Many of us will remember the devastating and senseless murder of two men from Oakland, California, last September. Belal Esa and Asam Al-Awjri were both killed by a man with a gun who opened fire as they left their local Mosque. It was the end of evening prayers and the whole local Muslim community were making their way home. To express violence and mindless murder in a place of sanctuary where congregants have a close relationship to God causes deep trauma and upset in everyone. Even non-Muslim people were shocked by the depravity of what happened as the news travelled around the world. How do we go on from here? What happened next is an insight and an inspiration for us all.
A collection of institutions including the Muslim Writers’ Collective, Gathering All Muslim Artists (GAMA), and ARTogether all contributed to a local arts event. All proceeds from the event were marked for honouring the two men who will live on in everyone’s hearts. This wasn’t just an open-mic night. The guests were all those affected, and each were given the opportunity to voice their thoughts and feelings about what happened. The expression of community trauma was given a safe space and a valued home for the night which created therapy for everyone who attended.
The event took place within a larger exhibit that honours the fallen. A fully immersive and multimedia exhibition called Khamsa aims to totalify the trauma for those who contributed. Visual and musical creators had the chance to put something real into the exhibit in order to build the larger picture of the group feeling. A collage of emotions from individual minds, the network of grief helps to build a larger human picture.
As the show went out, the social scene became even more relevant. Sadly, there were two school shootings in the same area in the following weeks and Iran became a global stage for Woman Life and Freedom. These two disparate settings seem so invariably connected through the use of force in unconscionable ways. Through all the sadness and unfair treatment, selfishness and hurt, there is a continuous stream of resistance. There are many who actively work to push back against this thread of darkness that touches everywhere. Indeed, with $1500 raised for the victims’ families, this one idea has done more good than anyone could have realised.
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From the author of Alternative Fruit
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