Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, the organization that teaches children in Philly about Arabic traditions
Their main hub on Lancaster Ave, has art gallery exhibits and showcases films for students.
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Philadelphia is known for its melting pot of cultures and thriving businesses represented by people from different cultures.
One nonprofit organization, in particular, is hoping to showcase Arabic culture by providing after school programs, Arabic lessons, singing and percussion classes, and a throwing art gallery.
David Heayn-Menendez, the director of public education at Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and Philadelphia native, has dedicated his time to teaching locals about the diversity of Arabic culture.
“I'm originally from Rhawnhurst and I grew up in the Northwest part of Philly,” Heayn-Menendez said in an interview with AL DÍA News.
The organization was founded at a time after 9/11, a time in history where Arabic people were horribly judged and were isolated from others.
The founder of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, Hazami Sayed, wanted to show the beauty and diversity in Arabic culture.
Although Sayed ended her tenure in late 2020, the organization has grown immensely since.
Heayn-Menendez, who has been a part of Al-Bustan since 2007, has spoken at schools and has taught after school programs.
They currently have students in six elementary schools in its afterschool program, some of them take place at the school, and some of them come to the office in West Philly.
They also have online classes once a week. Al-Bustan drops off art supplies to registered students at their home address.
“We do a lot of school programs at Moffet Elementary, we do a lot of programming at Northeast High School and Penn Alexander,” said Heayn-Menendez.
They also provide Zoom workshops, such as Arabic language lessons for children and adults. The organization also has singing classes for those who are interested.
“We also have an art gallery there and film screenings and talks and music performances and everything, but otherwise we started as a summer camp,” he said. “It was off site, the first was one as Morris Arboretum, the latest one is Bartram’s Garden.”
The nonprofit organization is also showcasing art through a diverse group of local artists. They recently opened their gallery space for Janell Wysock, a talented creator who uses recyclables to show her audience that upcycled materials can be beautiful.
Their Lancaster Ave location has been home to around 10 galleries since 2019, the year their office opened.
The nonprofit will hold a concert on August 12, headlined by Alsarah and the Nubatones!, a Sudanese-American and East African retro-punk band.
On May 7, Al-Bustan hosted Arab Community Day at Penn Treaty Park. Hundreds of family members and friends gathered to learn about Arabic culture and customs.
The free event had food trucks, arts and crafts activities, and nonprofit resources for those who attended.
“We have artists and vendors who are selling their work, there is no harm in having Arab art next to Dominican art,” he said.
There is a large Arab population in Latin and Central America, specifically Brazil and Venezuela. Heayn-Menendez says that he feels like he is in the Middle East when he travels to Latin America.
“The largest concentration of Lebanese in the world is Brazil, there is a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they have regular Arab festivals and make Arab foods and treats,” he said.
Heayn-Menendez also stated that the organization has been working to provide immigrants with COVID-19 vaccinations for residents in West Philadelphia, South Kensington, South Philadelphia, and Northeast Philadelphia.
Al-Bustan will also be collaborating with The Philadelphia Area Immigrant Collective Action, (PAICA) an advocacy organization, by creating a public service announcement to discuss mental health.
For more information on Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, check out their website.