Karim was one of the first street kids I worked with and became friends with in Morocco. He passed away at the end of the summer. He was just a teenager. Karim’s heart and smile overpowered the hardships he had to endure in his short life: poverty, family losses, cancer. His fire, that power, his smile, will live on forever. Love you Karim. You will be missed. My condolences to the children of the Dar Lekbira Association.
Here is a video of Karim during our drumming workshops in 2009:
“I observed that an unchallenged barrier to educational partnership and reform in the education sector stems from the lack of encouragement for critical thinking within academics and lack of space for open debates that foster pluralism and a diversity of perspectives.
I encountered an example of this barrier with one Quran teacher in Casablanca who seemed to differentiate between education and critical thinking. In their logic, one needs to first memorize and learn everything before being allowed to debate and form critical thought. In the West, critical thinking and open debate are embedded in education. This gap between education and reflexivity is not limited to how the Quran is taught, but in how educators teach material in many schools in some Arab countries. Critical thinking and reflexivity, which are needed for the conditions of pluralism and cooperation to flourish, seem to be lacking due these mentalities that differentiate critical thinking and education…..”
I have been given the privledge of being part of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship. Myself, along with 12 other emerging leaders, are traveling to the Midd East in April to work meet with government officials and civil society members, in order to learn more about how to improve East-West relations and cultural exchange. Countries currently visiting include: Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia Click here for info:
These kids were always brilliant, and it was this arts diplomacy project that gave them a little push to begin opening some new frontiers. I am in awe of these children and their efforts to do good in this world, a world that in many ways has exploited them. As of late, I have received messages from some of the orphans and street kids in Kashmir, India as well as Kenitra, Morocco. Thought I’d share some:
FROM KASHMIR: CHINAR ORG
I’m Pratik Tandon. I’m interning with CHINAR kashmir. I’ve heard alot about you from the kids here. They really miss you and I can make out they had indeed spent some memorable time with you. Yesterday, they had asked me write a mail to you. They gave me a letter for you and here it goes-
Deal Mohsin Bhaya,
Aslalam Alaikum, we are kids of CHINAR. How are you?Last time we requested you talk to us online but you only sent an e-mail. Again, we are asking you about online talking. Please return in summer. We still remember your every teaching and especially your great advices. “MAKE MISTAKES..ETC”. Noor Jahan saw you in her dream that you were again teaching us.She now wants you to realise this dream.
Rubeena: I have met many foreigners but you were the best!I will never forget you.
Nusrat:I miss you very much.
Jabeena:You all great guys. I miss you.
Zubaida: Please……..come again.
Bisma:I miss you so much.
Ishrat:I hope you will come again…….in 2012. We have all passed our previous classes.
Uzma:Thanks a lot for giving us precious gift of knowledge. You encouraged us to be brave. I still remember when we lost game with boys and were sobbing but you were the one who encouraged us, I love you all.
We all miss you very very……much. You all are great people and will always remain in our hearts.
PLEASE COME AGAIN.”
MESSAGE FROM MOROCCO: Dar Lekbira Association
“good mornings mohsin im hanaa your my brather im from dar lekbira moroco kenitra. ok antadiro itisalek halian ok bay mohsin is 12ou cklook ok my brather my favourite sebgect is english and art and chante and dance and plage and teater my favourite sport is basketball and football im in class is 9 im16yers old i miiiisss youu ok by”
I’ve been invited by the Asia Society to speak on a diverse panel featuring journalist Robin Wright (Rock the Cashbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World), poet and journalist Eliza Griswold (The Tenth Parallel), and cultural ambassador Zeyba Rahman. It is an honor to be asked to participate with such esteemed activists and thinkers and I look forward to discussing recent socio-economic developments in the Muslim world and the so called ‘counter jihad’ that may define the next decade through the arts and alternative forms of self expression.
The event is October 17th at the Asia Society in NYC
LOLLIPOPS CROWN ARTS INITIATIVE + ALL PLACES FROM HERE ( A message from founder Mohsin Mohi Ud Din)
I am honored to be partnering with the actors and producers of the Bright Light Theater Company on this special, cross cultural, theater production titled after this blog, ‘All Places From Here’ . The production will run from September 2nd – 17th in Philadelphia, PA USA as part of the highly anticipated Fringe Festival.
This special play is based on the stories and creative spirits of the street children of Morocco, taken from my arts initiative, Lollipops Crown. All Places From Here is a title I encountered during my journey through the Middle East and North Africa. It symbolizes not a place, but an energy, a feeling, a space in which the fire of creativity and love seeks to liberate itself from the coldness of the world -on -fire around us. All Places from Here weaves together an unbreakable link from pain, insecurity, and desperation to inspiration, faith, and beauty. I link All Places From Here to an excerpt of a Moroccan proverb about Tangier: it is the destination, jumping off point for thousands of hopes, reached only through struggle.
Lollipops Crown Arts Initiative (LC Arts Inc.)
The Lollipops Crown Arts Initiative (LC Arts Inc.) is a multidimensional music, film, and
arts program for disadvantaged youth that seeks to empower youth by promoting freedom of expression, pluralism, and cooperation via the arts. The project operates in the spirit of cultural exchange, youth engagement, and arts diplomacy. Founded under my Fulbright Scholarship (awarded by the State Department and the International Institute of Education and the Morocco Cultural Exchange Commission), the arts initiative was successfully implemented for over one year with three orphanages/centers in Morocco: Darna Association (support at (www.darnamaroc.org ) , Dar Lekbira Association (support at www.darlekbira.org), and Al Wafa. The BLTC production takes excerpts from these stories and creative energies.
The brilliant orphans and street children in Morocco learned how to write and play basic
rhythm notation and then learned how to write short stories based on social issues and their daily lives. The end of each story sought to explore their perception of hope and their future aspirations. As a result of the LC Arts initiative, the street kids directed, filmed, and acted in 17 short films dealing with poverty, street life, social challenges, hopes, fears, and dreams. The films and photographs were all products of the children and were screened for exhibition to the local community at the famous art house cinema, Cinematheque de Tangier, (cinemathequedetanger.com). The work of the Moroccan youth has been screened at the World Islamic Economic Forum in Malaysia, the United States Institute for Peace in Washington D.C and the LC Arts initiative has been acknowledged in a report by the Asia Society titled, ‘Creative Voices in the Muslim World’.
In 2011, I implemented a second installment of the LC Arts workshops in Kashmir, India with the help of CHINAR orphanage. In 6 weeks of workshops, the project successfully taught the children how to read, compose and play their own rhythm notations. They also wrote directed and filmed 4 short films about social issues of importance to them involving: pollution, female education, religious tolerance in politics, and corruption in the education system. The LC Arts initiative has been moving mountains with youth from disadvantaged communities from Morocco to India. The last two years have opened spaces of discovery, creativity, and confidence within the youth communities and has bridged perspectives from cultures far apart. The project is ongoing and is done independently. With your help, I hope to continue its mission for youth empowerment in the arts in the U.S and other countries. Please follow the work of the children and support the project at the All Places From Here blog:www.dangerville.wordpress.com or donate and get music from the project at www.mohsin.bandcamp.com or email LC Arts directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Preparing to fly to Kashmir to continue with the Lollipops Crown (Fulbright) film and music workshops for orphans at CHINAR organization, led by dear family friends Shireen Qadari and Irfan Shahmiri. Will also be doing some video projects and interviews with Kashmiri youth leadership groups and activists. I have no money for this project which has made continuing the great work from the Morocco workshops quite difficult. But dear friends have donated and helped to make this summer’s workshops for youth happen. The grant from the IIE and State Department and the Fulbright Fellowship hepled fund the successful implementation of these workshops in Morocco last year. Today, Amber Zerzan has bought a microphone and computer battery needed for video workshops and interviews. Ashley Van Ergen helped raise $700 which will go towards equipment/workshop costs. Columbia University has donated $600 to help with costs. My parents have paid for my ticket. $1,000 is not a lot to work with. But at the end of the day, you either do it or you don’t. All talk and no play is a lame status quo these day. Here, we are trying to, in a small scale, build cultural diplomacy, empower youth from disadvantaged communities, and ultimately move mountains in a world that sometimes seems hopeless. (To donate and get free music from the project: visit www.mohsin.bandcamp.com) This project is NOT about politics or religion. The views of this blog are of me and me alone.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2008 that “Between 60,000 and 100,000 children in this state of 5.5 million people are thought to be orphans – including fatherless children with mothers too poor to care for them”. The international humanitarian organization Medicins Sans Frontier reported that 1 in 3 Kashmiris have lost members of their family because of the armed conflict.
Some basic background on developments in Kashmir:
Kashmir is disputed territory between Pakistan and India and has been the main topic of contention between the two nuclear armed rivals. India claims Kashmir to be an integral part of the country whilst Pakistan claims Kashmir, a Muslim majority territory, should be put to a referendum. Pakistan has enabled violent militant groups to fight Indian forces in Kashmir. Separatists militants have fueled extremism and indiscriminate attacks on Kashmiri civil society. Meanwhile, India, who has some 500,000 military and paramilitary forces occupying the region, has committed systematic human rights abuse on Kashmiris resulting in the murder of tens of thousands of people and the disappearances of several thousand.
It is reported that approximately 70,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989. Contrary to popular belief, the security and economic and political development today is as fragile as it was in the early 1990s. Last summer for example, over 100 unarmed civilian protesters were killed.
Whether you are Hindu or Muslim or Kashmir or Pakistani or Indian, everyone has been affected by the conflict in Kashmir, yet it is the Kashmiris in and around the Kashmir Valley, in particular, Kashmiri mothers and the youth who have suffered the most. It is my hope that the Lollipops Crown project and our band, Zerobridge, can help give back and expand the international community’s identification of Kashmiri culture and Kashmiri youth.
In addition to leading workshops with orphans in Kashmir, I am also trying to organize some acoustic concerts for our band, Zerobridge, led my brother Mubashir (lead singer, songwriter, guitarist) and myself (drummer). Music and art can be the avenue to show a different side of the youth of Kashmir, one not marred by violence or oppression. The Lollipops Crown workshops and Zerobridge concerts I am trying to organize, would have a goal of helping to expose the world to the talents and intellect of Kashmiri youth by showcasing the arts of the valley’s youth. In Kashmir we hope to first learn more about Kashmir and then promote understanding and dialogue with fellow artists via music and film. Kashmiri youth till now have been unfairly labeled as angry, violent, closed minded, uneducated, unartistic. Yet Kashmiri youth are in fact intellectuals, artists, humanitarians, musicians. (See Nafeesa’s article on Kashmiri youth and the arts for Guernica Magazine) They are tolerant and seeking a more pluralistic and more developed society.
Stay tuned dear friends. The future is unwritten…..
The US Department of State and the Fulbright tweeted about my arts/film project (Lollipops Crown) for orphans/street kids in Morocco. Can’t believe this was a year ago. Planning the next phase now. Please keep supporting.
While working on Frank Rhee’s movie over the summer I returned from Morocco, my co-star Blair and I got to talking about combining my arts initiative from Morocco with real actors and a theater production company in America. This would provide the films, photos, and music of the street kids from the centers in Morocco (Darna, Dar Lekbira, Al Wafa, and ASCMP Drug Clinic), a key outlet from which their brilliance and creativity and perspectives could be seen and heard internationally. The arts would literally bridge the stories of Arab youth to young Actors and audiences in America.
I am pleased to say that production is under way for ALL PLACES FROM HERE, a partnership of Lollipops Crown Music and Arts Initiative with the Bright Light Theater Company based in Philadelphia.
Stay tuned, but in the mean time here is the basic info:
Bright Light in the Fringe Festival!
All Places From Here
a cross-cultural collaboration
Photo by: Mohsin Mohi-Ud-Din
Philadelphia Fringe Festival
Bright Light Theatre Company has teamed up with NYC-based Fulbright Scholar Mohsin Mohi-Ud-Din in order to bring to life the multi-dimensional arts and music youth program, Lollipops Crown Music and Arts Initiative. Founded by Mohsin in Tangier, Morocco in January 2009;Lollipops Crown is a fifteen month series of music, dance, and film workshops with the street children of the region, which aims to empower the youth via the arts. By utilizing live music, urban dance, and uniquely crafted projections of the short films from Tangier, BLTC will create a full-length multi-media performance entitled All Places From Here. Through the live interpretation of these inspiring stories, the extraordinary power of dreams sheds light on the perseverance of the human soul.
“In the world of music and art, there is no right and wrong. There is only the responsibility to express what you truly feel.” (Mohsin Mohi-Uh-Din)