Students, Supporters “Get Down for Gaza”

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Tarik Kazaleh, aka Excentrik, plays the oud, a popular Middle Eastern string instrument, at the Get Down for Gaza event last Wednesday night. (Nicholas Mukhar|Foghorn)

“We celebrate our resistance, stomping, kicking and dancing in perfect chaos.” Her words echoed through the silent lounge that had been filled with music and dance just seconds before, as Dina Omar, a Palestinian-American and a UC Berkeley undergraduate student, recited a poem she had written about Palestinian resistance in Gaza. Her words were mostly in English and partly in Arabic. She continued reading her poem as the roughly 300 in the diverse crowd applauded, whistled and yelled words of encouragement. “Tell them, we will return to our homeland,” she said. “Tell them, we will paint these walls with our sweat and our blood.” Each word seemed to resonate with the crowd as they continued to nod their heads in agreement, and she continued to bare her strong feelings about her Palestinian heritage.

“We are always way too…overwhelmed with tears and checkpoints, and guns pointed at our heads, and the sound of quietness and the white phosphorus that thickens the sky. We celebrate ourselves and our resistance,” Dina said.

330 Ritch, a nightclub in SOMA, hosted Dina and other poets on the night of Feb. 25. People from all over California came together for a charity event, united in the common goal to raise money to buy medical supplies for Palestinians in Gaza who are lacking proper medical care following last month’s Israeli offensive along the Gaza Strip.

The concert, entitled “Get Down For Gaza,” featured music and poetry from DJ Leydis, DJ Sake One, Excentrik, Davey D, Omar Offendum and Mark Gonzales.

The poetry, lyrics and music centered around the Palestinian cause in Gaza, though criticism of current politics throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia was a common thread throughout each performance.
“Most Americans don’t know this, but Afghanis, they don’t hate Americans, they hate the arrogance that can’t differentiate between violence and self-defense and labels everything as ‘terrorist,’” said Mark Gonzales in one of his three poems throughout the event that began at 9 p.m. on Wednesday night and ended at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning. In Lebanon bombs drop like beats,” he said. “Children fall asleep…only wondering if they’ll live long enough to dream tonight.” In the background, Excentric played a low, slow tune on the Oud, a string instrument similar looking to the guitar that is commonly used in Middle Eastern music. Gonzales is an L.A.-based poet and is part of a series of social justice events spearheaded by thirdSPACE Productions, a graphic design firm formed in 2002 by a group of multimedia artists.

Gonzales and the other artists who performed have worked with thirdSPACE productions in the past, and Gonzales said he will be part of similar events in New Orleans on Mar. 20 and in Seattle during the month of May.

“They say that evil is a necessary, but when is it really,” said Omar Offendum, as he discussed gun violence not only in the Middle East, but at home and in our neighborhoods.

“We didn’t meet our goal, but the club owners and the DJs said they were happy with how much we raised, considering the time and day of the event,” said Yara Badday, a graphic designer for thirdSPACE Productions. Badday, an Iraqi-American, was at the event and said that other events like Get Down for Gaza are being planned, though nothing has been finalized. Badday said that thousands of dollars were raised on Wednesday night.

The cover charge ranged from $10-20, based on how much people were willing to donate, and T-shirts were sold inside. All the money raised went to KinderUSA, a non-profit organization that was founded in 2002 by a group of American physicians and humanitarian relief workers. ThirdSPACE Productions collaborated with 330 Ritch and KinderUSA to put on the event. KinderUSA is one of two humanitarian groups currently on the ground in Gaza. “I’m hoping six years from now, our atrocity deficit disorder will not be on the next [atrocity], and then six years later the same thing.  ’Cuz Gaza isn’t about Gaza. Gaza for me is about the right for indigenous people to have the right to exist and the right to return wherever we exist on this planet,” Gonzales said to the crowd.

To learn more about KinderUSA, visit kinderusa.org. To learn more about thirdSPACE productions and their upcoming events, visit thirdSPACE Productions.com. You can also find thirdSPACE Productions on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, along with many of the artists performing at their events.

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