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concordia 06/12/2016 - 03:00PM

Launch of Nations & Migrations at Montreal screening of THE CROSSING

Photos of CP Concordia's launch event of the Nations & Migrations project.

Photos by Emily Gan.

Last week we launched our Nations & Migrations project with a special screening of George Kurian’s THE CROSSING at Cinema Politica Concordia. By privileging voices (in film and speech) from the peripheries typically ignored in mainstream media narratives, the Nations & Migrations project seeks to interrogate troubling topics like Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism and chauvinist nationalism in an effort to move away from mainstream liberal notions of what it means to be Canadian, while also crafting alternative visions of identity and belonging. During the coming months, we will host several groundswell events (large events featuring many speakers) and steward a social media campaign around #ComfortableTruths with the aim of centering and exploring important collective struggles around social justice, migrant rights and anti-racism work across the country and beyond. We are extremely grateful for the Inspirit Foundation’s support of this project. CP Concordia was only our first event, so stay tuned for more!

Our Monday night premiere of George Kurian’s THE CROSSING was moderated by the eloquent Ala’a Jarban—a Yemeni refugee, committed human rights educator and youth activist—and was followed by a moving post-film conversation with George, community organizer Oula Hajjar and multimedia artist Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman. Each guest was invited by the youth-led CP team behind the screening because of their direct involvement in migrant justice, refugee, anti-racism and anti-war work. We are extremely lucky to have had the chance to listen to the unique interventions by these unstoppable activists, all of whom are dedicated to challenging the mainstream news and cultural narratives we hear on a daily basis.

The 400-person audience, made up of students, activists, refugees, migrants and diverse community members, buzzed with anticipation as Ala’a calmly opened the evening. As an introduction to the politics grounding the event, activists from groups such as Amnesty International and Solidarity Across Borders cued us to ways to get involved in migrant justice struggles locally. Ala’a officially began the event with CP’s territorial acknowledgement, offering the reminder that newcomers must also be conscientious of their role in the on-going colonization and settlement of Canada.

Ala’a then invited Narcy onto the stage to perform. Narcy immediately explained that he was initially unsure of how to participate in an event like this. Somehow, a vivacious hip hop performance wasn’t what was needed to speak to the grim issues of the evening: war, mass displacement, death and the difficulties one faces after finally arriving at the end of their harrowing journey. Narcy, framed by Sundus Abdul Hadi's painting of a tanker packed with migrants and war planes overhead, chose to share a spoken word piece he penned, instead exploring how communities from Standing Rock to Syria have shared battles and oppressors.

The film began to play and as it showed the on-screen group of Syrian refugees struggling to find refuge via the treacherous passage of the sea, swells of emotion passed through the audience. As the Syrians completed their voyage to the European continent, only to be scattered in various cities across various states, the realization set in that refuge is a complicated dream when one’s chances at life are systematically hindered by the racisms and xenophobias of your host country.

After the credits rolled, Ala’a invited the special guests to the front of the room to begin unpacking the complexities of what mainstream media sensationalizes as the refugee crisis. When asked by an audience member about the role of religious fundamentalism, George was quick to remind us that fundamentalism was everywhere, especially in the United States and Canada as of late. He also reflected on the immense damage that outside intervention and Western imperialism has done in the region, posing the question, would ISIS exist without America’s unending military escapades in Iraq? Audience member Mohamed Mahmoud, an Aleppo born activist and journalist, continued this train of thought by reminding the audience that many Syrians were fleeing the regime and the war rather than Islamic State forces.

Later, Ala’a, the evening's host, asked community organizer Oula Hajjar about her experiences working with Syrians in Berlin and Canada, and whether or not there were similarities between the two contexts. Oula powerfully spoke to the lack of resources provided to new arrivants in Berlin. She challenged the German state’s recently announced plans to deport over 100, 000 migrants. Oula also spoke out against the Trudeau government’s utter hypocrisy around refugee issues given that last year Canada was second only to the United States in arms deals to the Middle East; she emphasized that Canada's acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees was simply not enough.

During the conversation, Ala’a and Narcy both underlined the importance of prioritizing refugee and migrant voices especially when simple and essentializing mainstream narratives about migration overwhelm us.

During our subsequent Nations & Migrations events, we hope to do exactly that: continue having meaningful conversations about borders, nationhood and migration that push past Canadian comfort zones and mainstream narratives to create new understandings about community, belonging and social justice. Make sure to keep an eye out for the #ComfortableTruths responses, created by activists and artists across the country, which we will be releasing over the upcoming months – these multimedia capsules are one way in which we hope to carve out new boundaries & borders that push narratives about nations and migrations!

* Keep track of the project on our website here:

* Follow our Nations & Migrations page:


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