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Rabita 2020: Looking Back – The Arab American Artists of the Pen League, 1920
March 4 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
April 1920 marked the founding of the Pen League (al-Rabita al-Qalamiyya) by a community of Arab American writers, including Lebanese immigrant Khalil Gibran, living in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. One hundred years later, Rabita 2020 celebrates the continuing legacy of Arab Americans and their cultural contributions to New York as they help to shape the fabric of the city, the state and the nation. Rabita 2020 is a celebration of the past, educating the public about the remarkable community of artists and writers who formed the original Pen League, and the present, shining a light on the contemporary Arab artists whose voices are often overshadowed by static views and the politics of today.
Please join LAU for an evening to kick off our celebration of the centennial of the founding of the Pen League, a series of events taking place this year in collaboration with the Arab American National Museum, the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, and the Washington Street Historical Society. This event features a discussion between Dr. Matthew Stiffler, AANM, Dr. Linda Jacobs, WSHS, and Dr. Akram Khater, Khayrallah Center, who will examine the context and history of the Pen League in the artistic circles of Greenwich Village of the 1920s.
Dr. Akram Khater is University Faculty Scholar, Professor of History, and holds the Khayrallah Chair in Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University where he also serves as the Director of the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies. A native of Lebanon (born 1960), he earned a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, and holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and University of California, Berkeley, respectively. He has completed a 2012 PBS documentary on the history of the Lebanese community in North Carolina, and is the senior curator for a museum exhibit on the same topic that opened on February 21st, 2014. He also curated the traveling exhibit, The Lebanese in America, which has toured six (6) US cities, and will continue to tour through 2019. Professor Khater has obtained fellowships from the National Humanities Center, American Philosophical Society, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright Foundation, Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and many others. He is assisting Dr. Stifler with the exhibition and will present on the first evening, giving historical context for al-Rabita in the New York City of 1920.
Dr. Linda K. Jacobs is a New York-based scholar and author. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Archaeology/Anthropology and spent many years working on archaeological excavations and economic development projects in the Middle East. Dr. Jacobs is committed to promoting Middle Eastern culture and knowledge in the United States, founding Kalimah Press in 2011 and sitting on the board of several Middle Eastern organizations, including the Near East Foundation and the Moise Khayrallah Center. All four of her grandparents were members of the New York Syrian Colony. Dr. Jacobs is the premier scholar on the subject of Arab immigration to the US in the early 20th century, and will discuss the importance of al-Rabita within that context.
Dr. Matthew Stifler is research and content manager at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and a Lecturer in Arab American Studies in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan. He is also the leader of a state-wide project on the impact of 9/11 on local communities. He obtained a PhD from the University of Michigan in 2010 and since then has presented multiple papers on the history of Lebanese food in America, often drawing upon his status as a fourth-generation Arab American. Dr. Stiffler has already received funding from the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust to help create an exhibition about the centenary of the Pen League and has agreed to help curate a travelling version to be shown in New York. He will moderate the discussion on the first evening.
Mr. Nadim Shehadi is the executive director of the Lebanese American University’s Academic Center in New York. He is also an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House in London. He was previously the director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Until he moved to the US in 2015, he was a senior member of St Antony’s College Oxford where he was also director of the Centre for Lebanese Studies from 1986 to 2005. Mr. Shehadi is the Project Director for Rabita 2020.