Earlier this afternoon, in the heart of MIT’s campus, I joined 40 members of the MIT Arab Students Organization and their friends and consumed story in an oral tradition that runs deeply in our shared ancestry.
Omar Offendum, a Syrian-American with a talent for hip-hop and spoken word took us on a journey through the streets of Syria, as well as the unique liminal space that he resides in between his ethnic motherland (Syria) and his childhood home (America). His songs, inspired by the works of Langston Hughes, did an incredible job of conveying the beauty and shared culture that flows through the streets of Damascus. My favorite song of Omar’s was about a “Street Called Straight,” or a street in Damascus that’s purported to be the longest inhabited street in all of civilization. He walked us down it, and as he did so he spoke of the storytellers and shopkeepers that he met along the way, men and women who who represent a modern manifestation of a spirit that is as older than time and unique to Syria.
I was excited to find out that Omar is based on Los Angeles, and I hope that we have the opportunity to collaborate this summer.