The film A Sinner in Mecca was screened in the Cultural Center Theater and it was a fascinating look into the life of a homosexual Muslim male who decided to go on Hajj. The film’s opening credits sequence is filmmaker and focal point of the film, Pavrez Sharma, washing himself as if he were preparing to enter the mosque for prayer and then the water turns red to signify blood. This would be haram (forbidden) to dirty oneself before entering a mosque and would show the utmost “disrespect” for Allah, but to wash in blood is even worse. This immediately caught my attention and I was hooked for the rest of the film. The film is recorded on an iphone so some of the footage can be shaking or blurry, but all in all you are able to get a rare glimpse into what Saudi Arabia and the Hajj actually looks like. You also are given insight into how being a homosexual in the holy city of Mecca is extremely dangerous and harrowing. We watch him as he experiences bouts of doubt of his faith, religious joy, and immense physical strain. This film shows how the identities of being Muslim and being homosexual are supposed to clash but I feel that by the end of the film, Pavrez proves that this does not have to be the case. By completing his Hajj, he remains a devoted Muslim and a married homosexual and shows that these two identities can live harmoniously within one person. He uses his filmmaking and his books to voice the problems of marginalized groups in his culture which is one of the many ways you can be civically engaged. I thought that this event was very eye opening and successful.
This week, the Center for Civic engagement would like to shed light upon the Allison Kim Levy Continuing Acts of Kindness Endowed Memorial Award at Hofstra University. The Acts of Kindness Award is made possible by donations from the family and friends of Allison Kim Levy, a Hofstra alumna who tragically passed away in 1997. The award aims to honor two select Hofstra students, faculty, or staff each year as a reward for their contribution to good works in the community. Specifically, the award honors those who have been involved in services such as the development of community programs, volunteer service in community programs, and direct service to individuals with special needs within the community.
One of this year’s recipients is CCE Fellow, Taylor, a student in the Psychology Department with an anticipated May 2016 graduation date. Taylor was chosen from a pool of applicants as a result of her Civic Engagement Internship experience with the Manhattan Veterans Affairs Psychotherapy Unit as well as her development of a sect of the national non-profit, Friendship Circle, at Hofstra. Friendship Circle is an organization which pairs volunteers with special-needs peers in their communities for weekly “friendly visits”. The goal is to create a friendship between each volunteer and their differently-abled partner in order to spread awareness of various developmental disabilities within college populations, as well as to fulfill the social needs of young adults with special-needs.
Throughout her time at Hofstra, Taylor has had the pleasure of assisting over 50 families in the Hempstead community by uniquely providing a short break for full-time caregivers. Families with special-needs members often have difficulty running regular errands during the week because of the lack of universally accessible facilities in the area, and are grateful for the opportunity to place their loved ones in a trusted and secure environment with Friendship Circle volunteers on weekends. This organization has helped many special-needs families both in the Hofstra community as well as far beyond its boundaries and is a perfect example of the ripple effects that can be felt when active citizenship is practiced. We look forward to seeing organizations like Friendship Circle flourish in the Hofstra community and hope that the legacy of Allison Kim Levy will continue through her dedicated memorial award.
Ali Abu Awad and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger visited Hofstra as advocates for understanding between Israel and Palestine. The two men then took some time to explain their nonprofit, Friends of Roots, which focuses on reconciliation efforts and interpersonal understanding between those on opposite sides of this violent conflict. Ali, the Palestinian speaker, said that he became inspired to do this kind of work when an Israeli woman contacted him and said that she wanted to grieve with him for the loss of her son. He said, “I never thought Israelis had tears or could even feel sadness until that point.” And the Israeli speaker held similar sentiments. Although they spoke of peace, human rights, and reconciliation they still remained utterly human. They remained in touch with their humanity on stage when speaking in that they allowed themselves to bear emotions and voice differing opinions when differing opinions arose.
One of the most moving parts of the discussion was when a political science student asked the question, “Which solution are you two in favor of if any, and what do you think will actually happen” and the two speakers agreed that there needs to be a synergy of one-state and two-state solutions in order to be functional and practical for everyone. However, Hanan Schlesinger said, “The concept that I am most partial to is the one state solution with porous borders,” meaning that Palestinians and Israelis could live together if they wanted to or they could be separated, but each party would be able to flow back and forth between the two with ease. Ali said, “I disagree, but okay” and I feel that this is where the real humanity came through. Even though they are giving a talk and have a nonprofit together, they still have their disagreements. To me this was the embodiment of what a peaceful Israel/Palestine would look like. Acknowledging disagreements, accepting differences, and moving forward toward the greater good. This served to be a poignant reminder of the importance of peace and civic engagement. As a member of Peace Matters and as a CCE Fellow this message really resonated with me and reminded me of the importance of acknowledging differences and knowing that difference do not have to constitute civil unrest.
Our Earth Day festivities this year brought the Hofstra community together in the Calkins Quad to enjoy beautiful weather, performances, and Earth appreciation. Dozens of student clubs and other earth-friendly groups set up tables around our outdoor venue to engage attendees in socially conscious and environmentally friendly activities. These groups included Peace Matters At Hofstra, Get Global, Sustainability Club, Long Island Food and Water Watch, and Hofstra Amnesty International just to name a few. We were thrilled to have students from Hempstead High school visit with some of their mentors from the CCE and Hofstra Honors College.
Performances throughout the event included a flea circus and a vocal performance by one of our directors Dr. Aashish Kumar. The event ended in a routine by Hofstra’s Bhangra dance troupe to celebrate Baisakhi, the Indian Harvest festival. The troupe blended different types of music into this fabulous performance:
We had a great day of Earth appreciation with people from all parts of the Hofstra and local communities. Thanks to everyone who put the event together and made it such a success!
This week marked a great start to CCE’s 2016 community partnership with our local Meals on Wheels branch. Meals on Wheels America is the largest national organization centered upon serving seniors in the United States. Its goals can often be assumed by its name alone, but it is important to understand that the organization does even more for seniors than deliver nutritious meals to their door. Meals on Wheels is flexible and caters to seniors of various levels, with no age or financial requirements necessary to qualify. Many elderly citizens across the nation, especially those living in lower socioeconomic classes, often become homebound due to medical complications or age constraints. Without means to drive to the grocery store or money for delivery, seniors’ activities of daily living are interrupted and they are at risk of being left hungry or forced to eat unhealthy frozen meals. The goal of Meals on Wheels America is to combat this issue by assisting at-risk seniors in maintaining independent lives and respecting their social dignity.
CCE volunteers who work with our local Meals on Wheels subdivision have been training all semester to assist the organization by helping to locate seniors within the greater Uniondale who may benefit from Meals on Wheels enrollment. This information is gathered through canvassing efforts, in which volunteers go door-to- door in low-income communities to educate citizens on what Meals on Wheels has to offer and how they can get involved or share information with someone who needs assistance. This week, two rounds of canvassing have been successfully completed through the work of CCE. In the near future, student volunteers will also be working with Meal’s on Wheel’s’ “Friendly Visits” program, in which students are paired with seniors for weekly in-home meetings. Friendly visits attempt to facilitate the social life of the senior, while also providing valuable learning opportunities for volunteers. Being that many seniors live alone, Meals on Wheels check-ins and friendly visits are essential safety-checks to be sure that seniors in our community are living healthy lives as independents. If you’d like to get involved in volunteer efforts, please contact CCE co-director Dr. Greg Maney at Gregory.M.Maney@hofstra.edu.
Homecoming Farm is a community-sustained agriculture project that connects people to the earth by engaging them in growing their own food, learning about sustainability, and taking home organic produce grown right in their own community. CCE Fellows have volunteered at the farm this semester helping the farm get organized and prepare to kick off the season. Last weekend the farm hosted Spring Awakening, “BEE the Change,” which was a day to appreciate the important pollinating role that bees play and how they make it possible to grow all of our favorite fruits and vegetables. CCE Fellows volunteered at the event by greeting guests, helping with the natural honey tasting, and making sure everything ran smoothly as we all learned about the impact of bees.
CCE Fellow and Homecoming Farm volunteer Pakelody Cheam says: “The Bee fundraising event was amazing. I loved being able to see people come together to appreciate what we often ignore. There’s a pure connection between the Homecoming Farm project and the people who work there – it’s refreshing to play a part in it.” The farm invites member families from the community to donate 15 hours of service each season planting, tending, and harvesting. Then 20% of all produce is donated to the Interfaith Nutrition Network (the INN) soup kitchen in Hempstead, NY. The rest is taken home by community members who have worked to grow the food with their own hands and learned about sustainability along the way.
The farm’s next goal is to work on planting crops for the summer and preparing new land for farming. As they expand, they could always use more support from the community. If you are interested in getting involved, visit www.homecomingearth.org or their Facebook page.
Hofstra stands alone in the Colonial Athletic Association as the only school without a master plan. The current administration has a consulting company on retainer who has the capacity for master planning. Recently, administrators announced that Hofstra has undertaken a master plan project in the coming years. What does this mean for students and faculty who learn and work at Hofstra?
A master plan is a comprehensive or far reaching plan of action. The university master plans in the Colonial Athletic Association span 10 or 20 years. It points out the key features of a campus and creates a vision of the future using the public’s aspirations and civic goals. It can guide decision-making by integrating sustainability principles in the document.
As a planning document, a master plan should be identity-driven. That means that a master plan should be built on principles that are in line with the character of the school and its community. Our place in the community is an important part of our identity. The Hofstra community includes Hempstead and Uniondale. Our community partners should have a say in who Hofstra is as an institution of higher learning and how we contribute to the betterment of our larger community.
Here is a link to the master plan survey