Dear Gaza block party celebrates Arab culture while raising funds for medical supplies

Dear Gaza

Dear Gaza Ellie Brown

“Being Arab and Palestinian in America is something that is not supported,” says artist Karmel Sabri. “I don’t feel that my identity is normally accepted by people. We often see Arabs demonized.”

Seeking to counter those polarizing narratives, Sabri, who splits her time between Minneapolis and Chicago, organized Dear Gaza, an event focused on bringing awareness to the political situation in the Gaza strip while showcasing Arab music, art, and poetry.

“I feel power and happiness in celebrating,” she says. “I see celebration as a form of resistance.”

That said, Dear Gaza isn’t a protest. Rather, it focuses on the people who it aims to uplift -- not only in Gaza but those across the world who live under oppression. “Everyone who struggles can relate to our struggle,” Sabri says.

Saturday’s block party will mark the event’s fourth year, having started during the 51 Day War in the Gaza Strip in 2014. The main goal of that first gathering was education; Sabri felt that there was a lack of awareness of what Palestinians face under the Israeli regime. “We wanted to use community and art and celebration as a way to raise awareness for the cause,” she says.

While Saturday’s event is free, there will be opportunities to donate and purchase merchandise, which will benefit America Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) through their In-Kind Medical & Relief Program. Funds raised go toward providing medical care to the people living in the Gaza Strip. Last year, the event raised $20,000, which went on to become $1.3 million dollars’ worth of medical supplies. Organizers are hoping to do even better this year.

Dear Gaza Festival

Dear Gaza Festival Pierre Ware

New this year is an art installation made by Chicago-based Syrian artist Amanda Assaley, whose work speaks to the fact that 90 percent of the water in Gaza is undrinkable. “It’s an installation that engages the community in learning about the water crisis through generosity,” Sabri says.

As part of the installation, they will be giving away water. “The installation grows as more people drink the water,” she says.

Performers this year include Taylor Seaberg, DJ WNDRLND, Nataanii Means, Dua, Click Bait, Tufawon, and Talia Knight.

Dear Gaza
3 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Admission is free; with a $10-$20 suggested donation
The block party is located on 24th Street between Lyndale and Garfield Avenues in south Minneapolis.