By Ofonime Idiong
On November 10th 2018, the American University Chapter of No Lost Generation (NLG), a national organization started by the United Nations and the State Department that aims to support refugees, hosted its annual gala. Through student activism on American campuses, NLG aims to reduce xenophobia and misinformation about of refugees.
This year's theme was "Conquering Conflict and Celebrating Success," which featured art from and a dinner prepared by all refugees. The Keynote speaker was Salma Hasan Ali. The tops of the cocktail tables were decorated with the National flower of different refugee nations. Some countries represented were Rwanda, Eritrea, Palestine, Syria, Venezuela.
On the lower level were art pieces from different refugee artists. The emphasized message of the night was "Welcoming The Stranger in our Midst." The night started off with a Dinner and Networking. Different refugee centered social justice groups tabled at the event. Some of the organizations represented were Mozaic, an organization that aims to provide families, specifically women and children, with tools to become self-sufficient, and the UMD chapter of Students for Justice. The networking event took up a majority of the time, but there were a lot of interesting groups and people to meet. It was clearly a room in which everyone was there for the same purpose.
In the Trump Era, it is important to have events like this because it remind us we are all the same, and all someone sometimes needs is a helping hand. With the xenophobic rhetoric being used by government officials and the media, many Americans have become afraid people just because they are foreign. Some say that Refugees are no help or they are here to steal job, but research has shown that refugees contribute 63 billion to the US economy. But, like one of the attendee's noted, that is not the reason we should help refugees, we should help them because it is the right thing to do.
The night came to a conclusion with addresses from both Executive Director Yasmine Ben Hamed, and the keynote speaker Salma Hasan Ali. Hamed thank those in attendance and about the work that went into perfecting the night, before she handed the mic over. Ali, who describes herself as a "story seeker", spoke about the different refugee families she had encountered, the ones who reminded her that, at the heart of it all, we are all not so different. She said that our hopes and dreams for ourselves resemble each others more than we think. Ali encouraged the audience to continue on with this work and try to find a place for the "65 million displaced people in the world today."
At the end we were invited to dessert and art which featured works from artists like Khalid, who was an Iraqi refugee for six years. He says that through his art he aims to "Humanize the image of the refugee." Dau Doldol, an organization member, notes that "refugees are not looking for a handout. They are just looking for an opportunity."
In 2017 President Trump slashed the refugees resettlement quota, by more than half, taking away a potential home from families who need it. To answer the question of how do people move forward and work to stop this, Executive Director Hamed says, "I tell people to take the time to find someone's story themselves, whether it's just five minutes to speak to a refugee, five minutes with someone whose actively active in the refugee community, whatever it may be, you can make your own assumptions just don't cancel them out yet, give them a chance and then you can make your own assumptions."
All Photos by Ofonime Idiong