The Father LeRoux Conference Center is often a place where the accomplishments of staff and students are recognized, but it is not everyday that their cultures receive the same attention.
Presenters brought items that showcased their culture (i.e clothing, pictures, etc).
Rejoice, the Muslim Student Association’s sold out event could be said to have done just that. Featuring live performances, food and various interactive booths, the event served as a showcase and commemoration of the various people that practice Islam around the world.
Current events, such as Donald Trump’s travel ban, has made Rejoice all the more timely and significant. Though the intent of the program was celebratory and based in education, there were also portions that recognized the challenges faced by Muslim people in our country.
“In light of everything that has been going on, we wanted to take this opportunity to represent who we are,” said Haleema Bharoocha, a member of the MSA leadership team.
Upon entering the venue, guests were immediately greeted by a number of stations, each dedicated to a different muslim majority country. Represented in these stations were Somalia, India, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran, each with students eager to talk about them.
Many attendees enjoyed the photo collage that displayed the diversity within Islam and SU MSA’s Rejoice event.
Each station also had a display board that covered information such as language, geology, food and everything else that made that country unique. The stations were also adorned with a variety of objects associated with their respective countries, such as flags, jewelry, clothing and other handcrafted items. The booths also offered visitors the opportunity to get henna tattoos and have their names written in Farsi, while also learning the importance of these elements in their respective cultures.
Though Rejoice easily lent itself to discussion and sharing one’s experiences with others, it also offered a more contemplative space for immersion in the form of its photo wall. It depicted a very wide range of subjects, both spiritual and mundane, public and personal, across the countries being recognized in the event. The photos felt very intentionally taken and selected for this display, each with its own narrative told without text or explanation. Though the photo wall carried different meanings for different people, the most direct takeaway was that the Muslim community is both diverse and far-reaching, yet also united by a common thread.
After having allotted time for guests to enjoy the displays, Rejoice shifted into live performances with talent from many of the different student organizations that helped put it together. This segment began with a powerful spoken word performance by Naima Shaltu, who spoke to the duplicity of American values, specifically with regards to religious freedom and human rights. In it, she criticized the pledge of allegiance and other compulsory practices within the United States, making the claim that they are expected of everyone even though they do not represent everyone’s views.
This was followed by the cultural fashion show where representatives from different clubs displayed traditional and festive clothing and explained their purpose and significance to the audience. The second half of Rejoice also featured dances performed by both the South Asian Student Association and the MSA leadership committee.
“We were very excited that MSA gave us the opportunity to represent our culture,” said PJ Virk, a junior business management major and the performer representing the South Asian Student Association.
An SU student giving henna tattoos to Rejoice attendees.
The event concluded with a short but significant setlist from local rapper and poet Essam Muhammad, whose material is closely tied to his spiritual identity and the challenges he sees in our society. In his songs and the exchanges he had with the audience, Muhammad addressed topics like the unequal treatment of people of color, evidenced in his mother’s experience at a hospital, as well as the unethical practices of white media professionals. The Muslim Student Association plans to follow up on the success of Rejoice with other programs in the near future.
“I hope students who attended the event recognized the diverse cultures that are present within the religion of Islam and the diversity of Muslim students on our campus,” said Anab Nur, another of the MSA leaders behind the event “We are planning for Rejoice to be an annual event at SU. For the rest of year we have some workshops we will be doing called ‘Allyship in the Age of Islamophobia’.”
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