Poets of Little Syria – Guided Tours

21 Oct 2018 -
Lower Manhattan

The Washington Street Historical Society led tours of "Little Syria," giving our visitors a glimpse into the rich history and notable personalities of this enclave, in the Washington Street area.

Little Syria served as the cultural and economic heart of Arab America from the 1880s–1940s, becoming the center of a remarkable scene for writers and poets, including the poets of the Pen Society and literary innovators like Afifa Karam, who spearheaded a renaissance in Arabic arts and letters.

The Washington Street Historical Society is a New York State-chartered educational institution whose mission is to educate and foster awareness about the history of the Arab immigrant community that settled on the Lower West Side of Manhattan between 1880 and the 1940’s and formed what came to be known as The Syrian Quarter or Little Syria. The Washington Street Historical Society supports local historical preservation campaigns, advances independent historical research, and works to commemorate this past through poetry, literature, and the arts.

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Todd Fine is a founding member of the Washington Street Historical Society, a nonprofit that advocates for the physical preservation of the "Little Syria" neighborhood of Downtown Manhattan and that is advancing a public art monument project for its literary figures. In 2011, he directed Project Khalid, a campaign to celebrate the centennial year of the publication of Ameen Rihani's The Book of Khalid (1911), the first Arab-American novel in English. The campaign included events at the U.S. Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. He also edited a critical edition of The Book of Khalid that was published by Syracuse University Press in 2016. Currently, he is a PhD student of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He holds a BA in government from Harvard University (2004) and an MA in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University (2007).

Inea Bushnaq is a Palestinian-American writer and translator born in Jerusalem, educated in England and now living in New York. She translated and edited the collection Arab Folktales, and the recent collection of Arabic folk tales, Pearls on A Branch. Inea has been an active supporter and promoter of Arab and Arab-American causes for decades. She sits on the board of several organizations that include The Jenin Freedom Theatre, The Arab American National Museum and the Washington Street Historical Society.

Bob Madey is a New York based media maker and educator with a background in film, anthropology, and cross-cultural education. He is a Board Member of the Washington Street Historical Society. His family first settled in the Syrian Colony in the late 1800s. His great grandfather, Najib Diab edited the trans-national Arabic language newspaper, Mirror of the West , and was the patron of many of the Mahjar writers of his time. Madey's grandfather was renowned journalist and poet Ilya Abu Madi.

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PART OF THE ARAB ART & EDUCATION INITIATIVE

The Arab Art & Education Initiative connects contemporary Arab culture with diverse audiences across the five boroughs of New York City. Delivered by a coalition of artists, foundations, and major institutions, the city-wide, year-long program aims to build greater understanding between the United States and the Arab world. Programming for the AAEI is guided by a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 global goals set forth by the UN and world leaders in 2015 to realize a better world by 2030.

In partnership with Pioneer Works.

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