Arab Americans share personal experiences at storytelling event March 18

Speakers share their lives with audience; free workshop to teach the art of live storytelling

DEARBORN — The public is invited to explore the excitement and connection that storytelling can bring through the stories of everyday Arab Americans during “Hikayat: Personal Narratives From a Cultural Perspective.”

The event is presented by the Arab American National Museum and Palestinians Podcast from 7 to 9 p.m. March 18 inside the museum’s Aliya Hassan Auditorium.

Hikayat (an Arabic word for “stories”) will give a unique perspective from Arab American storytellers, who will chronicle their struggles on stage on topics of identity, culture and politics. These accounts are told without notes and from the heart, making the connection to the storyteller raw and emotional. Storytellers work with the organizers to craft their story in an engaging manner weeks ahead of the event.

Launched in 2015, the Boston-based Palestinians Podcast has hosted a series of live events consisting of five to eight storytellers sharing their truth in front of an audience. The organization frequently partners with festivals, museums and student groups and is collaborating with the AANM to bring an Arab American perspective to Dearborn.

The museum also will host a free storytelling workshop with Palestinians Podcast at 6 p.m. March 18, where participants can explore the art and importance of storytelling. Attendees can discover the essentials of good storytelling and work to build their own narrative by discussing topics of identity, culture, community and struggle.

The storytelling event requires a ticket purchase while the storytelling workshop is free but requires advance purchase.

Tickets are $8 for AANM members and $10 for the general public and are available online at www.arabamericanmuseum.org/Hikayat or at the door.

The museum is at 13624 Michigan Ave.

The objective of Palestinians Podcast is sharing the Palestinian narrative to a wider audience and to dispel misconceptions that associate Palestinians with violence and victimization.

Nadia Abuelezam, creator of Palestinians Podcasts, said she has been eager to bring the storytelling series to the Dearborn area for the first time ever. Part of the goal of the museum event will be to expand the storytelling to include the perspective of all Arab Americans.

“Opening it up to other Arab American narratives will allow community building and also give a sense of belonging across all ethnic backgrounds,” Abuelezam said. “Especially in Dearborn, where it’s a melting pot for all sorts of Arab and Middle Eastern backgrounds.”

With a political climate constantly targeting the Arab and Muslim communities, Abuelezam said she hopes the event draws attendees outside of the Arab American community.

“I think it’s a really crucial time right now considering the current public narrative,” Abuelezam said. “I really see this event as an opportunity for the average American to get a better sense of who Arabs and Muslims are in America, and to understand that we are all neighbors and we all have common stories.”

David Serio, an educator and public programming specialist at the museum, said the AANM has collected oral histories and personal stories of Arab Americans across the country and shared them with the public in formats that include exhibitions, events and education.

“It is so important to tell the stories of our fellow Arab Americans,” Serio said. “Being able to tell personal stories is a way to humanize the Arab American narrative and an opportunity for people to get to know their experiences in life.”