Dancing on broken glass

Performers from the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach speak on colonization and its impacts in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Musician+and+bandleader+Dave+William+performed+with+Majic+Bullet+Theory+at+an+event+held+by+the+Cultural+Alliance+of+Long+Beach+Nov.+22.

Kristen Farrah Naeem

Musician and bandleader Dave William performed with Majic Bullet Theory at an event held by the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach Nov. 22.

An intimate live performance of music and dance was held for a crowd of around 20 people by the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach (CALB), on Sunday, Nov. 22.

The event was made possible by Caravana Furniture, a local business near that allowed CALB to use its parking lot as a performance space.

Performers expressed gratitude to Caravana Furniture throughout the event, although bits of gravel and broken glass made it a less than ideal dance floor. Dancers from CALB’s resident dance group, Maha and Company, were undaunted and improvised around these hazards at times when their choreography brought them to the ground.

Maha and Company performed a series of original dances, including an anti-war piece, and a dance in honor of founder Maha Afra’s hometown of Beirut, Lebanon.

Original choreography was performed to Edwin Starr’s rendition of the song War, which repeats the famous lines “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

Maha Afra of the dance troupe Maha and Company performs a dance encompassing the idea of motherhood at a performance in the parking lot of Caravana Furniture, Nov. 22. (Kristen Farrah Naeem)

Lebanon went through a prolonged civil war from 1975 to 1990, and Afra told the crowd that they could not even imagine the horrors of war if they have not lived through it.

In the piece honoring Beirut, Arabic music played while performers danced around an imaginary center point, representing Beirut, appearing to try to approach it but unable to.

Afra mentioned the recent troubles Beirut has faced as well as the lasting effects of colonization.

“They’ve been going through hell. And today actually marks our 77th Independence Day from France. They colonized the s— out of us. And we are still colonized till today, mentally, psychologically,” Afra told the crowd.

Colonization and its impacts were brought up numerous times at the event in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, which celebrates Europeans successfully beginning their settlement and colonization of Indigenous lands now known as the United States.

“Thanksgiving is Thursday, and we would like to start by honoring the Indigenous people, the natives of this land, who own this land. This is not our land. We are on the Tongva land right now, this is where we are standing,” Afra said.

Bandleader and musician Dave Williams also spoke about the mythology surrounding the holiday, which mentions how Indigenous people helped the settlers survive and learn how to adapt in their new climate, but fails to address the genocide inflicted upon these same Indigenous groups by the Europeans they tried to help.

“So these brown people keep these other people alive that winter, and we get these fairytales that we grow up with. I used to draw turkeys with this hand right here, ya’ll. I’d trace it with a crayon and I’d color it in, and then I’d make a pilgrim and then I’d make a quote, unquote, ‘Indian’,” Williams said to the crowd.

Despite fair criticism surrounding the holiday’s origins, CALB is still working to ensure unhoused community members are also able to enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving meal. The organization will be purchasing and cooking turkeys to distribute to those who may not have stoves of their own.

CALB board member Keith Jerome Lilly also had a table set up near the entrance of the parking lot where attendees could donate canned foods, toiletries and clothing for those in need.

“We just want to give back to the community, cause that’s what the Cultural Alliance is all about. Maha and our organization is always giving to people, and people give to us and we give back to the community. So that’s exactly what we’re set up for, to help out others,” Lilly told the Signal Tribune.

To find out about future Cultural Alliance of Long Beach (CALB) events, follow them on their official Instagram @calbarts.