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COMING TOGETHER: A MENASA Midwest Community Forum

Chicago Inclusion Project staff members Arti Ishak and Abhi Shrestha alongside Kaiser Ahmed, Rom Barkhodar, Tina El Gamal, Martin Zebari, Gloria Imseih Petrelli and Abbas Salem have formed a collective and organized an event to gather actionable solutions for the community:

When: February 16th, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Steppenwolf Theatre Garage Space: 1650 North Halsted St., Chicago, IL

MENASA MidWest is a newly formed collective of Chicago artists and organizers dedicated to amplifying, representing and advocating for the MENASA artist community.

We will be organizing a community forum at the Steppenwolf Theatre Garage space on Sunday, February 16th to facilitate an open, structured and brave discussion by and for MENASA folks regarding aspects of fair and transformational representation in our theatre, film and television communities in Chicago and the surrounding region. Although this conversation impacts artists of all backgrounds, the organizers have chosen to focus on a MENASA only community forum first.

The forum is open to performing artists, tv/film/theatre makers, and storytellers who identify with and claim heritage from South West Asia, Middle East, South Asia, North Africa and mixed-race descendents of the diaspora. This event has risen from a need for individuals in our emerging community to identify, organize and hold to account not only ourselves, but the institutions and organizations that have over the years both intentionally and unintentionally constructed an unsuccessful, inaccurate and often times damaging veneer of MENASA people.

The evening will be hosted by Ian Martin, Haven Theatre’s Artistic Director and Program Manager with Enrich Chicago, and will be borrowing from “The Circle Way,” a facilitation strategy created by Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin that reaffirms the essential practice of taking a seat on the rim and turning to one another to uphold racial, ethnic, gender, economic, and environmental justice. Utilizing this structure and a neutral moderator we aim to conduct a safe and constructive atmosphere to explore solutions to questions like: What constitutes transactional vs transformational representation? What actionable steps can companies take to produce MENASA work successfully and respectfully? How do we actively combat the myth that all folks from the MENASA region are monolith? What actions can we take to advocate for our community within our respective fields and for each other’s fields?

It is our goal to facilitate a brave and forward moving series of questions and solutions regarding the intersection of our professional and cultural identities in which we are often required to wrestle with alone when we work in the industry. We operate in the belief that we are stronger together and that singular consensus is not a requirement of intercultural allyship.

Doors open at 6:30 pm with some food and drink available before our discussion begins at 7:00 pm. The organizers include Kaiser Ahmed, Rom Barkhodar, Tina El Gamal, Martin Zebari, Arti Ishak, Gloria Imseih Petrelli, Abbas Salem, and Abhi Shrestha.


MENASA: The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia

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