Honey Al-Sayed: The Role of the Media & Arts in Resolving Conflict
By: Caitlin Sheridan
The Korbel School of International Studies had the pleasure of welcoming Honey Al-Sayed as the Sié Center Practitioner-in-Residence as a part of their Sié Center's Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative (IGLI) during the Fall of 2019. Ms. Al-Sayed has extensive background in the arts, and her own experiences have shaped her hope for the future of arts and media as a form of peace as well as point of empathy. Ms. Al-Sayed is the founder of Media and Arts for Peace (MAP; www.mediaartspeace.com), a for profit consultancy organization that works to promote various artists, whose work Is striving for more peaceful and equitable societies. MAP operates as both a talent consultancy firm and an academy. MAP Academy is an opportunity for people to receive training on how to use media and the arts as tools of communication to create change within societies.
The inclusion of the arts and media in conflict settings can create a gray scale for people to acknowledge and navigate their own and other's views. Arts and the media have the power to act as bridges of empathy where people can grow to appreciate artistic messages and use their understanding of those messages to form a peaceful existence with others. During a DU campus event, Ms. Al-Sayed shared the poem of Warsan Shire, a Somali refugee living in Kenya. Below is a small stanza of the larger piece that demonstrates the collision of arts, refugee identity, and a platform to build empathy:
...no one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark.
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city
Running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay...
(Warsan Shire, "Home by Warsan Shire," Facing History and Ourselves, (Accessed March 23, 2020), https://www.facinghistory.org/standing-up-hatred-intolerance/warsan-shire-home.)
The poem as a whole allows the reader to build an understanding of conflict through poetry, demonstrating the role of media and the arts in communicating the emotions and thoughts of individuals impacted by conflict. The arts and media can be powerful and complementary tools to peace because they allow people to build an understanding of diverse perspectives that can lead to more effective civil relations, negotiations, or peace settlements.