Maria Isa
Dear Gaza
Minneapolis Artists and Musicians Gather to Fundraise at Annual Block Party
Sep 14, 2016

On Oct. 2, Minnesotans from all walks of life will gather to fundraise for Gaza through live music and art at the annual Dear Gaza block party. In addition to showcasing local artists, Dear Gaza raises funds for the ongoing plight of Palestinians. The evening features live music, spoken word poetry, dance, art and more from local artists standing in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

After the devastating war in Gaza in 2014, organizer Karmel Sabri “felt an urgency to do something to keep the fundraising momentum going,” she said. Karmel is a 20-year old of Palestinian heritage, born and raised in Minneapolis. “It’s a very progressive and politically involved city. It’s a very community- and art-based city, and people want to help others.”

I sat down with singer-songwriter Maria Isa, a Minnesotan by birth with Nuyorican roots. She’s one of the many local artists headlining the event.


What was your experience like at Dear Gaza last year?

It was cool to see people gathering to bridge and educate different communities who may not be aware of what Dear Gaza is about.

This year I’m excited to perform songs off my new tape, The Dragon Lady. I also look forward to seeing the women in leadership at this event. There was such strong unity and support from the women involved, and I look forward to experiencing that and growing the friendship as well.


A girl in a traditional Palestinian embroidered dress at last year’s event.

What attracts you to the struggles Gaza/Palestine face?

I’m Puerto Rican and I feel that there are similarities with us being represented as territories and not as our own countries. I am attracted to the people of Palestine, who are determined and who continue to fight for freedom and respect for their culture and land. Our people have had the same motives for over 115 years. I feel that there are parallels with Palestine. Our people deserve equal rights and deserve to claim what is theirs.

This past summer I learned a lot because my fiancé toured in Tel Aviv, or as he calls it, “the holy land.” He learned how many Palestinians and Israelis are trying to unify this generation for peace and not war.

Have you been active in this cause before?

I used to live in New York City and supported different organizations promoting arts and solidarity. I’ve been able to engage with others like Immortal Technique and Lah Tere of the group Rebel Diaz—they’ve been to Palestine and worked with youth through hip hop. So I’ve been educated on the subject.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s event?

I’m looking forward to people having a good time and promoting peace and not division. There’s always tension in matters of activism. But these events unify our voices and our actions to get everyone to listen. Music is a universal language.

What is it about Minneapolis that makes it a good place to fundraise for Gaza?

There’s a movement to recognize diversity in Minnesota. We didn’t just start the movement today; it’s been ongoing. Here in Minneapolis – St.Paul, we’re small in numbers compared to Chicago or NYC or LA, but we’re strong in marches. We recognize that war isn’t the way, and this unifies us whether we’re black, white, or all different shades of brown.

The Dear Gaza event highlights our intention to bring peace. Starting from here, we can cause a domino effect for other communities and cities around us.

Dear Gaza Band

Last year, the Dear Gaza block party raised $20,000, which was turned into $1.3 million worth of donated medical supplies.

The Dear Gaza block party is free with suggested donations of $10-$20. The party is at W 24th St & Lyndale Ave S and lasts from 3-10PM. Proceeds will go toward American Near East Refugee Aid’s medical and relief program for Gaza.

Posted by Leila Rafei on Sep 14, 2016
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