11th annual Bay Ridge Arab-American Bazaar brings families and fun to Shoreline Park
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The Yemeni band was nowhere to be found when the time came for them to perform in Shoreline Park on July 9, but no one seemed to mind, particularly. Eyes shielded by her trademark aviator sunglasses, former Arab American Association of New York Executive Director and controversial activist Linda Sarsour took the stage: “I invite all of my brothers and sisters from Yemen to dance and enjoy themselves while we play traditional music and our next act has time to get ready!”
And that is just what they did. Young men, arms interlocked, formed rough circles to dance on the grass. A few women joined in, moving in and out of the men’s circle, while other women formed circles of their own, swirling and cavorting to recorded music.
The 11th Annual Bay Ridge Arab-American Bazaar was well under way. Arrayed before a stage where Freedom Dakba Group, Zaid Al-ramuni and Fahim Dandan would perform, a wide circle of merchants had the opportunity to share their products. Halal food vendors worked their grills, and the odor of spiced chicken and lamb filled the mild-summer air.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout,” Sarsour said later. Admitting she was terrible at crowd tallies, she hedged: “We have at least as many as last year — 2,500 — maybe a few more.”
City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (Bay Ridge) came over to tell Sarsour he was leaving.
“What can I say,” Menchaca told the Brooklyn Eagle, “this is a great event. Inclusive, joyful. I never miss it!”
“The whole community looks forward to the Bazaar,” said Habib Judeh, Arab American Association of New York vice president. “Everyone pitches in. There is a real spirit going on.”
Despite it being a campaign season, overt politicking was discouraged. Sitting politicians and candidates were welcome to partake of the festivities, but not given time for speeches. The only official political activity consisted of a voter registration tent set off to one side of the stage, where volunteers helped residents fill out forms while explaining the regulations.
“We wanted to make everyone welcome,” Sarsour said. “So, it seemed best to give partisan politics the day off.”
One very visible candidate for the City Council’s 43rd District seat, soon to be vacated by a term-limited Vincent Gentile, was Rev. Khader El-Yateem. The Salaam-Arabic Lutheran Church pastor stood by himself on the grass with an order of freshly cooked falafel.
“[My campaign has] more than 3,000 signatures now,” El-Yateem said. “I feel there’s a chance for us to demonstrate that people’s voices count; they can be heard, and each one of their votes will matter.”
In spite of Facebook page admonitions to the contrary, some celebrants brought flags from their native countries, which they unfurled and waved as they danced.
After the Yemeni music finished, Sarsour took the stage to introduce Arab American Association of New York’s new Executive Director, Rama Issa-Ibrahim, who praised her predecessor as “a courageous and outspoken advocate for the Arab Muslim community … I stand by Linda!”