UMass ACA holds Arab Cultural Night event

A night of cultural food, music and dance

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Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian (2015)

By Paulina Arce, Collegian Correspondent

On Friday, Dec. 2, The Arab Cultural Association held their biggest event of the year, Arab Cultural Night, in the Campus Center auditorium. The organization’s mission statement is to celebrate MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) culture and heritage at the University of Massachusetts.

Approximately 250 students and parents gathered in the auditorium on Friday to enjoy a night of food, music and performances. The doors opened at 6:30 p.m. to anyone who purchased a ticket, allowing students to pose in front of a balloon archway and take photos sporting their attire and country’s flags.

The event formally kicked off at 7:45 p.m. with a flag ceremony where at least 22 flags were proudly presented by students at the front of the stage.

Gabe Zeinoun, a member of ACA, got on stage to say, “The organization is more than a club to me. It really is a big Arab family. I will forever be grateful to everyone at ACA for allowing me to connect with my Arab identity.”

Following the opening speeches by civil engineering student Abdullah Aydah and SGA Chief of Staff Ibrahim Akar, food was provided in the room next door. The menu consisted of Greek salad and tabbouleh, chicken and beef kofta skewers, falafel and a decadent chocolate layer cake.

Ania Malik, a freshman studying managerial economics spoke on why she chose to join ACA.  “I made a lot of Arab friends who were also on the board of ACA, so because of them I started going to events and it was really fun. I’m also part of the [Pakistani Student Organization] e-board, so there’s a lot of collaboration between PSO and ACA,” she said.

Malik continued by talking about ACA’s mission as an on-campus organization. “I think they want to make a comfortable environment for Arab people because there are a lot of Arabs on campus, so they want to do events for them, and make them not miss home if they’re international students. I think they’re doing a great job,” she said.

Amira Elmansuri, a student studying public health and one of the two public relations officers for the ACA joined the organization because she was looking for an Arab community on campus. “I felt like when they would have events or any organization, I would meet people who I could really connect with and share my culture with. It’s something I’m so proud to be a part of,” she said.

“We’ve been working on [the event] since the summer, having to book the rooms and food and everything, so it’s just really rewarding to see it all come together. This event is just everything to us,” Elmansuri said.

After the food and festivities, a student member of ACA got on stage to recite a poem by a famous Arab poet, which was followed by a performance by the UMass belly dancers, who perform at every cultural event. The third performance of the night was a comedy skit.

“For our comedy tonight we’re going to be roasting Arab countries,” Laiha Syed, one of the performers, said. The roast included several jabs at the Arab countries participating in the World Cup, which was met by laughter and applause from the audience.

The final entertainment of the night was performed by the Boston Dabke Troop, who excited the crowd an energetic dance performance. The last time a Dabke troupe performed was in 2018 according to Aydah.

Dabke is a traditional folk dance that comes from the Levantine region, which includes Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and parts of Iraq.

The event concluded with an open dance floor where members of the audience were encouraged to join in. Those on the dance floor held hands and formed a circle while the song “Dammi Falastini” played, which means “My blood is Palestinian.”

Leenah Hamdy, a student studying computer science and an organizer of the event said, “The goal of this event is to celebrate Arab culture, have a nice safe space for Arab students on campus and have other students enjoy our culture with us.”

Paulina Arce can be reached at [email protected].