Young girl finds acceptance through her Lebanese culture


My friends call me “Dabke Malika.” Which means Dabke Queen in Arabic. I got this name because I am the last one on the dance floor. I have a huge circle of friends who love running around the hotel with me and getting into mischief. Then at night we hold and hands and dance in a group dance that is called Dabke. My favorite part of this is when the DJ comes out with his huge drum. The sound vibrates the floor and makes the whole room feel ecstatic. 

My family is a part of a club called Southern Federation of Syrian Lebanese American Citizens (SFSLAC). This federation means everything to me. We meet once every summer in various Southern states for four days. This year it was in Charlotte NC, and next year it will be in San Antonio. I have been there since I was a little girl, dabking and copying the older Lebanese girls while they bellydance. I watched them fall in love, laugh, and drink, but most importantly seeing them feel connected by the beat of the darbuka (drum). Eventually, I found myself in their place: making friends, knowing who to avoid, and falling in love. 

A few years ago I went through a bad breakup and felt hopeless. My friends constantly cheered me up and helped me through the pain. They made me love who I was when I was in a place where I couldn’t. Ever since that moment I knew these were people were keepers. Even though we see each other once a year we still keep in touch over the school year.

When I told my friends I was adopted for the first time, they didn’t treat me differently, they didn’t make me feel that I was “less Lebanese” than them. Other people made me feel that way but they loved me for who I was. That has always been a struggle of mine, trying to get connected to my Lebanese and Greek heritage. If it wasn’t for the federation I wouldn’t have that kind of community. I had cousins and friends who were adopted, but they were adopted from Lebanon and were raised by Lebanese parents. I was born in Lufkin, TX so I couldn’t really relate to them. There were times I felt trapped and different from others. Thoughts flowed through my head saying “You’re not really Lebanese. It’s not in your blood, your blood is Puerto Rican, Welsh, and Cherokee.” The federation helped me overcome these thoughts by giving me assurance that I am loved, and welcome. It took time and continues to take time to break this shell of self doubt, but with their help I broke it. 

When I was around the age of 15 I started to embrace my Lebanese heritage by learning Arabic, and by playing the darbuka. I told myself that I shouldn’t be ashamed of the way I was raised, and that I couldn’t care about people’s assumptions about me. Being at the conventions are like being home. I feel like this is my little vacation from life at home. Most importantly I feel surrounded by people who love and support me.