Majed Abdulsamad is a Syrian architectural and urban designer. Originally from Homs, Majed was born and raised in Damascus and moved to Chicago in 2012 in the aftermath of the Syrian war. He's currently working in the National Association of City Transportation Officials as part of the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety. Majed received his master's degree in urban design from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University. He also holds a bachelor's degree in architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology.
Faraj Abyad is a contemporary Singer and Musician of Syrian/Aleppian decent based in New York City. He specializes in performing Arabic music in its traditional form. Gathering local distinguished musicians and singers to uphold the beauty of “Tarab”.
LINA SERGIE ATTAR
Lina Sergie Attar is a Syrian-American architect and writer from Aleppo. She was named one of GOOD magazine’s 2016 GOOD 100 for Karam’s innovative work with Syrian refugees. Her articles and essays have been published in NYT, Chicago Tribune, Foreign Policy, Politico, The Atlantic, and BBC. She has appeared on CNN, NBC News, BBC News, Huffington Post, NPR, and other media outlets. Lina has spoken about the Syrian humanitarian crisis at schools, universities, and institutions including: RISD, Harvard, University of Chicago, John Hopkins, Northwestern, The New School, Phillips Exeter Academy, King’s Academy in Jordan, the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, New America, the Aspen Institute, and others. Sergie Attar is a co-founder of the How Many More? Project, serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Syria Campaign, and is a non-residents fellow at New America.
George Batah is a consultant and Syrian activist based in New York. He has recently been named a Schwarzman Scholar, a Global Shaper and representative to 2017 UN Social and Economic Council Youth Forum. He actively advocates and fundraises for causes like Education, Humanitarian Relief and Youth Empowerment in the Middle East. In 2015, He carried on a successful petition to increase the number of refugees admitted by the US and has been invited to the White House. Eventually, the efforts led to the administration's decision to increase the refugee cap and humanitarian aids to Syria. George is the co-founder of “Syrian Youth Empowerment” an initiative to empower and help Syrian high school students in Syria and neighboring countries. This year, SYE, secured admissions and full scholarship for Syrian students at Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown among others.
Holly began her career as a writer and editor at The New York Times and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Since then she lived in Korea as a Henry Luce scholar and print and television journalist; produced the award-winning documentary, Margaret Sanger; co-founded North Carolina’s Full Frame Festival; served as a consultant for The After-School Corporation; produced the PBS series Media Matters; and most recently was the Executive Director of The Global Film Initiative.
Scott Cameron is the Executive Producer for Ahlan Simsim, an all-new, local version of Sesame Street designed for children affected by displacement in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. He also oversees production of local versions of Sesame Street in South Africa, India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, and is developing Sesame content to aid families affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis. Scott has been working in children’s educational media since the days of E.R. and the Macarena, when he developed content and curriculum for international versions of Sesame Street in Japan, China, Russia, and Mexico. He is a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer of PBS’s The Electric Company, for which he also served as a writer and Director of Education. Scott has written for numerous children’s shows, including Oobi, Curious George, Ollie & Moon, and the upcoming Norman Picklestripes for Universal Kids. Scott is a graduate of Boston University and Teachers College, Columbia University.
Raised on the verge of several musical streams since her childhood, Lebanese violinist and composer Layale Chaker debuted her musical training at the National Higher Conservatory of Beirut in her native Lebanon. She later pursued her musical studies at Conservatoire de Paris and the Royal Academy of Music in London, and is currently working towards her doctoral degree at Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris. She has studied under professors such as Mohamed Hashem, Carmen Scripcariu, Jeanne- Marie Conquer and Nicholas Miller.
Layale has appeared as a soloist, performer, improviser and composer in concerts, recitals and projects around Europe, the Middle-East, North and South America and Asia, performing in Germany, France, Greece, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada, Switzerland, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Indonesia and Argentina, as well as in several festivals, namely Alderburgh Festival, Junger Kunstler Festival Bayreuth, the Lucerne Festival for Contemporary Music, Impuls’ Festival, Beethoven Festival Bonn and Avignon Festival among others. Past season highlights include a premiere work for solo violin and orchestra with the Oxford Orchestra, the premiere of her string trio by members of New World Symphony in Miami, as well as the debut tour with her own ensemble, Sarafand, across Germany, France, the UK and the USA.
Maurice Chedid studied at the Lebanese Conservatory of Middle Eastern Music. As a member of the Lebanese Folkloric Group, he toured internationally for four years and has since played the ud and sung in a variety of nightclubs in Lebanon and throughout the world.
Mr. Chedid has recorded over twenty song and dance pieces and appeared regularly at Cedars of Lebanon in Manhattan, and major Arabic nightclubs in the New York City area. He is also a featured performer and composer on the new CD produced by Dahdoo Productions, Inc, "Mid-East/Western Fusion". Mr. Chedid has also acted as Musical Director and Composer for The NY Performing Artists production of "The Dancing Princesses".
He has also performed extensively for many cultural organizations, including The United Nations, and various Missions and Embassies from throughout the world.
Mohammad Shasho (age 17) made the perilous journey from Syria to Berlin and struggles with his family to set up a new life. Mentored by award-winning documentary filmmaker, Anja Baron, Mo finds his own voice and gives voice to his fellow refugees. He explores loss, art and hope in his debut film, “Out of Aleppo". Mentored by Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Anja Baron, Mohammad shares the refugee experience with the candor and nuance of a teenager.
Ali Velshi is an MSNBC Anchor and Business Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC. Velshi has covered a wide range of domestic, global and economic issues throughout his career, including the spread and defeat of ISIS, the refugee crisis, the Iran nuclear deal, tensions between Russia and the west, the Greek debt crisis and the global financial crisis. Before joining NBC News and MSNBC, Velshi hosted “Ali Velshi On Target,” a nightly primetime show on Al Jazeera America. Before that, he served as CNN’s Chief Business Correspondent, anchor of CNN International’s “World Business Today” and host of CNN’s weekly business roundtable “Your Money.” Velshi also co-hosted CNN’s morning show, “American Morning.” An award-winning journalist, Velshi was honored with a National Headliner Award for Business & Consumer Reporting for “How the Wheels Came Off,” a special on the near collapse of the American auto industry. His work on disabled workers and Chicago’s red-light camera scandal in 2016 earned him two News and Documentary Emmy Award nominations, adding to a nomination in 2010 for his terrorism coverage. Additionally, Velshi has taken his economic analysis to “Oprah,” “The View,” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Velshi is the author of Gimme My Money Back (Sterling and Ross, 2008) and co-author with CNN’s Christine Romans of How to Speak Money (Wiley, 2010).
Born in Kenya and raised in Canada, Velshi graduated from Queen’s University in Canada, which bestowed an honorary Doctorate of Laws upon him in 2016. Velshi splits his time between New York City and Philadelphia. Active in the community, Velshi serves on the Boards of Trustees of the Chicago History Museum, Seeds of Peace and the Philadelphia Citizen, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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