The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News March 10, 2006

MESA Raises Issues in Stevenson and Beyond

The Middle Eastern Student Association is holding a series of concerts and talks over the course of the upcoming week with other institutions throughout the nation in concurrence with the Persian New Year on Tuesday, March 21. The event, starting Tuesday, March 14, is meant to raise awareness for political, social and cultural issues in the Middle East.

Rehan Jamil, college junior and co-chair of MESA, also explained that the event will take place on the third anniversary of the most recent student uprisings in Iran.

MESA hopes that these events will expand interest in Middle East and North African issues and increase participation in their group.

“This is an organization that draws from those who are really interested in promoting not just Middle East North Africa studies in the curriculum, but also political and social, cultural issues related to the Middle East,” said Jamil.

They also believe the events will be an important step toward the development of the MENA scholastic program.

Kicking off the event, Stevenson will have a completely new flavor the night of March 14 as MESA hosts a Middle Eastern dinner.

The entirety of the dining hall cuisine will be transformed to reflect Persian and Arabic influences including khoresh-e-bademjan (stewed eggplant with beef) and dajaj bil fitr (mushroom chicken), topped off with baklava and bashole-e-zaed (saffron pudding). Adding to the ambience, MESA will provide Middle Eastern music to be played throughout the evening.

Joan Boettcher, Oberlin College nutrition specialist, explained the process by which student-organized ethnic meals are created.

“We try to be authentic as possible, and if students have recipes, that’s always helpful,” he said. “We have an executive chef that does work with students to devise a menu. So it’s not that tough if you don’t have cooking ability but would like authentic cuisine to reflect your organization.”

The real emphasis of the evening will be on the information tables in Stevenson during the meal, featuring MESA members and future MENA faculty. There they will promote a March 18 event at the ’Sco, Norus the persian New Year Party, featuring authentic Middle Eastern music. This event is scheduled as part of a national day of information on college campuses — organized by students at Harvard — which is intended to promote solidarity between American and Iranian college students.

Following the Stevenson dinner, there will also be a poetry reading and concert sponsored by Students for a Free Palestine titled “Breaking Down Walls: Lyrics Against the Occupation,” featuring Palestinian poet Suheir Hammad and hip hop duo Omar Offendum, of the Nomad, and Ragtop, of the Philistines. This is a free event beginning at 8 p.m. at the Cat in the Cream.

MESA has been looking for a good moment to gain more visibility with the Oberlin community and they believe these events will provide that opportunity. Furthermore, future MENA faculty are interested in student input concerning next year’s curriculum. MESA believes that there must be some focus on making MENA studies a reality.

Separately from the wider goals of MESA, this coming week will additionally focus specifically on issues pertaining to Iran.

“It might be a small starting point to spur debate about the very complex situation that’s been unfolding in Iran,” Jamil said, “and to move beyond the sound bites that you see on CNN and BBC and the rhetoric that surrounds Iran.”

“I think it’s really important that people do more than just talk, and actually show that through their action because that is the only way we’re going to get something institutionalized here,” Alia Kate, college junior and treasurer of MESA, told the Review.


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