A Culture of Community: Reflecting on My First Months with Al-Bustan

Time moves differently this year for obvious reasons.  

It has been almost two months since I began working with Al-Bustan, having taken over for Madeline Conley as Programs Coordinator in September. In some ways, it feels like it must have been a year already, having met so many people and learned so much. On the other hand, where has the time gone? 

I have spent most of my time in the past months working with the Al-Bustan team to adapt our After-School Arab Arts Program, which has been at John Moffet School since 2007, into a virtual format that serves students from over ten schools across the Philadelphia School District. The time that has been put into this program has been time well-spent. I know that this is true when I see our students each Friday, excited to show the stop-animation that they have created over the week to Ms. Lisa or sitting in amazement when Mr. Serge sings their favorite song to them, knowing all the words by heart.  

At Clark Park in West Philly encouraging people to register and get out the vote!

I have also experienced the sheer variety and volume of events and programs that Al-Bustan presents each Fall. Taking advantage of the sunny weather, Al-Bustan held community events around the artwork of Palestinian American artist Rajie Cook in September, hoping to share the artworks with our neighbors that had been in our gallery since the shut-down. This was the first time that I saw Al-Bustan’s community in-person—the dedicated patrons of the organization alongside intrigued newcomers—all gathered, socially-distanced, to be together around art, music, and food.  

Last Friday, Al-Bustan held its first virtual concert and, despite only seeing the names of viewers on a screen, I felt that sense of community again as our guests typed accolades to musicians Hafez Kotain, Shinjoo Cho, and Kinan Abou-afach. Throughout the performance the captivated audience expressed just how special it was to feel connected through music once again. 

With Al-Bustan team members (L-R) David Heayn, Hazami Sayed, Sahiti Bonam, Bridget Peak

I feel tremendously fortunate to have joined Al-Bustan this year, because despite the circumstances of beginning a new job in a new city in a not-so-new pandemic, Al-Bustan and its community have embraced me. When I decided to move to Philadelphia to join Al-Bustan, I spoke with the outgoing Programs Coordinator Madeline (Maddy) Conley about her experiences while working here. I asked her what she liked most about Al-Bustan and she said that the community was special. She was right! 

Bridget Peak
Programs Coordinator
Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture

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