This week people across the globe are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King Jr. made his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech .
Tuesday evening, Lebanon joined the world as a hundred people from different sects, races, nationalities and ages danced together for peace. In Ain Mreisseh, along the Mediterranean Sea, a coastline witness to numerous ongoing violent struggles – Lebanon’s Tripoli, Syria and Egypt – participants in “Dance the Dream” danced to the songs “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson, “One Love” by Bob Marley, “Trabak Ya Lubnan” and “Let the Sunshine In” by Fifth Dimension.
As the group danced to these songs of peace, the words of the late American civil rights activist appeared to be as relevant to the rest of the world as they were in Washington 50 years ag o – that despite progress there continue to be major injustices that must be overcome before real freedom can be achieved for all.
“We hope this will give people hope in the dark days,” said Josyane Boulos, who helped organize the flash mob through Urban Art, the Beirut event planning company where she is managing partner.
“Of course a dance won’t change everything, but it can give hope, and hope can keep people going. Give peace a chance. That’s why we’re doing it,” said Boulos, who at 50 years old can barely remember a time when there was real peace in Lebanon.
Even during the calm times, she sees the country as a place where people still live in a society de facto segregated by sect and class, and one where residents from Africa and South Asia have virtually no opportunity for social or economic advancement.
Ironically, in a part of the world that is in the daily global headlines, it was by coincidence that the flash mob ended up being performed in Beirut.
It was the cousin of Boulos, Nanou Boulos Coranson, a Paris-based ballet instructor, who was frustrated when she learned that the flash mobs in cities throughout the world – including Paris – would be taking place while she was visiting her family in Lebanon.
A thought occurred to her: Why not put together a flash mob in Beirut?
She contacted the New York-based Karz productions, an independent film company that was organizing the “Dance the Dream” flash mobs throughout the world in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. They gladly registered her Beirut group.
“I was thrilled to get interest from Beirut,” producer Richard Karz told The Daily Star, noting that Lebanon is the only country in the region to have a dance group registered in the global festivities. “It’s exactly what I wanted to happen – to have countries from the Middle East. The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was a national story in 1963, and now it’s a global story with the ethnic conflict that’s going on.”
“Dynamic multiculturalism is the key to the Middle East and everywhere,” he added.
For two weeks straight, her troop of around 100 dancers – Lebanese and other Arabs of all sects, Ethiopians and Sri Lankans ranging in age from 4 to 65 – practiced jazz numbers that Coranson choreographed.
Meanwhile, her cousin the event planner tirelessly organized and publicized the event.
“The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. changed things in the U.S ., and it changed things all over the world,” Boulos said. “We’re seeing it in Lebanon. People want peace.”