Milwaukee students unite for Palestine culture night

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Photo by Trinity Zapotocky

The night consisted of dancing, comedy, games, music and more.

If you walked into the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s community center this past Saturday, you would be greeted with an atmosphere filled with Palestinian culture thanks to Marquette University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Students for Justice in Palestine’s Palestinian Culture Night.

The Palestinian night consisted of several events, including a comedy show by comedian Zaid Fouzi, a dabke — traditional line and circle dancing — performance by FAA entertainment, henna, games, live music and a traditional Palestinian dinner.

Some of the traditional foods included qidreh, which consists of a meat — usually lamb, sometimes chicken — with chickpeas and rice with added spices. Alongside qidreh, desserts such as baklava were served. Baklava is sweet with phyllo dough, finely crushed pistachios and simple syrup.

The event was open to everyone in the Milwaukee community and over 100 people attended.

“Celebrating our culture is a way to stay united and ensure that our identities are never lost,” Gianna Rupnick, a senior at UW-Milwaukee and co-president of SJP-UWM, said.

The night was dedicated to celebrating Palestinian culture and elevating Palestinian voices. SJP is a political organization that vouches for Palestine’s freedom from Israel’s military occupation and the general freedom of Palestinians.

“The meaning behind culture night tonight is to highlight the talent in the community, but also show solidarity to the Palestinian people who have been displaced from their homes and country,” Ayisha El-Refaie, a firstyear at Marquette in the College of Business Administration said.

One reason it is important to showcase Palestinian culture and all of its diversity is because culture is resistance, Rupnick said.

“When it comes to Palestine, everyone always talks about the conflict of it … but I think it is also important to take a step back and realize what exactly you’re fighting for. And culture obviously is a big part of it, a nice positive to a negative, ” Janna Zaibak, a senior at UW-Milwaukee and co-president of SJP-UWM, said.

Some students from the Milwaukee School of Engineering also gathered to enjoy the night of culture and different types of fun and entertainment.

Leena Afifi, a first-year at MSOE, came with the intention of learning more about her culture and having the opportunity to reunite with some foods and traditions.

“I am really glad Marquette and UW-Milwaukee give students from different schools to the opportunity to attend their events. College can get very busy, and being in a club-specific towards learning about my heritage and more about my culture and traditions truly means so much to me,” Afifi said.

Jamilah Arabiyat, a sophomore at UW-Milwaukee, said one of her favorite parts was the clothing aspect and that dressing up in cultural clothing adds to the fun.

“The cultural foods, songs, and the men’s dabke performance was so beautiful in reminding all these people that came of the tradition of occupied Palestine,” Afifi said.

Zaiback also enjoyed the various activities involved and said that they embody Palestinian culture.

“I just love the culmination of everything, like all of the different ways Palestinian culture is expressed through food, through music, through dance, I think it’s a fun culmination of everything,” Zaibak added.

These events provide a welcoming environment and people from all over the community come together to celebrate the beautiful traditions and countries, El-Refaie said.

“My favorite part was being able to connect with others who share the same culture and beliefs, even though we live thousands of miles away from our home countries,” El-Refaie said.

Thanks to SJP Milwaukee and SJP Marquette, those that attended were able to celebrate and learn about Palestinian culture and traditions and connect as a community Afifi said.

“Through some music and a gathering with friends, a remarkable night in which more people could learn more about this amazing culture was possible,” Afifi said.

This story was written by Trinity Zapotocky. She can be reached at [email protected]