Sometimes you have an experience that changes your life. You don’t expect it. You don’t ask for and you certainly don’t plan for it, but it happens. And that is exactly what happened to me in 2009.
As part of their Iraqi Voices Amplification Project, Intersections International invited me to join seven other artists as part of an artist delegation to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to meet with Iraqi refugees, hear their stories and eventually share those stories with American audiences in hopes of creating awareness and change, bravely believing in the power of art to change hearts and minds.
Well I did just that. I went on this life-changing trip—life-changing because listening to the heart-wrenching stories of refugee life day after day changed me; life-changing because I fell in love with a refugee, one of the refugees we were meeting with. I didn’t mean to, but I did. Omar was his name. He was an artist living in Damascus, having fled his home in Baghdad in fear for his life. And then somehow, days later, I had to return to mine.
I eventually wrote the play, No Place Called Home, produced by Intersections, Parlagreco Productions and Aaron Louis and Three-Legged Dog. I performed the play in New York City with fellow traveling artist Amikaeyla Gaston. We also toured the play regionally culminating with a performance with UNHCR at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of World Refugee Day. Along the way I became a refugee advocate, speaking for displaced people worldwide. I wrote articles and essays. I volunteered with resettlement agencies. I worked with The List Project, helping Iraqis who worked with U.S forces. And all the while, I was in a really long-distance relationship with Omar. Life. Changing.
None of this would have happened had Intersections not invited me to travel to the Middle East and meet some refugees. As an artist and as a human, I am grateful. Life. Changing.
Years passed and I continued to feel an obligation to share the stories I witnessed with as many people as I could to continue to change hearts and minds. Who would have guessed that with our recent presidential election, how important it would become to counter the exponentially increased hate, intolerance and misinformation regarding refugees. And so a book was the next logical step. And it has become my advocacy.
Three Days in Damascus, published by London-based Palewell Press in 2016, tells the story of the whirlwind Middle Eastern romance and subsequent three-year intercontinental, internet relationship in the shadow of a revolution. It’s an undeniably relevant story of culture devastation, redemption and hope…a story that isn’t supposed to be a love story.
I am thrilled and grateful to be returning to Intersections to share this life-changing story. It seems fitting to end my book tour where the whole experience began.
We will be joined by brilliant musician Farid Johnson and fellow author and advocate Michael Otterman. I hope you will join us. You never know when your life will change.
To RSVP for the event, go to http://bit.ly/2kQtcNg.