Arabic Culture Student Association shares feats and food

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Anna Brosius, a leader of BC’s Arabic Culture Student Association, explained that the club exists to promote Arab identity on campus, so that Arab students “can see their culture being celebrated.” They also strive to educate non-Arab people about Arab culture, offering an opportunity for those enrolled in the Arab language classes to have the extra tools and exposure offered by the club.

In describing last spring’s Arabic Culture Week, Orchideh Raisdanai, a founding member of the club, said at the open house on Oct. 14, “We couldn’t do anything small; we did it Arab style.” She continued, “We did a whole week-long event,” which was funded by ASG. The event included a marketplace and bake sale where they “mimicked an Arab market.” There was also a booth which offered information about different Arabic countries, a week-long Arabic movie showcase in partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival, language and dance workshops, two live concerts and an Arabic art exhibit and discussion. The Arabic Culture Week will happen again this spring.

“We decided it wasn’t enough to do that. We needed to do another event,” Raisdanai explained. The event that followed was a one-day outdoor Arab fair and film festival. It was the first of its kind in Washington state, and was funded by 19 Arab businesses.

“Besides all of the events we put on, we have a variety of different club activities,” Brosius said. The Arabic Culture Club meets biweekly right after the Arabic language class, and the members participate in activities such as field trips to local Arab restaurants, festivals, events such as poetry readings and viewing Arabic films with English subtitles each Thursday at BC. The club also offers Arabic tutoring to those enrolled in any of the three classes offered on campus.

The club was founded at the end of winter quarter 2014 with two members, Raisdanai and Brosius, and it now has 148 members.

Looking forward, the Arabic club plans to host more events. Brosius said “Fall quarter we want to do some film premieres—American premieres—of some Arabic films that we have lined up,” for which the club will again partner with the Seattle International Film Festival. “We’re also going to be doing an amazing art exhibit that will be featuring famous artists from all over the Arab world.” The club anticipates a trip to Dearborn, MI, which is the U.S. city with the highest Arab population and the place where the standardized Arabic language was established. As mentioned previously, Arabic Culture Week will take place for the second time during spring quarter. In summer quarter, Brosius explained, the club members will participate in a biannual Arabic festival at the Seattle Center, which around 65,000 people are expected to attend. There will also be a study abroad opportunity in Cairo, Egypt summer quarter.

At the open house, the club members offered the students, faculty and staff tastes of food from throughout the Arab world, which consists of 22 countries. “Arabic cuisine is […] very diverse,” explained Aminah Coleman, an active club member. Each of those regions has their own takes on classic, culturally-shared dishes such as tabbouleh and baba ganoush, as well as regionally specific specialty dishes. Coleman elaborated, “Each one of them has their own flavor.”

Students who choose to take Arabic classes at the college will be taught by Hakim Chakour, who has been teaching for four years at BC. In the fall, an elementary class is offered, followed by an intermediate class in winter, and a more advanced course in spring. The club members are seeking to assist the expansion of the Arabic language program at BC.