The New Pan-Arab Cultural Society (PACS) Provides “Pride in Existence” to Students

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This fall, Celine Anderson ’19, George Abraham ’17, and Evan Grennon ’18  founded a new Swarthmore intercultural group, the Pan-Arab Cultural Society (PACS). PACS hopes to build a “cultural safe space” for Arab students and allies on campus. All students who identify as Arab or who want to learn more about Arab culture are welcome.

The lack of Arab cultural awareness on campus and what Anderson described as “a need for a safe community for Arab students” provided the impetus for the formation of the group.

The founding members of PACS hope to create spaces where students can devote their time to talk about issues and events in the Arab world, and process these events in “cathartic and healing ways,” Abraham said.

The members of PACS want students to know that “there are others on campus who can relate to [Arab] issues and show support for them,” Abraham said.  To facilitate this mission, PACS has an open board member structure so that everyone “shares responsibilities in the group equally.”

“We want to provide a cultural safe space for Arab students on campus,” Abraham said. “There are a lot of cultural spaces for other ethnic groups on campus, but not one for Arab students […] and we want to fill that gap in the IC community.”

When asked what being an Arab student at Swarthmore was like, Anderson gave a warm response: “It’s nice to meet other Arab students […] with similar cultural backgrounds.” Anderson and Abraham feel that in Swarthmore’s diverse climate, it will be beneficial to have a developed network and community of Arab students.

However, Abraham explained that cultural groups for Middle Eastern students on campus have had their share of caveats in the past. Finding a medium ground between a safe space and a space for dialogue and discussion is still a challenge for cultural groups on campus. Abraham stressed the idea that “while all are welcome [in PACS] we don’t want [members] that actively oppress Arab students.”

Prior to this year, other attempts have been made by Swarthmore students to bring more visibility to Middle Eastern students at Swarthmore. One such group was named AMAL, meaning hope in Arabic. The group consisted of Syrian and Palestinian students. Abraham stressed that only having a cultural support space “didn’t work well” in a model for cultural awareness and action. This year, AMAL has expand into PACS, “so it’s more of an open and all inclusive model than it was before,” Abraham said.

Board members also commented on the specific nature of their group name. “Choosing ‘Pan-Arab’ as our title was a conscious choice,” said Abraham. Stressing the importance of an all-inclusive space was integral for members of the group.

The hope for PACS is to provide both a “reactionary space” for issues facing Arab-American students at Swarthmore and to provide a supportive environment for novel ideas in the Arab world. According to Abraham, the cultural society is a chance for Arabs on campus to have “pride in existence.”

PACS had its first meeting last Thursday. Anderson was content with the turnout for the first meeting, stating that “it was a really nice opportunity to meet students with interests in Arab culture.”

PACS will be hosting several events this month. On October 22, PACS will hold a travel meeting for students to share travel experiences in the Arab world. Additionally, on October 30, PACS will be hosting a film screening of the movie West Beyrouth.

Follow PACS at @swatpacs on Instagram for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Phoenix

Discover more from The Phoenix

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading