a night for Al Mutanabbi Street

last night i got to experience such a moving event. i was brought to tears on so many occasions, and am choking them back as i write this.

it was part of an international event called “Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”. it is the reaction from a massive car bombing that happened march 5, 2007 on Al Mutnabbi Street in Bagdad. with all the car bombings and violence happening during that time, this one, well maybe this one signifies just what has been done to Irag with nearly 20 years of unending violence and war.

this street is the cultural, literary, intellectual center of Bagdad. it is full of booksellers, printers, cafes…it was a target for being a place to share ideas, words, and to freely express them.

if you are thinking yeah yeah yeah, but in that culture only for men. don’t believe it. before the 1991 war started Iraq was known for its high literacy rates, one of the highest in the world, including women and girls. education was mandatory and free through the university. instead of just copying a very good article i’ll just post it here for you to read and i’ll get back to last night.

common dreams article on Al Mutanabbi Street

the night started with a very moving video of the owner of the famous Al-Shabandar Cafe, a cafe that was opened by his great-great-great grandfather in 1917.

Forgive but never Forget

i highly recommend watching but be prepared. it goes into detail about what he experienced that day as he watched the car with the bomb pull up and his experience of finding his dead sons and grandson, and friends.

so after that video, 13 people (12 women and 1 guy) that have lived in steamboat springs for 10 to 20 years came up and read a poem in their “home” languages. all except one came to the united states as refugees from all over the world. all were read in different languages (one was read in 3 -sweedish, german, and english). none of them were translated, but copies could be found in the back of the room. the reason being, its poetry, you’ll understand by listening. and we did.

each reader gave a little of their history of how they came to steamboat, and why they chose this particular poem. at the end of the night, all 13 people went back up and read their poems together, at the same time. so there was spanish, french, farsi, hebrew, arabic, dutch, russian, and others that i apologetically cannot remember. when it was finished, i couldn’t talk. all i wanted to do was burst into tears. tears for all that was lost and has been lost and continues to be lost because of this unending war…for all the wars. there were tears for those who can not – will not forget the dreamers, the poets, writers, artists – the heart of a culture. and there were tears of joy and excitement and gratitude for this little town, its library, and all who are brave enough to participate in this world with hearts exposed.

thankfully i pulled it together before i stepped out to the beautiful but cold night, so no frozen tears.

sometimes it is easy to write this town off as an affluent, white, enclave of adventure sport tourists and outdoor bums. but like more cities and towns, if i am willing to dig deeper, look harder, ask more questions…well who knows who i will find.

p.s. later this week is another event put on by a local art collective, the young bloods collective. the event, SPEAK, is an all women’s art and performance event. so heads up (hearts up?) for perhaps more feelings.


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