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Calls for peaceful cooperation between Israel and Palestine received a response from Remi Kanazi at an evening of slam poetry in Salomon 001 Friday night. The performance marked the first night of Kanazi's nation-wide tour to promote "Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine," his new CD and book of poetry.

Railing against ignorance and bigotry, Kazani held nothing back in his indictment of U.S. and Israeli policy towards Palestine, the American media's representation of the Middle East and public perception of Arab-Americans.

The evening's event, which was organized by Brown Students for Justice in Palestine, began with performances by members of Word!, Brown's student-run spoken word troupe. Students wrote poems about Palestine specially for the event, said Fatimah Asghar '11, a member of the group.

Although not all of the group's performances are so politically charged, "this is right in line with what we're about," she said.

The students' poems, some of them written on short notice for the event, were raw and had a sense of immediacy.

Asghar's poem was an elaborate metaphor. Connecting the story of a South African man's desire to claim his olive trees in court to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, her poem was about "the strength of people and places," she said.

Jared Paul, a slam poet and a member of AS220, a local non-profit community arts space, took the themes of the event in a different direction by talking about his own experience as an activist within the U.S. He started off in plain prose, but switched to more poetic speech when he focused on specific moments and emotions.

When Kanazi took to the stage, he immediately asked for the lights to be turned up. Then he talked about himself — about his upbringing in western Massachusetts, his struggles to find his identity as a Palestinian-American and his late exposure to "lefty politics" after his brother went away to college.

Interspersing short, punchy poems with funny, caustic, often self-depricating commentary, Kanazi kept the audience laughing and applauding for over an hour.

Onstage his goal was to provoke as well as to blow off steam. As he noted, "you get so angry because you feel like there's never a sense of change."

It's hard to imagine another American audience that would have cheered so loudly at lines such as this, directed at the Israeli government — "Better is not racial, ethnic or religious but situational, and in that sense, we are better than you."

Though harsh, at least onstage, in his censure of U.S. and Israeli policy and dismissive of "people who say Palestinians need to be more like Gandhi" and wait patiently for their own state, Kanazi also encouraged cooperation throughout the Middle East.

"What (the recent protests in) Egypt opened the door for was this reemerging view that what we need is unity," he said. "When enough voices come together, change can happen."



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