“If you’re silent then you’re complicit,” said Remi Kanazi, spoken word poet, at the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance (MECA) annual gala. The fundraiser gala was held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church downtown San Antonio on Friday, Oct. 19, to raise money for projects helping children in the Gaza Strip.
Judith Norman, professor of philosophy at Trinity, said that the gala raises funds for MECA so communities within the Gaza Strip may recover from bombings and violence from Israeli occupation. According to Norman, because of the occupation, necessary material aid is hard to bring in to the country as everything is monitored by occupation forces.
MECA takes a unique approach to aid communities within the Gaza Strip. Rather than taking over the community, MECA gives financial aid to communities so that community projects — such as poroviding and giving medical assistance, educational enhancement and mental health support groups can function.
“There are a lot of highly trained people in Gaza that just need the financial support,” Norman said.
Norman is Jewish and a part of the national organization A Jewish Voice for Peace.
“We’re a group that works on human rights issues around Israel and Palestine,” Norman said.
Their goal is to work towards ending the Israeli occupation and for the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israeli Jews to be acknowledged.
Norman spoke of her role in taking a stance against the numerous human rights atrocities that occur in the Gaza Strip.
“I feel very close to the situation because I’m Jewish, and I feel that I’m helping combat anti-Semitism by joining with other Jews and speaking out against injustices … atrocities are not okay with Jewish people,” Norman said.
Norman’s local chapter in San Antonio, along with other local groups — such as UTSA’s Students for Justice in Palestine and local mosques — help put on this fundraiser gala every year in October. Norman says she and her fellow gala organizers put on the event for two main reasons.
“One is to provide material and humanitarian aid for people in Gaza. We also want to raise awareness about the situation in Gaza. It is a situation that the U.S. has had an enormous hand in engineering and permitting to go forward,” Norman said.
The event began with presenters describing the need to remember the Gaza Strip though it is seemingly a world away from us.
“It’s not a foreign situation, it’s a local situation,” Norman said.
The round tables — at which multiple local leaders and activists sat — were decorated with Palestinian keffiyehs, traditional black and white scarves. Attendees spent the first part of the evening listening to the accomplishments of MECA in the Gaza Strip.
Volunteers from Trinity — like junior Claire Nakayama — manned the arts and crafts table, all of which were sold to fundraise for children in the Gaza Strip. Nakayama, who is also the financial chair of the International Humanitarian Crisis Initiative (IHCI) student organization at Trinity, was volunteering through IHCI.
“It was really cool to see people come together and meet activists in the local area,” Nakayama said.
Nakayama also expressed her opinions on Kanazi’s performance at the gala.
“I thought it was great to hear him do spoken word. The energy in the room went up, people were snapping, all the points he was making were really true and were things that no one ever has the guts to say,” Nakayama said.
Daniela Montufar Soria, senior and vice-president of IHCI, intends to create increased participation from all Trinity students at the gala next year.
“Something that IHCI is trying to do is be a hub for volunteer events like this because we really want anyone, member of IHCI or not, to engage with the local and international community,” Soria said.
Norman also described the immediacy of the issue in Gaza.
“No matter what side of the argument you’re on, we can all agree that these people’s lives are being directly impacted … we have to do something to help these people who are suffering right now,” Norman said.
Though the next MECA gala won’t be until next year, students can email Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on working with local or international organizations that are working to provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.