Performances for Palestine: Inside Out Theatre, MEME, SJP hold night of Palestine advocacy through music, spoken word


Friday, March 29, Sadler Center’s Lodge One hosted a harmonization of activism and artistic expression as the Inside Out Theatre, Middle Eastern Music Ensemble and Students for Justice in Palestine came together to put on “An Evening of Spoken Word and Music for Palestine.”

The evening combined three types of performances: speeches from SJP exec members, spoken-word poems from members of Inside Out Theatre and songs performed by members of MEME. Members of SJP also sold baked goods and crocheted crafts, with the proceeds going to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. 

The idea for the event arose when members of MEME made a statement in support of Palestine at a performance at Old Dominion University. Their statement was met with backlash from audience members and responses from the administrations of both ODU and the College of William and Mary. From this, members of the College’s MEME recounted how the reception of their initial statement motivated them to engage in more advocacy for Palestine. The ensemble’s director, Professor of Ethnomusicology and Bickers Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Anne Rasmussen, conceived of an event to combine poetry and musical performances centered around Palestine to support the  cause. 

“This was just another way to put words to action,” MEME violinist Yasmeen Mogharbel ’27 said. 

MEME violinist and vocalist Pooja Muthuraj ’26, who is also president of Inside Out Theatre, a spoken-word poetry performance group at the College, connected the two organizations and led the planning process. She also reached out to members of SJP to contribute speeches and their expertise with the movement to the event. 

“I think that each group has a lot of strengths that were able to combine really well in the program,” Muthuraj said. 

The event’s location in Lodge One was chosen purposefully, with the date of the event having been specifically chosen based on when the desired space was available. SJP exec member Salma Amrou ’26 explained the role of this venue in achieving the night’s intended mission.

“We wanted to be in an area where people were passing by and people were already sitting so they could hear what was being said and maybe be more intrigued to come in and learn more about it, or hear more about it,” Amrou said. “I think that’s the primary thing above all, to spread awareness and to continue to push for what we believe is right.”

The selection of performance pieces was likewise intentional. MEME chose to perform an array of songs in various moods, all from Palestinian composers, which Muthuraj described as an attempt to best encapsulate the spirit of Palestine in the limited time frame of the event. Among the selections performed were “Mawtini,” the unofficial Palestinian national anthem, and “Wayn ‘A Ramallah,” an up-tempo folk song. 

Meanwhile, members of Inside Out Theatre performed a combination of original poems and pieces by Palestinian poets, both of which Muthuraj explained provide a distinct and significant perspective on the conflict.

“The poems that we chose really reflect individual students’ perceptions of the issue,” Muthuraj said. “Then we picked a poem by a Palestinian poet as well, just so that we were able to represent the voices of the people and not just put words into their mouths.” 

At the event, Amrou delivered a speech and an original poem titled “Rise and Fall,” with the latter being inspired by the contentious debate over issues surrounding Palestine at a recent Student Assembly meeting, which Amrou described as having left herself and other SJP members feeling invalidated and disheartened. She discussed the value of experiencing these forms of creative expression in a communal space. 

“I feel like it is a form of therapy, almost, being able to have someone go up there and speak the thoughts that are in your mind,” Amrou said. “I think that’s the whole purpose of art, and especially the purpose of art in this context.”

Alysha Waseem ’24 attended the event due to her personal connections to both the cause of justice in Palestine and members of SJP. She discussed the importance of events that preserve Palestinian culture and which remind individuals of their own roles in this conflict.

“I think it’s important to be reminded that we’re complicit in this, and that we as a community need to come together to support the Palestinian people and also be anti-genocide,” Waseem said.

In light of the referendum passed the previous day on the Student Assembly election ballot calling for the College to divest funding from and cut ties with organizations that support Israel, Muthuraj saw the event taking on a new and powerful message.

“I think the statement that this event, having it tonight, will make is that, despite the school’s refusal to call for a ceasefire or directly condemn Israel, as students want to happen, and really just a failure to take any real concrete action, that students will still not stop talking about Palestine and we won’t stop fighting for justice,” Muthuraj said. “This is going to be continued, because we still haven’t seen a resolution and we’re not satisfied.”

Students behind the event saw its artistic elements tying into their social and political advocacy for Palestine in various ways. Mogharbel highlighted the ability of music to provide comfort in the face of fear, as demonstrated by MEME’s performance of the song “Al Ouf Mash’al,” which describes a flight from war.

“I’ve often heard music being used to alleviate in darker times. For me, that’s definitely personal because I know a lot of Palestinian friends, and my family was under the threat, and so it’s scary,” Mogharbel said. “It’s definitely a voice to people who can’t really express themselves.” 

Meanwhile, Amrou saw the event and the songs and poems performed as upholding the inherent role of Palestinian artists as activists themselves. 

“I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one graphic where they show all the different roles inside a resistance or a revolution movement, and one of the roles is a storyteller,” Amrou said. “Storytellers are the ones that preserve the stories of the people who we are fighting for and the people who are fighting for the cause, and continue to spread that awareness and spread that story. So I think, definitely, art plays a role in expressing those emotions that can’t really be expressed any other way, even through other actions like protesting.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here