Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I did not have a strong connection with my Arab roots. I knew I was Arab because the majority of my extended family lived in Palestine. I felt I did not have a community to belong to. Although I had the support of my family as I searched for self-identity, I struggled to find my place in the world. My father has supported Al-Bustan for some time now, and I remember attending some music performances growing up.
Initially, I felt these performances were a link to my heritage; they provided me with a comfortable, enjoyable outlet for my cultural interests in music and the arts. However, I was still yearning to learn more about my roots and myself. At the time, my main connection was the Arabic language, which I began studying on the weekends while in elementary school.
For my undergraduate studies, I had to find an internship that relates to my course of study. Given my interests in business administration and the Arabic language, my father suggested I look into working for Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, which I did and fortunately, there was a place for me!
Two weeks ago, I began interning at Al-Bustan, and since then, I’ve had a “crash course” in both the management of the organization and in gaining a better understanding of my Arab culture. A few days into my internship, I sat in on an interview by a reporter with Hazami, founder and executive director of Al-Bustan, and Hanna Khoury, music director. I was astonished to find out how quickly Al-Bustan was established. Hazami had the idea for the organization early in 2002 and within a few months, Al-Bustan Camp was up and running with 18 campers for two weeks in July. During the interview, I also observed Hazami’s and Hanna’s passion for Arab arts, culture, and language. I realized the high quality of programming that Al-Bustan has achieved and maintained since its establishment. The Resident Takht Ensemble, which performs a range of Arab classical music led by Hanna, is an example of this quality.
Since meeting Hazami and becoming familiar with Al-Bustan, I have started to better understand my heritage and gain confidence in defining myself as an Arab American. I see how this organization has served as an ongoing support group for many – ready to assist, educate, and entertain those who are interested in what Al-Bustan has to offer. The professional approach of the staff and teaching artists of Al-Bustan encourages me to challenge myself to achieve the same level of leadership and respect in my endeavors. The richness of the Arab culture illuminates through the programs of Al-Bustan and its staff. I feel privileged to have this opportunity to work with Al-Bustan this summer and I hope to positively contribute to this organization and to the community of Arabs and non-Arabs.
Summer Intern Sophomore at Drexel University, pursuing a major in accounting with a minor in Arabic. She will be writing her Arabic thesis on Palestinian history in Arabic.