As members of the Arts & Media Project (AMP) of APANO, as a collective of multiracial, LGBTQ+, immigrant, refugee, first, second generation+ AAPI artists and cultural workers, we are saddened to hear what is going on in our BIPOC food community.
One of our community members, Khaled Alshehab of Alley Mezza, has recently been forced to close his food cart because of a hostile environment that had escalated over a span of a few months. Khaled is an asylee from Kuwait and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who shares his love for his culture through the variety of dishes he makes from his homeland and the many other surrounding regions in Southwest Asia and North Africa.
As we close out our signature East Portland Arts & Literary Festival (EPALF) that focuses on Queer/Trans BIPOC joy, reconnection, and stories, we are distraught to hear of this news from a fellow BIPOC LGBTQ+ member of our community.
We want to join in this call to hold the owners of Someday Bar responsible and to demand that they do the right thing. Khaled has explained the situation very clearly on his platform HERE and has had conversations with the responsible parties. We ask those parties to listen, to take action, and to do what is necessary to make Alley Mezza whole. Serious financial and economic restitution needs to be made and we also ask for space at this time for our friend and community member, Khaled, to rest and to come back with full support from his peers and fellow food industry workers when he is ready.
Food is our love language, our connection to our families, our culture, our community. Living in the Portland metro area, we are blessed with a wonderful abundance of AAPI bakeries, restaurants, pop ups, and food carts. Here at APANO, we have made food an important part of our gatherings, our community engagement. We know that food is also a source of economic prosperity for our communities and we strive to tell the stories of our many makers here in the Jade District and all over the Portland Metro area. We cannot stand bullying in this industry, appropriation of our cultural foods from other businesses for their own profit, or any other treatment that further alienates or silences our communities’ growth and prosperity in their work. During a rise in targeted hate crimes against APIs, we have been especially grateful for our food businesses who have supported us despite their own struggles as API businesses to combat racism and discrimination.
We know this decision by Khaled to close Alley Mezza during this time was not a choice, but a wearing down of his spirit and energy. These actions are not new to us and we must call them out when we see them happening while also calling in our allies to see how these actions can perpetuate harm towards our community both economically and socially.
We join our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ food community including Waz Wu, Thuy Pham of Mama Dut, Luna Contreras of Chelo PDX, Umut Matkap of Lokanta, and other beloved business owners like Iman Labanieh of Baylasan Botanicals, Chad Miller and Emiko Badillo of Food Fight, and many more in their call for support.
You can support Alley Mezza by following the business on Instagram, sending funds to venmo account @alleymezza, and continuing to share this story.
With so much love for our community,
Kelly Novahom, Arts & Media Project (AMP) Volunteer Member of APANO
Raveena Bhalara, AMP Volunteer
Lilly Do, AMP Volunteer
Bryna Cortes, AMP Volunteer
Jia Lu Ni, AMP Volunteer
garima thakur, AMP Volunteer
Ari Chadwick-Saund, AMP Volunteer
Daniel Gyu, AMP Volunteer
Alyssa Yang, AMP Volunteer
Samson Syharath, AMP Volunteer
Joe Kye, AMP Volunteer
Joon Ae Haworth-Kaufka, AMP Volunteer