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‹ Mn Huna: Finding Refuge in Friendship

Episode 19: I Can Be Here

November 21, 2017
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Melanie and Houda at the All Souls Procession Finale dress rehearsal. Photo by Jody Greer Cummins.

It’s been a while since we recorded a new episode of Mn Huna: Finding Refuge in Friendship, which is largely because Melanie has been occupied with organizing for the All Souls Procession, Tucson’s massive public gathering to creatively and collectively remember and honor our dead, open to all cultures, all people, all manner of mourning and honoring. Melanie has volunteered with All Souls Procession for a decade.

Last year Houda and her family went to the Procession of Little Angels–the small, child-focused event on the Saturday of Procession weekend. Melanie thought that the big Procession might be a bit overwhelming for them!

But this year, Houda and her family attended the big Procession on Sunday. Her family as Melanie’s guests at the Finale Ceremony. Houda as part of Melanie’s crew–an Ambassador, passing out paper and pencils for people to write a remembrance or name to place in the Urn and assisting the Attendants who escort the Urn and receive the messages that go in it.

There’s nothing remotely like the Procession in Syria. Houda doesn’t know a word for it in Arabic and has struggled to explain it to her Syrian and Iraqi friends. It is utterly foreign to her experience. Yet participating in it is the first time she felt that she could truly belong in America.

هدى/Houda: من هنا:الجميع مرحب بهم

Melanie/ميلاني: From here all people are welcome.

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Transcript

Melanie: Hi, I’m Melanie.
Houda: Hi, I’m Houda.
Melanie: And you are listening to…
Houda: Mn Huna
Melanie: Finding Refuge in Friendship
Melanie: Isme Melanie.
Houda: Isme Houda.

Melanie: Some of you out there know that I have been involved with the All Souls Procession for over a decade. I’m one of the volunteer organizing crew. And specifically I lead a group called the Ambassadors. And the Ambassadors go out into the streets and bring people paper and pencils so that they can write a name or a message or a prayer or a remembrance to put in the Urn. And they also support the Attendants, who are the people who are around the Urn collecting all of those. Last year, when I had really just met Houda’s family, they all went with me to Procession of Little Angels, which is the children’s kinda quiet event in the park on Saturday. But this year, Houda joined my Ambassador crew. So Houda did this incredibly Tucson thing.

Houda: First Hi to everybody listening to us. So now we are recording a new episode after we gave our souls energy and love. This year I was a member of the Procession family. I was Ambassadors in this year and I will be Ambassador for next year. And that meaning for me cooperation and love. The most people in the Attendants group was strangers for me at the beginning. But few minutes we became friends, helping each other without talking. Just our eyes talking instead our tongues. That made me very glad. Because how much beautiful by hours you could bring many friends to your heart.

Melanie: We tried to kinda talk about the Procession ahead of time. I tried to explain it. And you watched the documentary Many Bones, One Heart, but what did you expect when you went to Procession? What were you thinking it was going to be like?

Houda: So I expected before that the Procession just a small procession. Just people walking and celebrating. But actually was very different than I thought. I thought Procession will be about specific religion, and it’s not. It’s like just for religion of the heart.

Houda helping Mary Beth with her head scarf for Procession. Photo by Kathleen Dreier.

Melanie: One of the things we talked about is that the Procession is really open to all people and all ways of being. So we had this interesting experience where in day-to-day life in America you wear your hijab and it makes you look very different from other people. But in Procession our crew all wore blue and we wore scarves on our heads and we wore this big blue makeup. Pretty wild looking. But at the same time you were part of group. How did that feel for you? How was that experience of being in the streets with the group?

Houda: So my feeling was very different this time. Because people was looking at me by their heart not by their eyes. And this is my first time I feeling I’m not different than American people. So that make me very like hope…for like…You know sometimes always I think myself I want back to some Arabic country because I’m different I’m…something like that. But in the Procession I’m feeling I can be here. I can be with American people. Only just few minutes that changed very big change for me. And that in Procession happen. One year, I have been here thirteen months–more than one year–and few things make me really hopeful about stay in America.

Melanie: I put a lot of time and energy into Procession and it’s always for me about the stories–of people and how the Procession touches people. And one of the things I think is really important about it is to have people from all different backgrounds in the street together seeing their love, seeing their grief, seeing the things that make us all human. And to share that in the streets is really powerful. And so for me to hear how that affected you, Houda, is really…it make my heart happy.

Melanie/ميلاني: From here all people are welcome.

هدى/Houda: من هنا:الجميع مرحب بهم

Houda at the All Souls Procession giving paper and pencil to a participant so that she can write a name or message for the Urn. Photo by Susan Tiss.

TAGS
All Souls Procession,   Immigration,   Refugee,   Refugees,   Syria,   Tucson,  

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