Refugee Popup Bookstore {Outing}

This weekend, I am opening a refugee pop-up bookstore, SCM Souk, to help a local Seattle nonprofit humanitarian organization acquire more income to run its programs.

Souk /سوق is the Arabic word for store, originally started as an idea to provide the Salaam Cultural Museum with a way to support refugees.

Salaam Cultural Museum (SCM) is a charitable non-profit organization originally formed in February 1996 to gather and publish information on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and to promote understanding of the people, cultures, languages, religions, and lands of this region. For the last several years they have been collecting and distributing humanitarian aid and coordinating SCM Medical Missions to the region.

SCM Medical Missions not only sends doctors, nurses and humanitarian relief to the Zaatari Refugee Camp, the second largest in the world, but it also sends medical equipment, clothing, menstrual pads, shoes, quilts, school supplies and sports equipment. All these are proved free of charge to refugees.

I got involved with SCM Medical Missions when I found out that 100% of all the money donated goes to these programs. They have zero overhead, zero staff salaries, zero administration fees. Everything is volunteer and their accounting books are open for anyone to look over. They have grant writers to help find funds to cover operating costs and donors that cover the fees for the containers SCM fills with donated items.

A few months ago, one of the SCM board members offered space in Bellevue, Washington, across the street from Bellevue Park, to sell a few items, such as books and jewelry made by the refugee women in the SCM run educational and sewing training centers.

I offered to help get the souk started, since I had already helped set up a similar retail space for them in Seattle. For the past month, my family and I have been painting, building, and cleaning a 200 foot room to turn it into a second souk for SCM.

My daughters have given up their past weekends to helping paint. All the paint was donated.

Meanwhile, my husband built a custom cover for the pipes that were exposed. All the wood, nails and drywall were also donated.

We will be selling the beautiful handmade jewelry, along with traditional embroidered dresses and children’s literature that focus on refugees, diversity and marginalized people. I have been contacting publishers & authors to fill the shelves with diverse books. I decorated the souk’s front doors with the types of books I was searching for, while the mess was going on inside..

We will have the space for five weeks, but plan to take full advantage of it by celebrating Women’s History Month with activities each Saturday.

We will begin with a story time reading of a book, then followed by a free craft to take home.

Please help SCM Souk grow by liking the Facebook page. It will help you keep track of where we will be next month.


ACraftyArab Booth at MENAL Fest 2019 {Outing}

A Crafty Arab was honored to be asked to take part in the MENAL Festival, held at University of Washington, Bothell, located outside Seattle.

The Middle East and North African (MENA) Literature Festival provides a platform that magnifies MENA female voices, allowing them to be heard, and to engage with the public at large.

MENAL Fest featured Tatreez & Tea as the first annual keynote speakers for MENAL fest! This organization teaches about the centuries-old tradition of tatreez (the Arabic word for Palestinian embroidery) and the meanings it carries from generations past and today as a symbol of resilience.

I created a table with the following tutorials to teach about the MENA region.

There were a few other booths from the community as well.

The lecture was standing room only, overflowing so much I gave my booth chairs to others. Afterwards, I had a chance to take a photo with Wafa Ghnaim, the author of Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora and her mother, Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim, a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. We are all wearing Palestinian thobes, an Arabic word for long, flowing garment, all hand embroidered with tatreez.

The next day, a workshop was help to learn how to embroidery and I was able to attend as a participant. I choose to work on a Tree of Life design with my favorite colors. I choose the most difficult design as I had cross stitched before, but I still was not able to finish it as I spent most of my time talking to my table mates. Here is the final project, finished at home.

I was so excited to be a part of this event, first to teach others about the Arab world, then to learn myself new things about the Arab world.

If you would like to have an A Crafty Arab educational book at your next event, please contact me. Be sure to check out other ACraftyArab outings on Pinterest.

ACraftyArab Booth at Eat with Muslims {Outing}

I created an educational booth, of Islamic craft tutorials, last night for a new organization, Eat with Muslims. that was held at St. Therese Church in Seattle.

I was so honored to be taking part is such an informative evening and send my heartfelt gratitude to EWM, for allowing me the space to showcase –

It was held at St. Therese Parish, with dinner provided by EWM, free of charge. This organization was started in 2017 as a way to build bridges:

We believe that eating together and sharing an experience is what will strengthen and enrich our country and values so let’s sit together.

Founders Ilays Aden & Fathia Absie
Eat wtih Muslims co-Founder Ilays Aden and ACraftyArab Founder Koloud 'Kay' Tarapolsi
Eat wtih Muslims co-Founder Ilays Aden and ACraftyArab Owner Koloud ‘Kay’ Tarapolsi

The food was delirious, a blend of sub-Sahara and North African flavors. There was goat, chicken, vegetables, hummus, bread, salad, and yummy desserts, including dates.

Attendees were encouraged to sit with someone they did not know, to open dialog. There was a Muslim member from EWM at each table. There were also 10 questions about Islam on the table, to help facilitate the conversation.

Our own table took on the issue of race in religion. Our EWM representative had converted to Islam in the 1970s. These are his words “I went to a religious class here at St. Therese and my priest could not explain to me why my Jesus (pbuh) was white on the walls but described differently in my Bible.” Once he started to look into Islam, he realized that Mohammed (pbuh) did not have any images of what He looked like nor was there a Christmas in His honor, he liked that the religion was not about Him but about the personal & communal direction in life. Our representative repeated several times that this was his own path, as a black man in America, on how he had arrived to Islam and others have different stories. But this lead our conversation to race & religion.

I’m sure that this conversation would make many uncomfortable, but I was excited it was happening because race is an issue that is not discussed enough. America has a vast history with slaves and one that is not as well known, Muslim slaves. Yet, we do not discuss enough how white & black & yellow & red & every other races were brought together in our history, in movies, books or TV, unless we are shown it disproportionately tied with violence.

Once dinner was over, a panel of Muslims were asked public questions from the audience to wrap up the evening. The range of questions varied from how women were treated in pre-Islamic times to what is a burka.

I was so indebted to EWM for allowing me to join in the conversation to help improve how Muslims are seen, in contrast to what is being shown in the media.

If you are having an event in Seattle and would like to have a table of educational items for children that showcase the Arab world or Islamic culture, please use my contact form to reach me. I also teach Islamic art lessons to children and provide items for longer term rentals, such as library displays.

Be sure to also check out A Crafty Arab Pinterest for printables, for example an Our Islamic World word search, available for free download, to have at events.