This weekend marks the return of YallaPunk, a multi-platform Philly festival celebrating Middle Eastern and North African artists in music, film, comedy and more — while also combatting negative depictions of them, not just in the cultural scene, but in society in general.
“In general, I think a lot of MENA individuals are painted as violent, as backwards, not cultured,” says festival founder Rana Fayez of her reasons for organizing YallaPunk. “[They’re painted in] really negative ways. That doesn’t really sit with me that well.”
In addition to being a DJ, an artist and an educator, Fayez is an Arab-American immigrant who grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, immersed in the East Coast punk scene but also feeling left out of it — at the shows she went to as a teenager, she remembers being one of only two non-white people in the crowd. That inspired her push to create her own events, including the festival, and she hopes that among other things, attendees walk away from YallaPunk with a better idea of what it means to take up space versus making space for others.
Fayez appeared on the XPN Local Show last night to discuss the festival and its origins, to share thoughts on how arts communities can be more inclusive, and to play music from eight of the performers at this weekend’s event. Continue reading →