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Posts Tagged ‘black entrepreneurs’

I liked this story from the “People Making a Difference” series at the Christian Science Monitor. It’s about refugee musicians in Europe finding one another and bringing beauty and deeper understanding to their new countries.

Isabelle de Pommereau writes, “On a March evening in Berlin, bassist Raed Jazbeh and other musicians play the melancholic tones of ‘Sea Waves’ by Syrian composer MAias Alyamani. Mr. Alyamani wrote the song a decade ago after leaving his homeland, ‘to hold in my mind a piece from my country in my music.’

“Now, with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees flooding Germany, ‘Sea Waves’ takes on new meaning.

“Mr. Jazbeh himself fled Syria three years ago, as war tore it apart. So did many of the other musicians – also Syrians – performing ‘Sea Waves.’ Some had risked their lives and lost their instruments crossing Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea and then trekking into Europe.

“Jazbeh is the one who brought these musicians together. Last fall, he created the world’s first philharmonic orchestra of Syrian musicians in exile, reuniting the violinists and harpists, percussionists and trumpet players …

“The Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra (SEPO) has been giving Syrians and Germans a chance to connect in a fresh way, around music. The ensemble is helping to shatter stereotypical images of refugees, instead offering a portrayal of them as hardworking, creative people who have much to contribute to society. …

“Jazbeh grew up in the city of Aleppo, in northern Syria, with music at the center of his life. … After he landed at a refugee center in Bremen, he played chamber music for friends and at community centers. [He also] began looking for friends from his days at the Damascus conservatory. ‘Facebook was so important,’ he notes.

“Gradually, he found them. In Italy. Sweden. The Netherlands. France. …

“In all, about 30 Syrian musicians came together for that first concert. ‘It was very emotional,’ Jazbeh remembers. …

“ ‘The music touched my heart,’ said concertgoer Abdulrhman Hamdan, fighting back tears. At home, in Damascus, he had had to stop his engineering studies. He arrived in Berlin last winter after a journey by foot, bus, and boat.

“ ‘It makes me feel sad and happy,’ he added. ‘On the one hand, the music [evoked the] war. On the other hand, it was hope that there is peace again.’ ”

Read how the concert changed the impressions of one German audience member here.

Photo: Isabelle de Pommereau
Raed Jazbeh, a Syrian refugee, had to play a borrowed instrument until an anonymous German donor sent him this double bass as a gift.

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Art: Edward Mitchell Bannister, Boston Street Scene, Wikimedia Commons

Some years ago, a friend who creates exhibits opened a highly successful one on black entrepreneurs in 18th and 19th century New England. In the process, she made the acquaintance of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. The society lent her exhibit some materials from its collection, including mementos of the painter Edward W. Bannister: a portrait he did of his wife, Christiana Carteaux Bannister, an original brochure for the nursing home that she helped found.

My friend has kept in touch with the society, which is how I learned about the two adorable-sounding events for children below.

“Join the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society at the Old Brick Schoolhouse in Providence for the annual Boys’ Bow-Tie Event [on May 3, 10 a.m.-12 noon]. The Boys’ Bow-Tie Event is a chance for boys ages 6-12 to learn to tie a bow-tie and a number of other useful skills to know as they transition into young adulthood. Attendees will be instructed by Casby Harrison, Esq., and other mentors on how to properly shake hands and introduce themselves in public. Attendees are asked to wear a collared shirt. Refreshments will be served during the event. All participants get a free bow-tie for attending!” Sign up at EventBrite, here.

And for the young ladies: “Join the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society at the historic Governor Lippitt House on Hope Street in Providence for the Girls’ Tea Party [on May 17, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.] Girls will be instructed on how to take tea and learn the basics of social etiquette. Mrs. Christiana Bannister, abolitionist and businesswoman, will also share stories of historic Black women in RI. All Participants will receive a complementary vanity mirror for attending!” Go to EventBrite, here.

Both events are free to attend. “If you would like to sponsor a child for the event by covering the cost of tea and vanity mirrors [or bow ties], you can do so with a donation to the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. The cost to sponsor one child is $15. Please use the donation form [at EventBrite] or send a check to 123 North Main Street, Providence, RI 02903.

“The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society was founded in 1975 with a mission to preserve three centuries of African American history in the state.  The Society has amassed an invaluable collection of artifacts that documents African Americans’ achievements in military service, business, politics, the arts and education.  The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society encourages and promotes the study of African American history by hosting tours, lectures, and exhibits for the general public.”

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