During the first week of the semester, new NYU Florence students were jet lagged, struggling to unpack, meeting new faces at orientation week, discovering Conad, and marvelling at the Duomo. Some of us needed to adjust to the nonchalant staring of local Italians, and some of us continually failed to bring our own bags to the grocery store. We fell in love with Za Za, Gusta Pizza, and Edoardo’s gelato. It took a lot of time management to juggle booking flights, travelling, academics, and connecting to people back home. Regina Onorato, an NYU Washington Square senior, reflects that studying abroad has “made me more aware of my identity. Trying to adjust to a new language and culture is tough, but rewarding.” While studying abroad, students often undergo a lot of self-exploration and are challenged to rethink their established beliefs and perspective. This is the spirit of LPD – to encourage a deeper exploration of important issues and topics in the humanist tradition of Florence.
At 8 years old, Bachar Mar-Khalifé and his family fled their civil war torn country in Lebanon to France. In France, Mar-Khalifé developed his musical skills as an instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris and has released three albums since. His debut album, “Oil Slick,” (2010) took ten years to complete, while his latest album, “Ya Balad,” (2015) took him 10 days to complete. In “Ya Balad” (“Oh, Country”), he responds to the Lebanese Civil War and his country’s remnants of destruction and political turmoil. He reflects on his family’s need to flee their country, and the current state of Lebanon.
In this album, the multi-instrumentalist experiments with different sounds and instrumentals that make it impossible to put his music into a specific genre. His music merges jazz, indie, folk, rock, electronic, and classical to create a unique sound. Through his music, he is able to draw forth feelings of peace, fear, confusion, and desperation. In this very personal album, Mar-Khalifé sings in Arabic but, is able to convey strong emotional and political messages regardless of this language barrier.
His album sparked controversy for containing underlying sexual messages and other messages that were believed to go against God, and was even censored in Lebanon. His song, “Kyrie Eleison” (meaning “God have mercy” in Greek) was highly controversial and Lebanese authorities stated that he would not be allowed to promote his album in Lebanon unless this song was deleted from the album.
Mar-Khalifé has spoken up about this issue on Facebook, releasing a statement in Arabic, French and English on April 13, 2016: “I sang KYRIE Eleison, and more powerfully as ever, exactly as I sang it in Beirut and as I will sing it wherever I want to scream at the political and religious institutions who want to govern our lives as if we are still living in the Middle Ages. I scream for my humanity against the processes that repress the spirit. I scream against the cultural and intellectual poverty imposed by a model of society where money is the sole reference. I scream for my being, refusing to be submitted to anyone or anything. I doubt, I seek, I question, I sing, I surrender, I do not surrender, I let it go, I continue, I sing, I like, I drink, I dance, I do wrong, I live.”
The inner conflict that Mar-Khalifé undergoes regarding his national, religious, and political identity can resonate with those who feel repressed in any aspect of their identity.
Mar-Khalifé will be performing this album on April 4th at Cinema La Compagnia (Via Cavour, 50r) at 9 PM for the Middle East Film Festival. His album is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. Take a listen and join us for this exciting event!
On March 8, Italy celebrated International Women’s Day alongside many other countries. I was shocked to see how much emphasis was placed on this day, from the exchange of the yellow mimosas (a flower that has become “an emblem of Women’s Day”), to the discounted aperitivos, to women’s free admission into museums. The most memorable for me was the Women’s March which took place in and around the center of Florence. Here I witnessed people from all backgrounds and walks of life come together for the collective motivation to celebrate women’s achievements, and continue the fight for equality. Within the sea of people, you could see highlights of pink (a color that signifies femininity but has now become a symbol of the Women’s Movement, especially with the pink “pussy hats”), and bright flags that represented people’s identities — nationally, sexually, or socially. Young girls stood at the forefront of the march, fearlessly chanting and holding up the sign “NOT ONE LESS,” and I couldn’t help but feel comforted that these girls are our future. The boys and men behind these girls understood what it meant to support them. Their subsequent positions did not mean subservience to the females, but solidarity with the females. In the middle of the march, a group of predominantly male performers put the march to a halt to perform with their unconventional drums. I looked around at the entertained spectators and noticed the expression of the participants’ faces. They were uplifted and liberated as they danced and marched together. This march reminded me of the power that comes from solidarity, unity, and love.
Born in 1961, Jack Halberstam, formerly known as Judith Halberstam, is Visiting Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at University of Southern California (USC). As the author of The Queer Art of Failure and Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal, Halberstam is well known for his Queer philosophy and works in the areas of queer theory, gender studies, feminist theory, popular and visual culture, and Gothic literature and the horror film, with an emphasis on subculture. Halberstam’s is currently conducting several projects including a book titled WILD THING on queer anarchy, performance and protest culture, the visual representation of anarchy and the intersections between animality, the human, and the environment.
On March 15, Halberstam will give a talk with La Pietra Dialogues on the topics of trans and gender variance, where students will have an opportunity to learn more about the current status and future developments of transgender rights, transgender visibility, and transgender recognition. All students are highly encouraged to join our dialogue!
By Minhee Lee and Yimin Wang, NYU Florence students
An Act of Violence
On April 26, a police officer was caught on a security camera beating a young Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. In response, 1,000 Ethiopian-Israelis took part in an anti-police protest on May 4, 2015 on Rabin Square. What started off as a peaceful protest, with demonstrators blocking the main thoroughfares of Tel Aviv, later turned violent as protesters began to throw objects and confront the police. Chants of “A violent cop should be in jail!” and “Enough of racism, enough of violence!” grew louder and louder. The officers responded with smoke, stun grenades, and water cannons. According to the police, about 46 people were slightly injured, half of them police officers, and at least 26 protesters had been arrested by midnight.
This protest was not only in response to the isolated event of the police officer caught on tape, but also to demonstrate the outcry of injustice and unfair treatment that Ethiopian immigrants have faced since the 1980s during their first wave of immigration to Israel. Since then, Ethiopian-Israelis have made up about 135,500 of the Israeli population. However over half of them are impoverished and only half graduate from high school. They are treated as second class citizens, and experience discrimination and racism.