On Saturday 22nd August, the Bell Pub in Whitechapel, East London, will host Rebuilding Beirut with Pride, a socially distanced evening of art, live performances and drag, to help raise funds that will go towards rebuilding Lebanon’s capital Beirut and support all impacted communities following the horrendous explosion at the city’s port. Rebuilding Beirut with Pride will also be live streamed online for those who cannot attend in person. Donations are also invited to the accompanying GoFundMe page.
Rebuilding Beirut with Pride was established by a group of London-based LGBTQ+ Lebanese expats and their allies who want to celebrate Arab art and talent while helping Beirutis impacted by the recent blast. Some of the funds will go towards helping some of Beirut’s most vulnerable, such as its trans and non-binary residents. Two of Beirut’s LGBTQ+ hubs, Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze, were only 500m away from the point of detonation. These areas have been utterly devastated and, like many other parts of Beirut, are now uninhabitable.
Danny Nasr, event organiser and chief organiser of Rebuilding Beirut with Pride, says: “Being so far from Lebanon has made things difficult for many of us in the diaspora, especially with travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic. I wanted to do something that would not only make a difference in the lives of Beirutis who have been affected by the blast, but also bridge that gap to let Lebanese people know that no matter where are in the world, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them – especially our LGBTQ+ siblings.
“The queer community has a proud history of international solidarity, and we want to continue that tradition. This queer collective fund will allow us to reach the most vulnerable impacted by the crisis, with proceeds going to medical, food, housing and mental health support, as well as provide direct support to LGBTQ+ relief funds.”
On 4th August, Beirut was rocked by a colossal explosion involving 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. To put things into perspective, it was one of the worst urban explosions since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The blast killed at least 158 people, injured 6000, and hundreds remain missing. With the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, the explosion’s shockwave enveloped Beirut, collapsing historic buildings and shattering windows within a radius of 10 miles. Lebanon’s hospitals, already overrun by coronavirus, are in dire need of support. Meanwhile, around 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes.
The blast comes at the worst possible time for Lebanon, a country that was already on its knees. Covid-19 exacerbated a pre-existing political and economic crisis that saw Lebanon on the brink of collapse. With one in three unemployed and the blast destroying the Port of Beirut — home to 85% of Lebanon’s imports, including essential food items — there are fears that a famine is around the corner.
Proceeds from the Rebuilding Beirut with Pride event along with donations on the accompanying crowdfunding page will all support those immediately impacted by the blast, as well as Lebanese communities and families facing economic desolation.
Rebuilding Beirut with Pride will kick off at 6:30pm with an art auction of both Arab and queer art, prints and designs kindly donated by artists and designers from both the UK and Lebanon. All proceeds will be added to the goal target and the auction will also take place online.
From 8pm the live performances will kick off, and it too will be live-streamed all night. Event organisers have brought together an exciting line up of performers showcasing Arab and queer talent with opportunities and activities to donate to the fund throughout the night.
Due to the pandemic, a limited 40 tickets are available for the in-person event at The Bell, while an additional 300 will be available for the live online event.
All proceeds from Rebuilding Beirut with Pride will be donated to their chosen and trusted NGOs, all of which offer direct, grassroots support in Beirut and are not affiliated with government authorities in any way. The NGOs are Lebanese Red Cross, Beit El Baraka, Basmeh & Zeitooneh and Embrace Lebanon. Rebuilding Beirut with Pride have also identified two crowdfunds that have been strongly recommended by many members of Beirut’s LGBTQ+ community, in that they are offering direct and on-the-ground support and are being led by trusted community leaders. These are Disaster Relief for Lebanese Transgender Community and Funds for LGBTQ Victims of Beirut’s Explosion.