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For me, and probably many of us, the 4th of July means fireworks, barbecues, cold beer, and good times with friends. It is a day when the Washington, DC metro is flooded with people from around the country as they try to make their way to the national mall to watch fireworks rain trails of sparkling light down on the Washington Monument, smoke billowing across the ellipse, while bands play nationalistic songs of our past that symbolize the US gaining its independence from Britain. As a kid, I remember the journey down to the mall quite well, watching the events from the top of my parent’s office buildings in Rosslyn, and playing with sparklers in front of my house in Mt. Pleasant, Washington, DC. Cities and towns across America hold these celebrations every year. For some, it truly is a day of celebration for our independence. For others, it’s probably just a good excuse to drink beer and eat watermelon.

This year was my first spent outside of the country on the 4th of July. Yet despite being far from home, this year proved to be the single most meaningful Independence Day of my life, as I spent the day in a refugee camp in Bethlehem with some of the most incredible young guys I have ever met – the artists from the hip-hop group Palestine Street. Because the organization that I work with focuses on community based organizations, and hip-hop has quickly become the voice of the youth in the neighborhoods of Palestine, this was our first step at working toward such collaboration. ...continue reading "A 4th of July to Remember"