ALMA — The sights, sounds and smells of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culture will fill the air at the Wright Leppien Opera House in downtown Alma for the first Alma-Dearborn Connection Initiative.

The event, a collaboration between Alma College faculty and staff and the Michigan Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs, features arts, crafts, dance, a guest speaker and food from the region. It will run from 5 to 8:30 p.m., March 29, 2023.

“When I talk to my neighbors and friends in my predominantly white, Christian community of Alma, they tell me that they want to experience what other cultures have to offer, but they don’t know where to start,” said Khanssaa El Alami Canning, a lecturer of French and Arabic and off-campus studies coordinator at Alma College, who is one of the event organizers.

“What we have to offer is a curated experience of some of the most beautiful aspects of this wonderful culture. It’s meant to be a fun time and a starting point for future conversations, so that if you want to see more in the future, you have a place to start.”

The Alma-Dearborn Connection Initiative, which is free and doesn’t require a ticket, will be highlighted by a keynote address from Jumana Judeh, the first vice chair of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, who started an offshoot nonprofit organization called the Women’s Committee.

Judeh will speak of the challenges she faced as a female, Palestinian, political refugee in the United States and the challenges that came as a result.

Today, El Alami Canning said, Judeh focuses her time on helping fellow women grow and balance their professional and personal lives — a topic that resonates across racial and cultural barriers.

“Similar to the community of Alma, the community of Dearborn does not wish to be insular. They are coming here to share with us because they want to be a part of the state of the Michigan and help uplift all of us,” she said.

The event is funded by a grant from the Alma College Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE) and support from the Michigan Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs.

The Wright Leppien Opera House is located at the northeast corner of North State and East Superior streets in Alma. For more information on the event, email El Alami Canning at