabic and all of them local. Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 21st (7pm – 10pm), and follow the Facebook Event Page “NE x NW Short Film Fest” for updates and opportunities.

BIG THANKS to Historic Germantown for the generous use of their fabulous space. HG is a partnership of 18 extraordinary destinations in Northwest Philadelphia, including their main office on Market Square where we held this event. We are thrilled to work with HG to promote cultural and architectural preservation as a means to uplift and support communities, especially through collective voice and action. Read more in Tuomi’s Time Machine, a monthly column in The Local.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ken McFarlane, Follow @365Ken on Instagram.

SWANA stands for Southwest Asia & North Africa. The term is used to describe the region commonly/formerly known as the “Middle East,” which oriented the area for Western colonists not so much the people living there. SWANA redefines these countries geographically, and makes room for the huge diversity of cultures, religions, languages and government here.  PS you can also call this place the Cradle of Civilization (just sayin’).

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