Humanize Me: Syrian Refugee Crisis Awareness

On April 20th in the South Oval, there was an event put on by the OU College of International Studies Leadership Fellows called “Humanize Me.” The event was an interactive presentation of sorts that was about Syrian refugee crisis awareness, which is something that I try to stay informed about, and that I’ve mentioned in a few other posts before.

The group had a table set up where they had several pages of information about the crisis—of course, I took them all, because that’s my kind of literature. To the side of the table they had a spinning wheel where people could spin to see, if they were a Syrian citizen, how they might be affected by the conflict in the country. They had it set up so that most of the wheel options involved fleeing the country, but I was one of the lucky ones who got to stay in my home with the help of humanitarian aid. There were other options, too, such as remaining in the country with no need of humanitarian assistance, and remaining in the country with no assistance, although it was needed.

Part of the event also involved very colorful path of small flags that followed one refugee’s journey from Aleppo, Syria, to Hamburg, Germany. For each stop of Ahmed’s hard journey, there was a piece of paper detailing his struggles. It was a scary and difficult journey indeed—several times, he feared for his life, he avoided police (he was arrested once) and robbers, and crossed several unsafe borders all without the necessary documents. Many refugees who set out on the journey, men, women, and children alike, never reach their final destination. However, Ahmed is one of the lucky ones, and is now safe in Hamburg with bare essential supplies needed to survive.

There were hundreds of flags guiding the path from Aleppo to Hamburg in a rainbow, and they represented more than just the journey from Syria to Germany. According to the signs, every one of the hundreds of flags represented 11,500 people who have fled from Syria, 1,600 people who are internally displaced, 790 people who have been killed, and 3,700 who have been wounded. The flags did not include the statistic that more than 3,770 migrants perished crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2015—mostly in boats that were hardly sea-worthy, but the refugees had no other choice.

It makes me so angry that people have the audacity not to care about their fellow human beings. That is all I will say in an effort not to start a rant.

The event was very informative and well-laid out by the Leadership Fellows. I hope to see more events like this in the future, where all passersby can go on a “Journey to Germany” on their lunch break.

Eve of Nations 2016

On the evening of April 8th, I had the great pleasure of attending the 46th Annual Eve of Nations in the Lloyd Noble Center!

I’m so glad I got to go to this event—I wasn’t able to go last year, so it was a completely fresh experience for me, and I had a really great time. I was so pleased with the evening, I’m already upset that I won’t be able to attend next year because I’ll be studying abroad. Maybe someone can film it so I can see it (#livestreameveofnations)?

Allow me to provide a quick explanation for those who aren’t aware of the amazing night that is Eve of Nations. Each spring, OU hosts a large event and friendly competition in which students from every international organization at the university put on a cultural performance that represents their group. Most international groups are country-specific, such as the Iranian Student Association, Korean Student Association, and etcetera, however, they are not all this way. One in particular is the United World College, which I think I’ve mentioned before, and is made up of students from all over the world. Anyhow, most of the performances are dances, but this year there was one in which a student simply played an instrument from his home country. During the show, spectators have the option of enjoying a delicious international meal for a small price, but they can also just sit in the stands and enjoy the performances.

This year, my personal favorite performance was the Indian Student Association. Their performance was one of the first, and I was blown away by the costumes and the dance itself.  They wore traditional Indian garments in a wonderful and bright shade of green. The women wore beautiful, gold-hemmed green dresses with black sashes, and the men wore black tank tops and flowy black pants with green, almost scarf-like belts around their hips (please forgive my ignorance of cultural attire).

The best part about their performance was not the clothing, but rather the splendid symmetry of the piece. There were four women and four men, who at times were coupled and other times were not. The group had great synchronization—anyone could tell that they had worked very hard to choreograph the dance, and had spent a great amount of time practicing.

In the end, the Angolan Student Association won the competition with their exciting energy, but the ISA came in the top three, so I was still very proud.

Eve of Nations is such a great event, not only because of the food and entertainment, but because of the international camaraderie that comes with it. It’s wonderful to see how close-knit international students are with their student groups, and inspirational to see how proud they are of their culture to show it off on such a grand scale.

At many points during the show, I wondered to myself what an American Student Association would perform for a similar event in a foreign country. There’s always the potential for a Native American performance, but very few modern Americans claim native ancestry, and many who do know relatively little about the culture from which they come. Besides that, I have no idea. Our country is unique because it’s so young compared to others and we’re made up of cultures from all around the world. But what specific and individual traits could we display in a single performance? It’s fun to think about!