PZ Middle Eastern Student Association Brings Solidarity, Community

Pitzer College Student Senate welcomed a new identity group, the Middle Eastern Student Association of Pitzer College, on Jan. 30.

Chance Kawar PZ ’17 and Hajar Hammado PZ ’18, interim co-presidents of MESA, came up with the idea of forming the group last year and had been working on the bylaws ever since. They said they had been waiting to introduce the group to the Student Senate, and decided this semester was a good time to debut it, due to President Donald Trump's recent executive orders and the current political climate.

“Our main purpose,” Hammado said, “was to have a student organization that provided a gathering place for students of Middle Eastern origin or descent, and to come together for the purposes of organizing, learning, sharing, and healing together as a community.”

Hammado personally identifies as a Muslim Syrian-American. Since both of her parents moved to the United States when they were young, she has never been to Syria.

“Even though I’ve never had the chance to visit my father’s side of the family, unfortunately now is not the time to visit Syria," she said. "Especially now, with the recent executive orders, I think a lot about how if my parents hadn’t moved here to go to college and decided to stay in Syria instead, I would probably be someone trying to find somewhere to go as a refugee.”

Hammado believes that sharing personal identities is a pivotal aspect of MESA.

“It’s nice to have a place where everyone, like myself, identifies as Middle Eastern, to talk about our different experiences, and what is currently happening in our world and how that affects us and our families.

“I’m very proud of (our varying identities),” Hammado added. “For instance, me being Syrian-American, and Chance being Palestinian-American… we are able to come together as a community as well as connect with our culture.”

MESA member Ilyssa Yahmi, an exchange student at Pitzer, agreed that the group is special. She identifies as Algerian, Berber, and French, as she was born, raised, and educated in different places. 

“I found MESA to be a place where people are eager to hear about you," Yahmi said. "I met people and friends there with whom I share similar goals, values, and struggles. I personally feel in a bubble where everyone cares about protecting your identity, which is really important. ... I learned to have an open-minded spirit, regardless of political tension.”

According to Hammado, MESA is planning on hosting a variety of events, including a community dinner with Pitzer President Melvin Oliver and gatherings at snack on Tuesday nights. MESA meets every Wednesday night in Skandera Hall, P105, but this is subject to change.

MESA’s Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/PitzerMESA/